Monday, December 8, 2008

Shiny, expanding forehead shown three times in Utah paper...

I've been featured in one of Utah's two major papers "The Deseret News" as part of an article about Utah based sellers Etsy. They even featured three pictures of me working in my studio. You can see two of them and read the article at,5143,705268568,00.html

Its a positive article, although they did mislabel a picture of a frog as being mine (friends from High School might laugh at such a mistake).

(Image courtesy Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's a curse!

As an artist your name becomes your business identity. Suddenly it matters that you have the most popular boy's name of the last many years. Before it just meant things like figuring out that 13% of your French class shared your name. Now it matters. There are a number of other Michael Phipps with web presence, and a few of them are even artists. Fortunately Phipps isn't extremely common, though. The main problem with the name, however, is that people tend to glance at it and see it as a similar, more common name. I think back in school that more substitute teachers called out "Phillips" than "Phipps" over the years.

Now there is a worse problem. Another common mistake is for someone to glance at my last name and see "Phelps". This didn't used to be a big deal, but now that "Michael Phelps" went from slightly known to ultra-famous, I can't travel the web without him being brought up. I have nothing against him, but that doesn't mean I want to talk about him with everyone I meet. Now if someone leaves a response to this post and says "Michael Phelps? Who?", I'll be their new best friend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bye Bye Birdie

I started a thread on Etsy asking for help in naming my new shirt (seen above in one of its four styles). Kind of by default I simply called it "SNIP". When I changed it to one of the names below, a bunch of people told me I should have left it! So...I changed it back. Nevertheless, here are all the suggestions. Which one do you like?

My notes are in red...

no strings attached
down to the wire
Severed connections
dont fly with scissors!
Snip... let the birds do the flying
Cut it out
chirpy-chirpy-snip-snip (Goofy but I like it!)
Cut to the Chase
bye bye birdy (Hee hee)
Off Line
very cool shirt btw (It WAS suggested, albeit jokingly)
Lorena Bobbitt shirt (Had to look this up. Oh yeah, HER. Next...)
nsa = no strings attached
cut above the rest
Evangelin shirt
Quick! My Mother-in-law is Calling!
Dropped Call
Cut Loose
Flying Without a Wire
Call Screening.
Fly away Peter, fly away Paul.......
It's time to cut the strings!
Sproing (Another favorite of my own because this shirt really is about what is GOING to happen)
going wireless
like birds with wifi...
breaking habits
The Birds.. The Scene They Didn't Show You
Live Wire

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Thoughts as Pressed Flowers

When I have ideas for a new piece of art or a bit of music I'll often write them down on tiny papers which end up going through the wash or getting pressed like flowers in crisp pages of unread books. One such idea for a screen print was written down a few years back and has finally seen fruition on a T-shirt. The idea is that of a scene consisting of a lot of "potential energy"- where a lot of chaotic movement is possibly about to happen. The shirt is, of course, for sale here:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Parsecs and Filigrees

I recently held a contest in which contestants had to wax poetic in order to win a prize. The following poem by was the clear winner, and was inspired by the shirt design above (click to see the listing in my Etsy store)

(Note: I couldn't get past the first line without pulling out the dictionary [i.e. looking at the dictionary widget on my computer])

the psychedelic eye sings
of parsecs and filigrees

its unblinking gaze is
a witness to auroras and migraines

such a solemn orb,
yet it does not weep

and on the shortest night
when you awaken from sleep
you'll find this mystic eye
regarding you, gauging you,
as it calmly goes about
creating order from chaos

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stay Focused on Mindless Media

Do you find yourself getting distracted when trying to numb your mind? Read on...

Years ago a friend and I were going door to door (not an easy thing for me) and ended up in a very peculiar house. The resident told us about an invention he was working on and brought us to a room which housed the said innovation. He opened the door and we beheld a room full of gadgets and wires, connected with doodads and whatimazoots of all kinds. It reminded me of the kind of thing that used to be common in 80's movies, where gears, conveyors and ropes connected to household gadgets would go through a huge process to produce a piece of toast or feed the dog. I'm not sure what this particular thing actual did, as the door was quickly closed, perhaps to keep us from stealing the idea.

Now to the subject of the post title. I noticed that there was a round, black sticker directly in the middle of his television set- I'm guessing it was about the size of a nickel. When asked what that was for, he replied that it was so he wouldn't be distracted while watching TV! True story.

So the obvious question is, why don't TV sets come with this feature as a default? Also, why isn't there a pizza-sized black dot in the middle of the screen at the movie theaters-- what if we get distracted by a thought not related to the movie? Why don't kids wear horse blinders when they play video games? Otherwise they might catch a glimpse of a family member in their peripherals! Why don't cell phones alert their owner when they haven't sent a text message in the last 10 minutes-- what if they become aware of the friends they're actually with !?!

Thought of your own idea like the ones above? Leave it in a comment below this post!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Odd Jobs, Part 3

One of the positives of being an illustrator is that there is the potential to reap financial benefits from previously created work. Such was the case ten years ago after I had stuck my somewhat disconcerting self portrait onto promotional postcards and sent them out into the world. (This painting now serves to remind my kids that "daddy is watching", although the lack of glasses and the presence of bangs makes it a little less recognizable to them. But when I can afford lasik- look out! I don't intend to get plugs, however, to solve the other problem).

Back to the original train of thought-- I soon realized after sending these postcards out that it was a poor choice, as I didn't intend to make portraiture my specialty. Not to worry, though, I didn't get any jobs from the mailing. Well, not any NEW jobs. Besides the inconsequential "you're on file" return postcards, I did get one magazine exec to write and ask permission to use the image I sent in their magazine. The price was $350, and for not having to do any additional work to make it happen I thought that was a pretty sweet deal.


Your probably asking, "what was the magazine?" I'm not about to tell you. I did check it out AFTER sending back a contract and became more wide-eyed than I am in the painting. The magazine was a sleezefest and I was glad to not find my mug within its pages. Maybe it happened in the subsequent issue.

I hope not.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Odd Jobs, Part 2

Admittedly, this job isn't very "odd" in and of itself, but you might find the ending of the story intriguing. I give you permission to laugh at me as I have had time to get over the shame and hurt...

Sometimes people who need an art related job done will contact universities in the hopes of finding young talent (read: cheap talent). I responded to a few of these requests in my college days, and this particular one was to paint a mural in a downtown hotel restaurant. The need for a new mural arose as a tornado had twisted its way through downtown Salt Lake City and destroyed the old one. It had also taken out several trees from the neighborhood of my youth, but I digress. Anyone who grew up in Salt Lake "knew" we could never get tornadoes because of the mountains. But there it was.

I put off making my proposals for the mural and ended up showing a few ideas I wasn't really excited about. Mistake number one. I also told the owner of the hotel that I thought they needed a new logo because "no one I've talked to likes your current one". Mistake number two. (I'm quite surprised I was so bold!) My main reason for being so rash is that I was to incorporate their hideous logo into my mural, and I didn't want it blemished so.

They wanted me there when the restaurant was closed, so I painted at night. After a few weeks it was complete, and I neglected to take any pictures of the finished product. I figured I could come back some time later and take care of that. Mistake number three. Within a year the restaurant had been bought out and become a sports bar. My mural was replaced by a wall of sports figures. When I first saw it I stared at their cruel faces for a while and wondered if my painting was hidden beneath. I may have to wait for another tornado to ever find out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Odd Jobs, Part One of _____

As an illustrator I am finally at a point where, for the most part, the jobs I do are mostly in line with my ultimate goals as an artist. In other words, I do actually turn down a few jobs, which in the past year include house sketches for a real estate web site, graphics banners for a DJ, and jobs whose time to pay ratio would work out to about $4 an hour. Really.

'Twas not always so, (and who's to say what lies ahead). Initially an artist has to take any job that is even remotely related to art. At first if the client even knows how to spell "art" you're pointed in the right direction.

Let's look back on one of those first freelance jobs...

After graduating with my art degree, I thought moving near one of the art capitals of the world might be a good idea. So off we drove to Connecticut so as to live near New York City. When I finally broke free from the warehouse job that I was forced to get upon arriving (as I couldn't find anything art related), I spent some time down in "the city" trying to promote my work. One day I went alone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and sat in a large open area, surrounded by Greek statues (or were they Roman copies?). I was sketching one of them when an older man approached me and asked if he could buy me lunch and talk about my art. Free lunch and a potential connection? Of course!

Well, it turned out this man was a Brooklyn-based dentist, and he had some grand scheme concerning a dental invention, which was basically a robotic arm that worked inside the patient's mouth. There at the table he proceeded to arrange his silverware and other objects to resemble his invention. Before I knew it I had committed to come to his office in the near future to draw up the plans. I went home with a pit in my stomach, wishing I had firmly but kindly said "um, no thanks"! But I hadn't, so I found myself in Brooklyn some time during the coming week.

In a way it was still kind of exciting- going to Brooklyn for the first time in my life to draw for a mad dental equipment inventor (he wasn't so mad, but it makes for a good story). I remember going in and briefly meeting his wife, who seemed to me very sad, and who disappeared into the back. I began my labors as an artist while the dentist showed me his prototype on his poor assistant. Yet all this time I knew that I'd be telling him that this would be our only session. When that time came he put a lot of energy into trying to change my mind, but eventually sadly sent me on my way after offering to pay me for the work that I had done that day. In retrospect I should have made the break before coming that first time, but it can be hard to say "no" to someone who wants to use my skills, even if they don't REALLY include dental instrument design...

More to come...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Psychedelic Eye

I've finally put up a new shirt design after several weeks of nothing, so here it is! When I started drawing it it was supposed to be for both men and women, but it turned out rather feminine-- so no luck for the guys. I may still try to do a second version for men later on...

Here's the shirt.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That which hath shaped me...

In the spirit of my previous post "A Little Too Personal", I'm going to allow (force?) you to peer into my past to see a small bit of what has shaped me and potentially my art (this story though? Probably not!). Now I can't give you a really good reason as to why I've chosen to write the following tale today other than that it came to my mind earlier and it's moderately funny.

I've had a friend, Phillip, who I've know since I was four. His house was right on the edge of a canyon, and one could see past the great gulf to the city center and the capitol building. Phillip's yard was a kid's dreamland- swings, trees, terraces, and forts. But down below was a dangerous pit of skunks, rattlesnakes and kidnappers hiding in the bushes.

One day a new boy showed up in the neighborhood- we'll call him Pete. He was a little older than the two of us, which to us meant he was very old and large. He liked to come over and play with us (i.e. execute authority over us). One day I found a play gun in a trash pile, which I brought up to Phillip's house. Pete broke it. This was typical of the new order.

I was not happy. My favorite place in the world was now terrorized by this bully. Still, I went there hoping he wouldn't show up. Sometimes he didn't. Here's what happened one time when he DID.

Pete led us down into the forbidden depths of the adjacent canyon, ready to make us do his bidding. At one point he noticed there was a very large ribbed pipe leading far up to the road above, so he made us follow him up it. Along the way he opened a container of Play-Doh and told us to eat it. Granted, every kid knows what Play-Doh tastes like, but being forced to eat it on a treacherous climb up the canyon walls was something different. At long last we came to a point where the pipe traversed a large, round pit. Pete proceeded, but Phillip and I jumped off and made our escape around the perimeter! We ran as fast as we could go- back to quench our green, salty tongues.

This is the last memory I have of Pete. He did soon stop coming around, but there were many more bullies to come in my future- ready to karate chop my neck or flatten me with the dodgeball and make me wish I was just being forced to eat Play-Doh.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Instruments of War, Part III

Well, you do want to hear a happy ending, don't you?

(Please read parts one and two before continuing.)

Due to a number of concerned readers, I've found it necessary to report that the recipient of the accordion-induced injury from part II is doing just fine. In fact, his mother recently purchased an "Instruments of War" shirt for him (see part I) and it was received with "hoots and hollers"* and instantly adorned.

[*exact words used as reported to me. I'm not generally inclined to say "hoot" or "holler". Thank you.]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Instruments of War, part II

Please look at the previous post, "Instruments of War", before reading this.

One viewer of the image from the said post tells this sad tale:

"Here's the story, and it is TRUE!

My son (age 11) and his friend (also age 11) were playing around on my computer. Apparently, there was an exciting play to make on this game. The boys simultaneously yelled, "Alright!" and then the accordion that I have displayed on the top shelf above the computer fell off the shelf.

The accordion landed square in the middle of my son's face. It broke his new glasses, and left quite a huge goose egg between his eyebrows."

I'll let you draw your own life lessons from this. One more thing... she also mentioned that her husband plays the banjo...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A piece to appear in this year's Spectrum Fantasy Arts

I recently learned that my piece "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will appear in the book "SPECTRUM 15- The Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art", to be release later this year.
This piece was created for The Pioneer Theatre Company's production of the play.

Here is the Spectrum Web Site --See "about" and "books" sections.

Prints are available at my Etsy shop.

Click the above image for a larger view.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A little too personal

Now for a few fun facts about Michael Phipps that will help you get to better understand the artist. ALL of the following , err, "fun facts" are true except ONE:

1. I lived in England at the age of 9, and had one line in the school play: "Come with me. You can't stay here. You've got to move off these parts." Not much of a flow, is there? Well, a tall, popular girl in the grade above me mocked my stony delivery. Fast forward a few decades- my sister calls to tell me she saw her former classmate being introduced as Simon Cowell's girlfriend on American Idol. How appropriate. And yes, I know I may have spelled his name wrong. I'm not going to look it up.

2. I have twice jumped out of a plane and lived to tell the tale. This coming from someone who has never jumped off a high dive.

3. Two of my friends and I added an extra name to our own to be read at our high school graduation ceremony. My bonus middle name? Elishma. My friends' names were Shmool and Eureka. My parents took it well.

4. On my honeymoon my wife and I went snowmobiling in Yellowstone. We started out far too late and ended up on a beautiful (but eerie) drive over the moonlit hills of snow and steam, trying to get back to the lodge. The snow was falling hard and I had to strain hard to see ahead. All of a sudden a buffalo was merely a few feet in front of us and I BARELY swerved to get around it. If we had of crashed, you'd be reading that buffalo's blog right now.

5. I once looked into the fridge only to find a gallon of lemon juice sitting on the shelf. I proceeded to pour myself a glass and {{GAG}} it wasn't juice- it was ammonia. I coughed and sputtered, drank a lot of milk, plead for my life, and so on. If I had of drank too much you'd be reading that buffalo's blog right now.

Okay, so they're all true. Most of them didn't end up sounding too unbelievable, so I decided not to add a fake one. Oh, and don't assume these represent the 5 most significant moments in my life, just a handful that happened to come to mind at the moment.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Ali'i Warrior- New Book Cover

I recently finished a book cover for author Jon Shute, who is self publishing his new book "The Ali'i Warrior. Kudos to him for his hard work in getting his book out (he's almost there), I'm sure it's been a lot of work and a lot of money. A second Kudos (and a thank you) to him for wanting to get a proper illustration for the book cover, as opposed to finding some clip art or filling the cover with REALLY BIG TYPE. There was a lot of mental energy into deciding what would go on the cover- whether to pick a specific scene, a collage of images, or something symbolic. The end result is sort of a scene from the book (though not quite) with a lot of important symbols from the book. Enough with the talk, though, here's the cover (sans the type):

I consciously tried to add more color than I am usually wont to do. It's strange that sometimes I try to do so and I end up muting them too much all the same.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Displaying shirts

Okay, I need opinions here- which t-shirt display method is the most appealing? I guess the real question is, which is most helpful to a potential buyer on the web? I've created a poll on the right- vote there and leave a comment here if you vote "other" or for whatever other reason. Thanks!

Shirt laid out flat?
Hands shirt at Etsy

On a mannequin?
Women's turtle shirt on Etsy

Or on a human?
Men's turtle shirt on Etsy

I'm switching to fashion design (Okay, not really)

Starting out a career as an illustrator has been exciting and challenging. I've had a steady stream of work since making the plunge over a year ago, but the finances can still cause a lot of worry- I'll get paid for a job (usually late) and be okay for a little while, but the graph (as I see it in my very visual brain) starts its immediate descent.

All that to say that I needed some kind of steady income to act as a financial base in between jobs. It needed to be something art-related and something I could be passionate about, so I decided to put artwork on shirts by way of screen printing. Though I paint in a very detailed and meticulous way, I do like doing more graphic (err.. bold, not violent) images, and it's a way to relax a little in between the more mind-consuming painting jobs.

Starting up a screen printing shop can cost thousands with professional equipment, so instead I enlisted my friend Dan (a common ally in creative ventures) to help me build something. Well, here's a picture of the press, albeit without any screens attached:


I've been using it for the past week now and it works wonderfully. The fruits of my labors can be seen at my Etsy site:

So far I've just used some of my existing artwork, but I've got a few new things planned for the upcoming weeks, including a maternity shirt. I never thought I'd be designing maternity shirts...

Michael Phipps, the anti-blogger

I've been anti-blog ever since I heard the name. Examine the following list of words:


Fits right in, doesn't it? It sounds like a slimy lump in the back of my throat. Well, I'm trying to set aside my bias against the word itself, and see if writing about my art (and perhaps a few other things) proves fruitful, fun, or otherwise worthwhile.

Blog Haiku:

bleak bog of foul verb
like rotting log or sink clog
flogs my feeble mind

Well, that was fun.