Friday, March 18, 2011

Fox 13 Etsy Feature Focuses on My Shops

I was fortunate to be featured on Utah's Fox news in a story about Etsy. Max Roth and a cameraman came to my studio and spent two hours interviewing and filming me, eventually paring it down to two 3 and 1/2 minute bits. I was happy with the positive spin and that the more embarrassing things I said didn't make the cut. You can see both segments here:,0,5506194.story

Friday, February 4, 2011

Screen Printed Neckties - Abraham Lincoln

Even very conservative dressers seem to be able to get away with wild looking neckties. It's a way for a man to wear something a little more "out there" without overdoing it. That's one reason I thought I'd branch out and screen print art onto ties. It's a different format than a shirt or even most other 2D artwork because the "canvas" is so skinny and long. But artistic challenges often bring about great results. I've got several designs now, but I'll save some for future postings. Some of them are carry-overs from my shirt designs, like this Abraham Lincoln Tie that is far and away my best seller. Coming up with a shop name was easy- it was just one letter switch from my shirt line to Scatterbrain Ties.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yes. I paint, too!

When I tell people what I do, I start by telling them I'm an illustrator who does book and CD covers and such. Yet so much of my time has been devoted to working on my graphic shirts in the last while (as evidenced by most of the posts here), that the painting has taken a back seat. Yet that's what I intend to make my focus, which should happen over the next few months as I have four or five projects I need to work on. Here's a recent photo of a work-in-progress that proves that yes, I paint too!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Are there any song lyrics that really resonate with you? That almost seem like they were written for you, or even BY you?

In 1981, the experimental rock group King Crimson released an album with a new, but still very creative sound. Interlocking guitar parts in odd meters, Indonesian percussion, and several spoken poetry parts were part of the new Crimson.

The album was called Discipline, and had both a title track and an anti-title track, Indiscipline. It's in the latter piece we find lyrics that were based on a letter written to Adrian Belew by his then-wife Margaret, concerning a sculpture that she had made. The first half goes like this:

"I do remember one thing.
It took hours and hours but..
By the time I was done with it
I was so involved
I didn't know what to think.
I carried it around with me for days and days..
Playing little games
Like not looking at it for a whole day
And then.. looking at it.
To see if I still liked it...

I did!"

Yep. That's me! When I do a painting I play LOTS of little games. Squinting one eye, blocking a portion of it with my hand, looking at it in the mirror, turning it upside down, or standing way, way back. I can't always answer "I do" about whether I still like it or not. In fact, sometimes during the process I hate the piece from being so involved. But it's these little games that help me see a piece in a new light.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Queen City Deplorium

What do you do when you send someone a signed contract and $375 worth of merchandise to sell in their store, and then they pretend you don't exist? Well, Queen City Emporium has had 80+ complaints filed to the Attorney General of Missouri in the past few weeks. These are from people all over the country, including me. How and why did we collectively take action in such a short period of time? Well, let's start with our very one-sided email correspondence that took place over several weeks time:

Me: I haven't had any updates for a while about my Tshirts. Have they been selling at all?

Them (Queen City Emporium): Silence.

Me: Please respond to my previous email if you would. I'm getting a little nervous.

Them: Nothing.

(At this point I find out third hand that their internet has supposedly been out which, by the way, is no excuse given that I'm sure at least one of them had it at home)

Me: Here's hoping your internet is back up....

Them: AT&T was finally able to get our internet hooked up yesterday mid-day. Ahh...the joys of technology & 140+ year old buildings. I'm wading my way through emails and updates.

Me: Ah, best of luck. Thanks for letting me know. I'll wait for my turn- thanks!

Them: Nada.

Me: Hello?

Them: Zip.

Me: Please PLEASE respond to me. I feel like you're giving me the runaround.

At this point I received a reply with another excuse for not writing. In it they told me a check had been sent, but to this day I have received nothing.

Feeling frustrated with this and one other consignor, I turned to the Etsy forums for advice, but I kept the names anonymous. To my surprise, someone posted that they had started a thread about "Queen City Emporium" and how they had refused to return his girlfriend's items (which total $800) or pay for those items that had sold. I went to that thread only to find out that there were already several other vendors who had also been scammed, and before the end of the night the total was over 30. Things escalated during the next few days as more and more people discovered that they weren't alone in their frustrations with the QCE. Reports were filed with the FBI, the Better Business Bureau, and many others, and at this writing over 80 people have filed with the Attorney General of Missouri.

The media was contacted and a number of stories aired on the evening news in Springfield the following Monday and Tuesday, including one story that featured yours truly quite predominantly. The store hasn't opened since and we wonder what will happen next. I do feel sorry for the women who are at the heart of this mess, but every time I try and imagine that it was just a matter of getting in over their heads, I hear another story like these:

One vendor reported trying and trying to get payment until they finally sent a token check for $10. It was made out to the wrong person. When she asked for a new one, they sent it, minus the amount used for postage!

Or what about the man who went to pick up his wife's items (after having frustrations similar to the rest of us). When he stalled in the store to count the items before leaving, they called the police on him!

One person gave this report on Etsy: "Very disappointed with this seller. Placed order on 9/25/10 for jewelry cords; on 10/7 I sent an email asking if she had sent it and got no reply. I made more attempts and on 10/25 I received a package with a USPS Delivery Confirm label attached (for proof of delivery), it contained 4 insignificant buttons. Not what I paid for or ordered. I have no recourse from Paypal."

That package was sent without the real item, and with a delivery confirmation label for no other purpose than to keep them from being able to file a complaint with Paypal. This post ends here because I truly am speechless.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A return to the lily pad

Back in high school I was known to many as the guy who draws and paints frogs. I always thought it was a bit inaccurate as I had a lot of other subject matter as well, but looking back I can think of at least three paintings, two pencil drawings, and a number of pieces in my sketchbook that had frogs in them. I guess I was in denial because I didn't want to be viewed as some sort of one trick pony. And yet I was.

One day I was with a friend who had to get something from his art class after school. I was carrying one of my frog paintings, and the teacher asked to see it. I had a different art teacher, so I was surprised when this man disappeared into a closet, pulled out some flower still lifes, and proceeded to try and encourage me to paint things like this instead. I can't remember how I responded, but I remember thinking he was crazy and how glad I was I didn't have him as a teacher! A painting of a frog on a rock really isn't that "out there", so imagine what he would have thought of something REALLY creative.

Fast forward to college where I don't think I did any frog artwork. I'm sure this was at least partly intentional as I didn't want to run around in circles. But with the passing of another ten years, it was finally time to slide back into the pond scum and draw some frogs again. I can remember why I liked them so much- those big eyes, long toes and legs that bend back and forth a surprising amount of times. All the frogs of my past were well-mannered and friendly. These are frogs with sinister intent. Why? Because it makes for a cool alliteration: "Five Fashionable Frogs Forge False Friendships".

(And yes, it's on a Tshirt)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Circuit Board T-shirt

I've always been fascinated by the artistry of computer circuit boards. The one side looks like a miniature futuristic city, and on the reverse there's a hypnotizing maze of copper and green (which in itself is a great color combination). As I understand it, the copper lines are screen printed onto the circuit board, so screen printing a similar design onto a T-shirt seemed like a good idea to me.

Not having to worry about function, I created my own design in Adobe Illustrator and burned the images onto some screens. I tried all sorts of color combinations, but ultimately decided I HAD to use metallic inks to get the coolest effect. After spending nearly $50 per quart on both copper and silver inks, I struggled to figure out how to make theme look just how I wanted on the shirts. Well, after hours of trying all sorts of tricks I got it right. Worth resurrecting a blog after a year of inactivity to tell about it? I hope so!

Find it here: PhippsArt Tshirts