Canadian contemporary pop artist, Trevor Phillips puts a new spin on often overlooked and discounted subjects. He is known for his contemporary and graphic paintings that flirt with emotion and the roles of people, animals, and nature with bold colors.
Trevor's artwork attributes animal and human qualities, characteristics, and behaviors to nature. His work reminds us that people are like animals. We are all under the same biological umbrella- the tree of life. Trevor's artwork distinctively puts a contemporary twist on often overlooked subjects.
Trevor crafts comic and 80's pop culture-inspired artwork of animals, models, icons, and superheroes. He adds an emotional lens to subjects that are revered across media and brings awareness to overlooked expressions with color, scale, and photo montage.
Society highlights and promotes the strong, happy, and worry-free side of animals, pop icons, and heroes. But, what about the side we try to hide or ignore. The side where our heroes need help.
Trevor’s artwork captures the moments where heroes, animals, and pop-icons let down their mask. He shows their vulnerable side in his ‘Superhero Series’, ‘Animal Collective Series’, and ‘Expressive Series’. In each of these series, Trevor uses art to highlight a hidden emotion that viewers can connect to.
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
Drawing and being creative came naturally as a young person. I had a stack of comic books from my step-dad when I was 5 and was influenced by the pages of art and storytelling. I had an urge to draw and create. Over the years I had built upon my artistic abilities and progressed from there.
How would you describe your own personal style?
My own personal style is made up of everything around me. I grew up in the neon 80’s and into the 90’s with television and music. I am a candid person who doesn’t need the spotlight. I tend to stray from the trends and like to start my own movements.
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
I’ve been artistic my whole life but it wasn’t until after my accident in 2013 that I decided to put all my efforts into my art and grow with it. I see the future with limitless ideas. I see my work evolving to encompass a diverse set of mediums to choose from. There are so many subjects to explore and I’m looking forward to seeing my work grow.
"Purple Reign", Trevor Phillips, Acrylic on Canvas
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
I have the desire to create as much art as I can while I’m here on this earth. I love the whole process from beginning to end. When you step back and admire your finished creation, it is a very satisfying feeling.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
My mother has always been a great influence on me encouraging me to do the things I want to experience. My oldest best friend Blaise Kolodychuk has always been an inspiration to me with his artistic creations. Many of my high school teachers were supportive of my work and encouraged me to keep at it. I have many artistic friends who I find inspiration from.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I love to work on wood panel with acrylic paints. I use photoshop exclusively for graphic design. I’ve just got into resin for finishing my pieces on wood panel. Really anything that allows me to produce an image is my favourite tool. I also have a pen fetish.
"Bison Strength", Trevor Phillips, Acrylic on Wood Panel
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
I like to enhance expressions or frame an image so it becomes a bold and vibrant piece of art. I enjoy painting animals for the love of them and I like to build on an expression or certain angle that is dynamic and stands out.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
I usually have an idea of what I want to do and then I research. When I have a visual formation in my mind, I will search for photos of people or animals that stand out to me. I start with lineart of the photo, then scan it into photoshop where I create my layers of colour. I then save each layer as a file to project onto my canvas. I am usually working in the dark. I then begin painting my layering process on my piece until I feel it is finished. Touch ups are almost always done. Then it is ready to be sent for it’s resin finish.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is it more a case of when the moment is right you work?
I will wake up and start my day with some coffee, and then I figure my next tactical approach to my art. I can spend up to 16 hours in a day painting, from morning till night, when I get into the work. I can loose myself in the art, which I am sure most artist can relate too.
"Rebel Princess Carrie", Trevor Phillips, Acrylic on Canvas
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
Right now I’m focussing on one piece at a time because of the size of my spare bedroom I work out of. I also like to make sure I’m consistent with my colours as each piece varies. One at a time allows me to focus solely on the task at hand.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today?
It has evolved through many years of discovering and practicing new technique and never limiting myself. I have learned all these different techniques over the years and they have morphed into what I am producing today. I always keep learning and adding in new skills.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
“I’m, Batman” is my largest (in size) and most proud of piece. To me, it stands for being strong like a superhero and knowing that superheroes can be just like us. Everyone needs a helping hand once in a while.
"I'm Batman", Trevor Phillips, Mixed Media on Canvas
Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?
I admire many different artists for their mediums and craft. My good friends Melvin Yap is an incredible photographer who captures great images in urban settings and my friend Katsumi Kimoto does some amazing abstract works that are impressive to see. They also give me inspiration to keep working and building on my craft.
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
I’m rather happy sticking around this time period because there is so much influence around many incredible artists to find inspiration in.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
The 21st Century artist has many challenges they must face with over saturation and unoriginality. There are so many artists out there trying to make a name or be different that the art becomes forced and they lose direction. It needs to be natural and come from the heart.
"Raven Adapter", Trevor Phillips, Acrylic on Wood Panel
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Don’t give up and practice practice, practice. Find what inspires you most and make your mark by injecting your own vision. Find your passion and work towards the flow of being creative.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
I admire abstract art like Pollock, or Don Choboter. I like controlled chaos. I also really like Warhol or Basquait for their bold images. I grew up inspired by comic book artists like Jim Lee, Marc Sylvestri, and Todd Macfarlane. I love their detail.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
I can usually tell when it’s finished or else I just call it when I feel it's done. I have to finish a piece before I move onto my next one. I’m always enjoying the process but at the same time thinking of my next project.
Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?
I like to have a little bit of background in my pieces. I do enjoy making art for arts sake, but I also like to have some meaning behind the picture.
"Audrey", Trevor Phillips, Acrylic on Wood Panel
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m about to move to Nanaimo from Vancouver, BC. I will be starting a painting of a rhino in my new bedroom studio to tribute my wife’s new job at the Rhino Café in Nanaimo, BC
Have you ever been part of an artistic group / movement? How did your work benefit from that experience?
I haven’t been a part of a group so much as I just have friends who are creative. I have shown pieces at Kimoto Gallery, in “Cheaper Than A One Night Stand 2” exhibit, and at Ayden Gallery in Vancouver. My work has drastically grown since these experiences and has given me the courage to put myself out there.
When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?
I’m working on getting a show together to showcase all the art I’ve made recently in the last couple years. Been reaching out to galleries and making connections in my community and beyond. A solo show or a group collective with like-minded artist would be amazing!