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Michael Phipps about the future of illustrators in the global society

Date: 06.12.2007

There was information published about several exhibits in Downtown Salt Lake City with the participation of the Bulgarian artist Denista Moneva . New exhibits open every first Friday of the month in both sections of the Gallery in the Main Street. While the front part hosts exhibits organized by the Michael Melik , the back part hosts the exhibits organized by the Utah Art Alliance. For the first time, I will present one of the participants in the latter exhibits, whose art was a part of a stylish show of several illustrators who will attract Utahns and guests of the Salt Lake Downtown during November 2007. This is Michael Phipps  who is among the 200 best illustrators worldwide 07/08 in the Lürzer Archive special . His father told me at the reception on Friday that he remembered very well Bulgarians from his dance tour in past in Western Europe when the American dancers used to share lodging with Bulgarians and they all spent wonderful time. Michael Phipps was nominated for his remembering appearance in the Utah Art Alliance exhibits  as the best illustrator of 2007 in Salt Lake City and its neighborhood.

L. Nikolova: Hi Michael, it was really nice to meet you at the reception of the November Utah Art Alliance exhibit in Salt Lake Downtown. I was told you were for the first time in the Gallery, but I have been visiting both art shows in the Main street for months. And immediately would say; your art makes difference in the Utah Art Alliance section.

Please tell the readers of first something about you.

M. Phipps: Thank you, Lolita, it was a pleasure meeting you as well.

Something about me? Well, although native to the state of Utah, I have also lived in England, Canada (speaking French) and the state of Connecticut, so I’ve experienced at least a little bit of the world. I’ve loved living in those other places, but also am proud of my home. Utah has gorgeous mountains (as you may have seen in the 2002 Winter Olympics) in the north, and otherworldly red and orange rock formations in the south: arches, columns, canyons, and so on.

L. Nikolova: We still do not have a gallery with Picasso or Salvador Dali in Salt Lake, but so many young talents have been growing here. How do you feel as an artist in Utah?

M. Phipps: One is more likely to find religious or southwestern & landscape art here in Utah. They each have their place, but there’s no question that the general populous would benefit from more exposure to other types of art.

L. Nikolova: Why do you decide to become an illustrator? What is the place of the illustrators in our changing global world? Do you think that you make the people go back to the books or the Internet will become the main field of art communication?

M. Phipps: I’ve enjoyed drawing my entire life. It’s what I often did when I got together with friends, unless we were building something out of cardboard or wandering outside making up creatures and strange worlds. It was my High School art teacher who suggested I become an illustrator. He had me peruse a number of Illustration annuals, and since then it has been my aim. But now that I’m doing it, sometimes I’m tempted to do more gallery painting.

A number of things have changed for illustrators because of computers and the internet. A lot of illustrators work in the digital world now. I think great things can be done this way, but I choose to work with tradition media, partly because I likea physical painting after the project is done. With computer illustration, the original work only exists in bytes, so one can only have a reproduction to show outside of a monitor. For the illustration side of things this doesn’t really matter, so the fact it is a concern to me shows that I really may just be a fine artist at heart.

As much as the computer has taken over in many ways, I don’t think it will ever completely replace traditional media in illustration. I don’t want to sound like I am “anti” digital art in any way, but just that my preference is in real, messy, expensive, beautiful paint. The more illustrators turn to the digital realm, the more that “traditionalists” will actual stand out, to some extent, so that we actually stay relevant.

L. Nikolova: How does the art help you to avoid the boring shadows of the everydayness? What is the role of your wonderful wife Lisa in your life who I also met during the reception of the Utah Art Alliance exhibit on Nov 2nd? Do you have children?

M. Phipps: In creating my art, I draw inspiration from the good and inspiring I find around me: nature, art, music, intriguing thoughts and ideas, feelings, and so on. So I can’t help but be uplifted in this very process. The creation of the art is not easy- it always comes with a lot of mental exertion, and each piece of art stands as a victory over my weaknesses: self-doubt, idleness, fatigue, etc.

My wife Lisa is a great inspiration and an incredible support. She married me knowing I was aiming to become an artist, which says a lot in itself, doesn’t it? When I told her I felt it was time to quit my day job to do art full time, she fully supported that decision and has encouraged me all along.  We have two wonderful children - a girl and a boy.
L. Nikolova: Does the Mormon religion contribute to your understanding of the world?

M. Phipps: Absolutely. We are encouraged to seek all that is good, believing that all good things come from God. While I have done a few isolated religious pieces, most of my art has not specifically been religious in its content, yet I believe it still plays its part in God’s great purposes for the aforementioned reason. My religion is connected to my art in so many ways: It affects my purpose, my inspiration, my abilities, my understanding, and my enjoyment.

L. Nikolova: Do you believe in the global society and in the opportunity for people to communicate humanity over the world? Do you think the future will be much more humanistic or the social life will be reproduced in the same frames of controversy and contracts?

M. Phipps: This will likely all sound trite, but it is what I feel: I do believe that we are all brothers and sisters- you in Bulgaria with me in the US. I believe more than ever that an individual can make a difference on a global scale. This has always been the case when people “think globally, act locally”- any time someone betters themselves they are improving the world we live in. But because of modern day communications and transportation, our opportunities to reach out around the world are limitless. I feel like we live in a more civilized and humane society than those of times past, but we still have a long way to go.

L. Nikolova: What do you know about Bulgaria? Would you like to visit Bulgaria? How do you feel Europe from over the ocean?

M. Phipps: I know embarrassingly little about Bulgaria. I have been to England and France but no further east, but would love to visit many more places in Europe and elsewhere. On an artist’s budget that isn’t currently possible, though. Perhaps doing this interview will inspire me to learn more!

L. Nikolova: What about your future? Which is your most dreaming idea that may come true?

M. Phipps: My next big project, which has been a dream for many years, is to illustrate a children’s book. The one I’ll be illustrating was written by my friend of 28 years, so it’s been a long time in the making if you look at it that way. I also dream of writing and recording an album of experimental, creative music, but that dream is a little further off.

L. Nikolova: What would you like to tell especially to the Bulgarians and all readers of

M. Phipps: As I am an artist and not a writer, you will perhaps learn more about who I really am by seeing my artwork than by reading these words. Please take a look at

L. Nikolova: Thanks you for your time and for the privilege and the pleasure to have interviewed you for

M. Phipps: Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been an honor to have been interviewed, and thanks to any who have taken the time to read this. It’s very humbling to think that even one soul might be curious enough to read about me clear across the world. I’d love to hear from any of you in regards to this interview or my artwork, so please send me a note! (My email is on my web site.)

Lolita Nikolova, PhD
Cultural anthropologist and archaeologist

Websites of the International Institute of Anthropology on the topic

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