Interview By Greg Prato
The website of Jimbo Phillips states, “Creating eye-popping graphix since 1988.”
A truer statement has never been made, as countless graphics by Phillips do indeed contain someone with their eyeballs popping out of their face! Providing art for both the skate and surf worlds, as well as for rock artists, everyone has certainly—whether knowingly or unknowingly—come across one of Phillips’ doodles.
“My dad, Jim Phillips, is an amazing artist, so I grew up looking at his work all the time,” Phillips recalls about how he got started. “I would draw almost every day throughout my childhood. Then, after high school, my dad hired me on to help him with graphics for Santa Cruz Skateboards, and I have been doing it ever since.”
“My dad is obviously my biggest inspiration,” he says. “Another would be Robert Williams—I went to see an art show of his when I was 19, and it had a big impact on me. Also, Rick Griffin, [Vernon Courtlandt Johnson aka] VCJ, Wes Humpston, Stanley Mouse, [Ed] ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, Pushead, Basil Wolverton, Jack Davis, Don Martin, Frank Frazetta, Salvador Dalí, Picasso, Jack Kirby, Marvel [and] DC Comics, Mad Magazine, Saturday-morning cartoons, horror, monster, and sci-fi movies, and rock posters.”
Eventually, Phillips found himself providing artwork for several subjects that have a major hold on pop culture. “My favorite graphics have always been skateboard graphics,” he says, “but I also love rock posters, snowboard and surf graphics—anything that lets me have some artistic freedom and get some cool creative ideas.”
“I enjoy them each for different reasons,” Phillips adds. “Skateboard graphics have a history of pushing the boundaries and embracing radical artwork; surf designs get me in touch with the ocean and nature, usually a mellower vibe; and music is fun, interpreting a band’s vibe through artwork, and they usually want something badass.”
While speaking about music, it turns out that Phillips’ taste runs the gamut. “I usually listen to punk rock, hardcore, and metal, with bands like Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Baroness, Misfits, NOFX, Pennywise, A Wilhelm Scream, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, etc.,” he shares, “but I also like to chill with some mellower reggae and acoustic tunes, like Steel Pulse, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, Grateful Dead, etc.”
It also turns out that he is never at a loss for work assignments and is always hatching potential new sketches. “I usually stay pretty busy creating custom designs for companies, bands, businesses, and also artwork for my own line of apparel, stickers, and accessories for my webstore at jimbophillips.com,” he says. “So, yeah, I’m always at the drawing board. On my time off, I like to spend time with my family, skate, surf, and play music.”
Regarding potential work assignments, Phillips is open to either coming up with the ideas entirely on his own or with his clients providing input. “A combination of both. It’s usually cool to get a little input from the customer or band or rider, then I like to inject my ideas, details, and style into it,” he explains. “Sometimes, they have no idea what they want, and you can really let loose with your ideas. Ultimately, it’s up to me to create a design that catches your eye, has good composition, and is fun to look at.”
It’s easy to correspond with Phillips concerning a potential assignment: just email him via his aforementioned website or contact him on Instagram, @jimbophillips.
Finally, what advice would Phillips give to artists looking to break into doing graphics as a profession? “Look forward to hard work, long hours, and minimal pay,” he says, “but when you get your creative art and ideas out in the world for people to enjoy, it’s a great feeling!”