GUEST 30 | The Art of Improv with Brian Phillips


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Brian Phillips

on The Art of Improv

Photo by @annamazurekphoto for @fbairprogram

Brian Phillips is our guest this week. He is a self taught artist born in the midwest and now working and living in Austin Texas. Brian assembles wood ‘canvas’’ of salvaged wood remnants and then applies his signature illustrative painting onto the repurposed assemblies, his sense of humor shines in his typographical works and his love of animals is evident, as he often and beautifully depicts them. I have been so inspired by Brian and his free spirit to making and experimenting with what he finds, he works with what he has around and brings the beauty out of what many would discard. I love this and have adopted a similar attitude toward the materials I use to create. Brian has recently completed a large scale installation at the Austin Facebook Headquarters as part of their artist residency program and continues to inspire me with his creativity, his wit and his huge heart. Read more to see how he might inspire you!

Mustang On Peyote    (Part of the Peyote Series)    Brian Phillips

Mustang On Peyote (Part of the Peyote Series) Brian Phillips

 What does working improvisationally mean to you?  How would you define the ‘Art of Improv’?

To me, the 'Art of Improv' helps keeps things fresh and original in art. Beginning a project with no clear cut endpoint is a way to keep stretching your boundaries and when mistakes happen (as they usually do) helps you grow as an artist. 

Have you always worked improvisationally?

Pretty much. I've never been good at "studies" or "thumbnail sketches" of ideas, so I just jot down the basic idea and then figure it out on the fly.

Do you work improvisationally, consciously, intentionally?  If so, how do you begin?  If not, how do you find yourself getting there?

Consciously, most of the time. My way of working is sporadic, and a lot of times, I just find myself beginning to tackle a project that I had no intention of starting when I started the day, so I try and just roll with it knowing that some energy pulled me that direction so it must be time to work on it.

Rattlesnake. On Peyote    (Part of The Peyote Series)  Brian Phillips

Rattlesnake. On Peyote (Part of The Peyote Series) Brian Phillips

How often do you work with improvisation?

Almost daily.

Please share a bit about your process.  Do you have methods to getting started?

Most mornings, I work on small pieces to get through a couple cups of coffee. Smaller pieces are fun for me and I like working on them as a way to get going to the bigger projects in the day.

Do you have tricks to getting unstuck?

When I don't feel inspired to paint, I spend the time making my salvaged wood "canvases" to paint when I do feel inspired. The sizes of my random pieces of plywood pieces usually dictate the sizes I make my pieces, but if I only have large pieces, I cut them into random sizes. Not many pieces I do are conventional frame sizes.

Do you have motivators to finishing up?

Paying my bills is a pretty good motivator I've found. Ha. Kidding. I've become pretty good about seeing works to the end. I used to let pieces sit unfinished, and it still happens sometimes, but I've gotten better about following through.

Where do you find inspiration?

Honestly everywhere. I find more inspiration from DWELL magazine than I do from art magazines. Not sure why, maybe because I'm a fan of form and function as well as interior design. But I find inspiration from my surroundings, music, television, internet. It's everywhere.

How do you use it?

Well, I do my best to just let it ignite some creative spark, then go for it on my own. It's best if I leave the inspiration behind as to not steal the idea, but build your own creative energy from just seeing something that inspired you whether that be a color study, style, design elements, or simply just drew your attention to it. Make the inspiration come back out of you in your own way.

Always Pull For The Bull   Brian Phillips

Always Pull For The Bull Brian Phillips

What advice would you give to someone interested in trying to work improvisationally.

GO. FOR. IT. Planning too much can kill the excitement of a piece and make it sheer stress the whole process. Have fun, just go for it.

Can you share some good advice that you received that helped you become more comfortable this way?

Being self taught, I'm pretty sure all advice I've been given is the opposite of how I approach working. But one thing I always remember if from a gallery owner, she told me to "lose your ego" when it comes to your art. This quote has helped me to not take rejection personally. It has helped me realize that I don't like every piece of art I see out in the world, so don't expect everyone to like mine. That's the beauty of art, there's something out there for everyone.

How would you finish the sentence, ‘What if, . . .?’

"What if, as artists, we stopped trying to "get discovered" and just go with our ideas as a way of really opening up the channels of creativity and self-acceptance? I think subconsciously we as artists have that inner self doubt that sometimes prevents us from taking a creative jump. The more I take the jumps, the more I find my style and the more I have fun in the process. I'm trying to get better at making it happen more often than not. The fun comes out in the work.

What are reading, listening to, watching, or any other inspirational obsessions you would like to share?

Music, music, music. It's constantly on around me. Silence and I don't get along. I listen to mostly slower music while working. Classic country is my main staple, but I listen to a wide variety from jazz to classic rock, old hiphop to heavy metal, it all depends on my mood that day.

Thank you Brian, I’ve loved getting to know a little bit more about how you work your artistic magic! I agree that we all would benefit from opening our creative channels and accepting ourselves just as we are, and losing our ego, especially when it comes to our art. I believe that in learning to take these creative leaps we channel who we really are and what we our are here to do, AND going for it is the quickest way to get there!!! Thank you for sharing with us here, I know it will inspire many to consider taking the leap as well. To learn more about Brian visit his website and check out his day to days on instagram.


If you would like to be featured on The Art of Improv please contact me!  I would love to hear how improvisation impacts your art making process.