Hailing from Portland, Oregon, meet Rory Phillips: illustrator, graphic designer, printmaker, animator, and all-around art enthusiast. His work encompasses quite a bit, from character design to typography. You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It will be the third show Rory has participated in here at Light Grey, alongside Macro + Micro, and Girls: Fact + Fiction. His dynamic compositions, detail, and bright color choices are featured in a wide variety of projects, both collaborative and independent.
Rory Phillips, hard at work
How would you describe your work? Your favorite thing to draw?
Magpie-ish, I'm really curious and have a wide range of inspiration that influences my work. Also I am lucky enough to work on a lot of different kinds of projects for a wide range of audiences and that adds a lot of diversity to my work. I say lucky because I really like new challenges, and get bored if I'm not pushing myself. As a graphic designer I'm used to adapting my style to the needs of the client/job and I find I bring that approach into my illustration and printmaking as well. While I know I have a certain style, I think it is process that defines my work more than anything else. My favorite thing to draw are people, they are infinitely interesting to me.
How do you plan your compositions? What’s your sketch process like?
I start by exploring a concept with a bunch of really quick thumbnails in a sketchbook. When I think I have explored the idea enough, I usually do a few more just to be sure. I pick the concept I am most drawn to and I explore it with more thumbnails, these won't be as rough, but I still don't spend more than a minute or two on them. When I get something I like I will start laying out the actual piece using the thumbnail as a reference, this is where I usually struggle with preserving the loose feel of the thumbnail. Once I have that larger sketch I just start rendering it out in what ever medium I'm using.
Progress shot for Rory's You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It piece
What sparked the idea behind the Versus series with Fred DiMeglio? What’s your favorite piece you’ve done so far?
It started when we both attended a WeMake SketchXchange here in Portland that focused on a collaborative project between Jon MacNair and Santiago Uceda. After a few beers that night we decided we should collaborate on a project that; involved the community, was based on screenprinting and got us out of our comfort zone. Soon after we brainstormed over a few more beers and came up with the concept for Versus, a print series of Heroes and Villains each print in the series based off the last print by the other person. To get us out of our comfort zone we decided no computers, everything would be done with a variety of analog screenprinting techniques. To involve the community we decided we wouldn't see each others work and would let volunteers give us four words to base the next print on.
My favorite piece from Versus is probably "The Bad". But I was really excited about the "MS Gundam" print because it was the first time I'd played around with oiled photocopy in my screenprint process. Even though I don't think it's necessarily reflected in the end print, my process was a lot looser and organic, which is something I've been striving for.
"The Bad" by Rory Phillips
What are your top three book recommendations?
Only three!? That is super hard, it probably would vary from day today, but right now. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, because everything Gibson does is thoughtful and smart, plus it specifically appeals to the designer in me. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, because it's hilarious, and I can recommend two great authors with one book! A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, It probably doesn't need my recommendation but I feel it would be wrong not to big-up it, since I'm reading it again for the third time.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My wild uncle told me when I was a kid something to the effect of "The greatest danger in life is to not take chances". It's advice that I've lived by and it has lead me on many great adventures.
What’s the worst weather you’ve ever had to bike through? The best?
The worst would be during hurricane Georges when I lived in Key West, I foolishly went out in the eye to take some photos and nearly didn't make it back (seriously don't try this at home). I think the best, the one I remember as the best, was one fall night when I lived on Nantucket I left work early and rode through the quiet empty streets. The weather was mild and the leaves were falling, the only light was from the moon. I ended up not going home and riding for hours, it was very peaceful.
What brought you to the quote you chose for the show? Were there any other quotes you considered?
I did consider other sayings like "What is not started will never be finished", or "You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind". Something to help motivate the procrastinator in all of us. But I ended up choosing "Don't let the bastards grind you down" because it felt a bit more punk rock and irreverent, and I wanted to juxtapose that sentiment with something that is stylistically more sweet.
"Wonder Woman Redesign" by Rory Phillips
You’ve done several homage/re-designs of superhero gals, do you have a favorite superhero? Why are they your favorite?
I'm not sure I have a favorite superhero. Though I do really like sequential art, honestly when it comes to superheroes and comics I'm a bit of a dilettante. I've never really read them, I think because I didn't have access to them growing up. But even so they are such a cultural phenomenon I find myself really curious about them. For me those redesigns were more of a subversion of superhero aesthetics that have their roots in lurid boys' own pulp illustration (which I still really like). But I wanted to get away from that and depict characters that visually reflected the strong women I know in my life.
To see more of Rory's work, check out his website, and don't forget to check out his piece for the upcoming show You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It!