For Delaware artist Rick Phillips, painting is like a ‘religious experience’

From illustration to fine art, Rick Phillips has always been an artist. But it’s his fine art that made him happy.

After starting his career in art as an illustrator, Phillips got tired of sitting behind a computer, now he’s happy as a fine artist.

Phillips has been an artist since he was 15. “All my life I’ve wanted to be an artist and I’ve always made a living as an artist.”

He is the featured artist at this year’s Brandywine Festival of the Arts, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10. We caught up with Rick at the pop-up art gallery he manages in the Powder Mill Square shopping center in Greenville.

He decided early on that to make a living as an artist he was going to have to go into advertising. For the next 25 years, he worked in public relations and advertising agencies. His clients included Bank of America, Campbell Soup and Glaxo SmithKline

Phillips spent his days at work, “trying to figure out what the client wanted.” The no-brainer stuff was fun, “Here, draw this waffle or this bowl of soup.”

But what about what he wanted? “[I] got tired of sitting behind a computer.” He wanted to go out and paint, “I wanted to go paint a fountain, or a statue somewhere.”

Little did he know his painting was going to become an obsession. “That’s where my heart lies.”

Now he paints almost every day, and even if he isn’t painting, “You’re thinking about what you are going to be painting or what problems you might be having with a painting.”

I asked Rick if he had any regrets about his path. “Sometimes I wish I had done the fine art earlier, but maybe it wasn’t time. Maybe I wouldn’t have been ready yet.”

He’s always been shy, a bit of a loner and his work reflects that. “I’m doing things that are sort of lonely, that’s where I feel comfortable.”

The act of painting especially outdoors is like a “religious experience for me,” Phillips said. He loves the “serenity” of it. And he is happy, “I feel like, I’m so happy. I couldn’t be more relaxed or feel any luckier.”

Ask most artists and they will tell you how hard it is to actually make a living at it. Phillips is making a living with his art and that is especially satisfying for him. “I just hope I can keep on doing it.”

Phillips quotes a friend of his from college who said, “If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as an artist.”

But would he change anything? “I think I would just do the same things. Just go paint, I’m very happy.”

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