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Terri Phillips, Artist of the Week

Terri Phillips exhibited her work as an Artist of the Week on June 19, 2020.

Gallery

Interview

Interview Transcript

Emily Longbrake
Hi, and thanks for joining us. I’m here with Terry Phillips, also known as Terry Lou. We wanted to get to know her a little bit and hear about her work. So just to get started, would you like to introduce yourself?

Terry Phillips
Hi, I’m Terry Phillips. And I am this week’s Artist of the Week at the Palmer Museum, which is a great thing and a fun thing for us to do. I’ve been painting for 40 some years and I’ll let you ask me questions and go from there.

Emily Longbrake
Thank you! Could you tell us about the work that folks can see at the museum?

Terry Phillips
I did put four pieces of my artwork from Wasilla up: I see so many points from Palmer, you know, like the water tower and popular places in Palmer that get noted in artwork, but of course I’m from Wasilla so I just wanted to add a few of the landmarks from Wasilla. You’ll see the red caboose that’s in the city park. There’s one of Newcomb Park at Wasilla Lake. There’s an old boat out on Knik Road from the Reddingtons – it’s been out there for years and years, and it looks like an old shipwreck. It’s just fun to look at that piece because it has a lot of history and it has been out there ever since I can remember, about 35 years ago. And there’s one more from Wasilla.

Emily Longbrake
We’ll leave the last one as a surprise!

Terry Phillips
I have cards as well: just little correspondence cards that people can pick up and send as a postcard to somebody. I think I have one of Hawaiian palm trees. First of all, where I learned to paint was in Hawaii. That was a special time: we were still in the military then. I didn’t know a thing about painting. I just know that the way I got started was I play piano, and there was a lady on the base who wanted her children to take piano lessons. She wanted to trade art lessons or painting lessons for a piano lesson. And I told her, I don’t draw, I just don’t, I don’t even see that happening. And she said, Well, just come over and try it. If you like it, we’ll do that. And if not, we’ll just not go that route. So we did and I liked it. It was just a lot of fun and there was so much you could do, and so much to learn that I just had to do it. I was also pregnant with my first child at that time. And I can remember that when I went into labor, I was trying to paint my grandmother’s portrait. Now keep in mind, I didn’t know much about painting, and when I got home with the baby, and I looked at that ugly portrait on the easel, I thought, God, my grandmother would be rolling over in her grave if she saw that! But anyway, that was how I got started. I know I have a painting of Hatcher Pass, of the little red chalets, and all of these, except for the Hawaii one, they were painted plein air, meaning you go outside and you paint what you’re looking at outside. Some of them you take photos of so that you can continue the work at home in the studio because the light always changes. And you definitely need to sometimes fix a few things.

Emily Longbrake
Other than the subjects, What kinds of things do you hope to capture in your paintings?

Terry Phillips
The fun thing about plein air is you’re out there and you’re painting and people come around and they start talking to you, and they show an interest and then they try to see if you’re really capturing what you’re after. One painting I brought is of the lilac [iris] fields out at Eklutna. People are familiar with with the sites, and it is fun to get to talking to people. I know at one point too, I got to hang some paintings over at Vagabond Blues in Palmer, and all the customers in there made comments. They all spoke with you, and it really makes you feel good. Like people are actually noticing that you’re putting art on the walls and they want to talk about it. And then the best part of all is if you sell one! I think that’s true for any artists. We like to do a little happy dance if one goes out the door and gets a good home.

Emily Longbrake
Oh, can you tell us about the materials you use to make your work?

Terry Phillips
Yes, I started with oils and still use oils quite frequently. And then I switched to acrylic. One of the ladies that I also took lessons from in Hawaii (she’s passed away now) turned us on to acrylics. I clearly remember that she painted an outdoor sink that she had with all kinds of flowers and things in acrylics to test their stamina. So when it rained or there’s lots of rain and pouring in Hawaii sometimes and she would let us know how well those acrylic stood ups. And the advantage of those was that they dry right away. You don’t wait weeks and months for the layers to dry. You do have to keep them wet when you’re outside by constantly spraying water. If you remember to spray the water you’ll be fine. Other than that, if you don’t remember to spray the water your paints are dry and you get flakes and and dry little chips of paint where you don’t want them. I do enjoy acrylics and I do enjoy the oils and I swore I would never try watercolor because I don’t want to own any more paints. I have so many tubes of paint. It’s crazy. Of course, there’s also your brushes. We all have favorite brushes, and it appears that we never throw them away because they can really never be used up and can have some nice effects on a painting. So, so yeah, just acrylics, oils, watercolors and brushes.

Emily Longbrake
It sounds like travel has been a real influence on your life in general but also on your artwork. Can you share a little bit more about places you’ve been and how you brought them into the work that we can see now?

Terry Phillips
We have traveled extensively, especially our early years because my husband was in the military, which is why we were in Hawaii in the first place. And we’ve been we’ve been to Texas. This piece long gone, but there was once the Texas phone book, which show people’s artwork on the cover and and I tried to do a windmill scene that was out in the fields. Anything I saw or anything that just even the least bit attracted my attention, I would try to paint it. Coming to Alaska, we used to live in Cold Bay. That’s out on the Aleutian chain. I actually gave classes for painting there for the adults which were part of the university’s extension classes. You have to know there was nothing in Cold Bay. There was no radio, there was no TV. There was hunting. We did well, having just coming over to my house, we’d set up canvases and I’d share my paints and my brushes. Groups of us would paint together and then we’d have a little show for the 200 people that live there. So yeah, a lot of traveling. We’ve lived in New Mexico. I was born and raised in New Mexico. And there I have several paintings of that, not necessarily displayed over there at the museum. There’s just a small tiny painting of a rose over there at the museum. And it’s just because they’re so pretty, they’re just a rose is so pretty. So there’s nothing special on it, but a rose and it’s a pink one. And you just see something and it just moves you and you think I got to put that somewhere and it’s got to go on a canvas so that you can always appreciate it. My motto is, everybody should be able to afford an original, even if they’re little bitty ones and sometimes I do little bitty ones that and turn them into ornaments on little tiny easels. They’re very reasonable, like $15. I’ve seen people in town that just say I have a Terry Phillips original and it’s two by two, but it’s an original! I really do feel that even if it’s a larger painting, people should be able to afford an original. So I don’t like to get way out there with prices.

Emily Longbrake
That’s great. or service to the community, almost! What can you tell us about what’s next for you this summer or maybe the rest of the year? I know that a lot of things have changed due to COVID. So artists are changing their practice in all different ways are all of our schedules have changed?

Terry Phillips
Well, I am on the board of the Valley Fine Arts Association. Last year, I was the president and I’ve served at every position on the board but we always for the last five years have had a retreat, an artist retreat out at 12 Mile Lake on the Willow side of Hatcher Pass. We had to cancel that this year because of COVID. And it’s a big letdown because we have a lot of sponsors. We get a lot of donations so that we can give everybody that attends goodie bags with lots of paint, brushes and different items they can use. At any rate that’s been cancelled. And we do have a sort of a potluck picnic type thing coming up at Peters Creek. One of our members has a really nice cabin there on Peters Creek just outside of Eagle River. They’re going to sell their cabin, so she’s invited everybody to have sort of a last fling out there and just bring a potluck and bring your paints and your canvas and you can sit at the creek and have a day. Because it’s outside we feel a little safer being far enough apart from each other where we might not have to wear our masks. Yeah, it’s just It’s it’s kind of hard with that COVID coming around all over the place. You know? So what is good about it? It’s that even here at home when you think you’re bored, or you’re like, now what I’m stuck in the house or anything like that, painting takes over and before you know what the day is done, and adding to your collection, hopefully that’s so great, but you can see a silver lining.

Emily Longbrake
How can people get in touch with you if they’d like to learn more about your work or Fine Arts Association? We can put some links in the video here.

Terry Phillips
Okay, I’m on my own Facebook page [Terry Phillips Art] and Valley Fine Arts Association. Yes, we’re on there. I’m on all kinds of paint sites that are groups here in the valley. And I did put up business cards over there at the museum and every bit of information is on there. I do commissions and I have taught a few classes so you know, if somebody is interested in learning a little bit, I like to do one-on-one. I don’t like to teach groups. If there’s too much questions and time gets taken away, I would say that a whole lot of what you want to accomplish in a group doesn’t get done at my level. I like to teach acrylics. I like for somebody after a lesson to be able to walk away with a painting that they can say, “Look what I did,” and feel like they want to continue. I can be contacted on messenger on Facebook. I’m due to hang work at Burger Jim’s for the month of July, and they have humongous wall space. So I can bring quite a few pieces of my work. That may help out both of us, you know: it might draw some people in to give Burger Jim’s some business and it might give me some business. I do try to display locally at different places, different venues.

Emily Longbrake
Is there anything else you’d like folks to know before they head over to the museum or know about you as an artist?

Terry Phillips
Just know that I enjoy talking to people. And if I do give a one-on-one lesson to somebody, it’s pretty safe here in my house, and I could keep them six feet away from me. And more than likely don’t have to wear a mask.

If you say to yourself, “Oh, I could never do that,” it’s a big lie: you can do it. I am self taught. And for years, I used books to just look and try to copy and see if I could learn the colors and that kind of thing. Just that there’s a whole lot of rules in art. I found that out that the more educated you got, the more confusing it is because you’re trying to remember all these little rules. To create something you don’t really need to follow huge rules, you need to just let yourself go. That’s my theory.

Emily Longbrake
That’s a wonderful closing thought. Thank you so much!