Animator and painter, Phil Jones originally trained as a traditional artist. However, being open to digital means earned him the rare opportunity to design graphics for military units including the Navy SEALs and Special Forces.
Phil Jones is an illustrator/painter/cartoonist based in Sarasota, Florida. At one time he was an animation artist for Disney Studios in Orlando, Florida and also a graphic specialist for an Army Special Operations aviation unit based at Ft. Campbell, KY. Now he can be found leading fun but inexperienced painters at Painting With a Twist.
How would you describe ‘Phil Jone’s style’ and what is your process of achieving it?
Phil: My work can be anything from cartoonish to somewhat photo-realistic. The realism style I paint in requires a lot of time and focus as I tend to be more of a perfectionist when painting “realism.”
What was it like working as an artist with an Army Special Operations aviation unit? Could you please expound on that project?
Phil: I was assigned to the same unit featured in the film “Black Hawk Down.” It was quite the contrast interning at Disney Studios to working with Navy SEALs, Delta Forces, and Special Forces. One thing Disney Animation had in common with my unit as I had a chance to work with the best in the world in both fields. Military work was demanding and fun as my job consisted of creating everything from graphics for briefings to doing paintings for the unit’s museum at FT. Campbell, KY. Both were amazingly rewarding.
What is your lookout when choosing clients to work with?
Phil: I’m at a point in my career where I look for clients who will be fun to work for and share the same creative spirit I do. It should not be a struggle as we collaborate on making something innovative, fun and new.
How do you ensure your vision of a project is in line with that of the client in order to set the process in the right direction?
Phil: I listen, take notes and ask questions. Contact with your client is very important. It never hurts to ask questions. Multiple sketches are important as well.
And how do you achieve that balance practically so that your artistic sensibilities find expression while achieving the expected result?
Phil: Once again, I listen. A client chose me for a style they feel fits their vision, so at first, I’m honoured. It’s like being chosen by the pretty girl at the school dance; you don’t want to embarrass yourself but you also want to impress!
Can you share some projects that proved to be significant in experience for you as an illustrator?
Phil: One of my favorite projects was the 1996 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season tickets. Every game, thousands of people saw my artwork. It was also the last season the Bucs work their famous “creamsicle orange” uniforms. Another has been artwork I’ve done for the Orlando Magic. The fact that my artwork adds to the overall game experience for Magic fans is awesome!
Could you please elaborate on what draws you towards creating cartoons and the process behind it?
Phil: The motivation to do something better motivates me. I look at work I did two years ago and compare it to things I’ve done recently and I see improvement not just in style but in technique as well. Other artists I follow are always moving forward and are driven to innovate their technique and improve as artists. That’s what drives me. If I’m doing the same thing ten years from now that I’m doing today, I’ll be very depressed. My natural style is cartooning; it just flows from me. I start with rough sketches and refine those drawings, flipping them back and forth to achieve balance in the drawing, design and color.
What tools do you mostly use and what makes you choose them?
Phil: I graduated from Ringling College as a “traditional” illustrator. My training was all in paint, pens, pencils and traditional media. After spending years at Disney and the military, I had to teach myself digital media like Photoshop and Illustrator. Now, most of my work is created in Adobe Sketch on my iPad Pro, so I can work literally anywhere on a project.
Considering all the professional experience you have, what is it like now teaching inexperienced painter?
Phil: I teach part-time at a paint party establishment where I lead people with no skills at all through sometimes complex painting. The most rewarding thing I hear is when someone says, “I never thought I could paint that!” and they leave excited with their very own painting they did with a little guidance from me.