Brighton-Area Artist Spotlight: Phil Gibbon

Meet Phil Gibbon, a long time Brighton resident, Brighton Art Guild member and a digital painter.

When computers changed the landscape of advertising, Phil Gibbon, who had been working in the business for decades, changed along with it.

"I had to move on in order to keep my job," Gibbon said.

Until then, he had done most of his work, which consisted of creating manuals and advertisements for automotive businesses, by hand with an airbrush. 

So, willed by determination and the insistence of his colleagues, Gibbon bought his first computer in 1991. Including the monitor, scanner and printer, the MacIntosh Quadra 700 cost $11,000.

In addition to its weighty price, the device came with a weighty instruction booklet. 

"I brought it home and couldn't make sense of the manual, so I just started plugging stuff together," Gibbon said.

His approach worked, and he soon found himself hooked on Photoshop, a graphics editing program.

Aside from one three-hour course, Gibbon is a self-taught Photoshop pro. 

"I do everything in Photoshop. I never found a reason to use any other program," Gibbon said. 

He continued to use Photoshop for work until he retired 10 years ago, and now he uses it to produce digital paintings. He has since upgraded his computer to a $1,500 refurbished MacIntosh laptop.

Gibbon, who described his work as abstract, starts with a blank screen, adds some block or dots of color, and waits for something to develop.

"I don't have anything in mind when I start working. I just sit down and say, 'OK, God. What do you have in mind today?" Gibbon said.

Eventually, a portion of the screen catches his eye. He then blows it up, stretches it and goes from there until the image achieves its own harmony.

Gibbon worked for an architectural firm in high school and, after graduation, enrolled in the architectural design program at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. Gibbon soon realized that he was in the wrong field. 

"There was too much math and science and too many straight lines," he said. "I realized that I'd rather render images."

After he decided to switch his major, Gibbon met with the director of Ferris' commercial art program. Because Gibbon didn't have a portfolio, the director sent him home for summer vacation with a sketchbook and an assignment to sketch everything he saw.

When Gibbon returned the following school year, he was accepted into the program based on his "promising" sketches.

"There wasn't much there, but the director said he believed in me. And, once I started taking classes, it all fell into place, and the rest is history," Gibbon said.

Directly after graduation, Gibbon landed a job with a one-man art advertisement company. His first task turned out to be a test. Gibbon's boss gave him a dismantled airbrush and told him to put it together. Gibbon passed and soon graduated to bigger and better jobs around Detroit.

"I got my 15 minutes of fame when I designed the logo for John DeLorean's car company," said Gibbon, who also did work for Chrysler and the Renaissance Center.

After 34 years in the business, he retired and has since focused on his digital art and a few freelance jobs here and there.

Gibbon has been a member of the (BAG) for 10 years, serving as a board member for the past eight. He oversees BAG's Art at the Millpond as well as BAG exhibits at the .

Several of his pieces are on display at the Genoa Medical Center in Brighton, and he will be exhibiting at the Howell Opera House in October as part of the BAG's Art Harvest Exhibition.

Baiba Jensen September 26, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Wonderful article Phil. Thanks for all you do to support BAG as well. Baiba Jensen


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