A Conversation with Phil Lewis: The Phil Lewis Art Gallery, Transformation of Digital Art and Upcoming Events
Photos by Ali Jay Multimedia
“Inspired Visions Bringing Positive Energy into the World”
Phil Lewis, Boulder-based visionary artist, has created a holistic space for collaboration. His studio, located on Pearl Street, ] not only houses his divine art, but has housed numerous artists prevalent in the Colorado art community, and accommodated transformational and educational workshops for the public. His grassroots efforts have flourished from traveling and sharing his art across the country, opening doors to create a community focused on collaboration, the showcasing of, and the overall culture, of the art scene.
When walking into the Phil Lewis Art Gallery, Phil’s mantra, “Inspired Visions Bringing Positive Energy into the World,” really comes to life. Vibrant colors and nature-filled pieces are displayed before your eyes, as Phil’s distinct style relishes over his modern and medium-filled studio. From coloring books, puzzles, and adhesives – to any size prints, stretched canvases, and original canvases – the plethora of art showcased represents intricate talent from Phil Lewis and numerous collaborative efforts.
“After traveling around all across the country going to festivals for around 10 to 12 years, getting this studio really felt like the right next step in my career. We’ve met hundreds of thousands of people at these festivals, and the word about us really just spread, allowing us to have a strong grassroots following,” Lewis said.
He continued on to talk about how Boulder was a destination spot for many people to travel to for events at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, The Fox Theatre, Boulder Theater, and the historic Pearl Street Mall. Having his space located at this destination allowed for him to showcase a lot more art that he has created over the last decade, especially more than a festival booth would hold.
Lewis explained further the original ideas for the Phil Lewis Art Gallery: “The founding inspiration for this studio was to be able to host guest shows – and bring in artists and friends of mine that make awesome artwork – and [to] be able to put their artwork on the wall to expose [to], not only the community around this studio, but [to] anybody who happens to be walking by on Pearl street throughout the day. It gives people the opportunity to see mine and my friends artwork who wouldn’t have normally had the exposure,” Lewis said.
Phil Lewis has been part of the transformative digital art scene, beginning with his own initiative to learn about the newest programs to transform and digitalize his art.
“Every step of the way I feel like I’ve been teaching myself to learn the new programs, and developing my own aesthetic and style from my exploration. A lot of trial and error. As I’ve been developing these skills over the years, I’ve learned my own tricks, techniques, and applications, to move around the digital aspect of things,” Phil said.
Although Phil still draws nearly everything out on paper, his skills are consistently evolving and transforming on digital platforms, allowing him to accentuate his style. He explained when he first started he used this clunky tool that overheated a lot, glitched a lot, and was a lot more unresponsive.
He now uses paper to draw out the image and work on composition, then will capture that picture and work in an app titled “Art Studio Pro” to zoom in and work on the linework by hand. It takes an extreme amount of time, but the end-product is a clean, high-resolution, digital product that can then get color, shading, and effects added in on Photoshop.
He continued, ”My last three pieces, I traced all of the line-work on iPad Pro. It was a brand new thing for me, I had never used one before. With the latest release, it was way more responsive and a lot more powerful, so it could totally handle working on a full resolution file and tracing all the lines out the way I liked.”
Phil explained that he is consistently looking to combine the human element with the digital sphere. He explained, “The digital realm is so powerful and there’s so much out there that I have no idea about, It’s always evolving and constantly developing, it’s truly breaking out in every direction. I’m really traditional in the way that I love the artwork on a wall. To use this technology to create this crazy piece of art is awesome, but it does all start on paper.”
Phil gave a shout out to Photoshop and explained that he truly found a home working in the 2-D art platform. He acknowledged the opportunity to be constantly learning and building off of that knowledge for every piece in Photoshop. He was ecstatic and exclaimed that every time he opened the program, he was excited to see what would come of it.
One of the specialities and unique features of the Phil Lewis Art Gallery is the prominent laser engraver located in the back of the studio space. Phil has owned his laser engraver for six years now, self-teaching himself the programming and acclimation to the new medium. His love for wood and building has always been prevalent, and when learning to work this laser-printer machine, he said his tech-savviness definitely assisted.
“It works like a printer. You have to learn the print driver and the settings that you combine to get it to function and react on different surfaces. Whether it’s acrylic, wood, or metal, there is a different group of settings to apply. To me, it’s just super fun to mess around with.’
There are spectacular pieces around the studio that are derived from the engraver, showing the etched acrylic, mirror-plexi, and in-laid wood, that are all worked together. The Eco-Vessel stainless steel water bottles displayed here are available for custom laser cutting, , such as your name and number for safekeeping. Phil elaborated on his excitement to do custom pieces, and has even custom-engraved guitar bodies. Having previously played bass in a band, the challenge and his love of instruments make it rewarding for Phil.
Phil said he has always wanted to be able to house an event space for collaboration efforts to take place. Since the opening a year and a half ago, he has hosted Randal Roberts & Morgan Mandala, Kris Davison, Android Jones, Dela, Chris Dyer, John Speaker, Aaron Brooks & Ellie Paisley, and more.
“Right off the bat, after the first show with Randal and Morgan, we could just tell this is what we are supposed to be doing here. It just felt right, and there was a ton of energy. There a lot of artists living in Boulder, and a lot of festival art culture here, but there [are] really no venues for it. There [are] music venues, but there’s really no visual art gallery. I’m really excited about now being able to host that here in Boulder,” Lewis continued.
One of the recent events that took place at Phil Lewis Art Gallery was a collaboration with Chris Dyer, showcasing a 10″ tall vinyl toy figurine Dyer made. Over 30 artists were asked to be involved in the show, and received a blank version of the figurine to create. At the ‘Galaktic Gang Grow Show,’ Dyer and Phil were both present, with stop-ins from the other supporting artists, along with a DJ setting the tone for the collaborative space.
“It’s been really awesome because I’m not only inviting another artist into my shop to showcase, but also inviting them to collaborate, to combine energies and aesthetics and work on a piece together. We’ve come up with some really cool collaborative stuff so far”, Lewis explained.
Phil in the past has also hosted numerous “action days” that are filled with music, pioneers, and educators, in the industry, to come and enlighten the public about environmental initiatives, self-care, and different non-profit organizations.
He has brought in Rising Appalachia to teach sustainable agriculture and regenerative communities, The Nowak Society to teach about psychedelic therapy, and Conscious Alliance’s non-profit food drive “Art That Feeds” – which is prevalent in the music scene – as a celebratory fundraiser to commemorate their last seventeen years as an organization – ten of which Phil has been acquainted with.
Phil explained that over the next couple years, he is looking to host more events at the gallery that bring together the community for different causes. As time develops, he would love to host more art-based workshops to spread the knowledge of Photoshop, laser-engraving, and more educational components
Lewis recently brought back Aaron Brooks and Ellie Paisley again for Dead & Company weekend in Boulder on July 6th & 7th, as well as featuring artwork from Jonathon Singer. The past two years, they all threw a similar gatherings and they all amounted to a big success. Lewis will also be at Electric Forest Music Festival, Arise Music Festival, and Suwannee Hulaween this summer.