Imitating Life: Posing questions for local artist Katie Phillips


“Bear,” acrylic on canvas

“Bear,” acrylic on canvas

Katie Phillips is happy to share information about her art and life, but she seems more interested in telling about Squeeze Art Collective– the local artist group she co-founded a few years ago.

With the encouragement of her stained-glass artist mom, Phillips fell in love with art when she was 3. She was accepted into Otis College of Art and Design in 1996 and graduated in 2000 with a B.F.A. in illustration.

She describes her artistic style as “varied, from portraiture to surrealist, the common thread [being] color.” She works primarily in acrylics, saying she prefers the fast-drying permanent medium to oils or watercolor.

Katie Phillips

Katie Phillips


Where are you from originally?

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1977. We lived in a big, yellow house with a huge pecan tree in the back yard. My parents made my closet into a little drawing studio for me, and I remember spending time in there drawing pictures for my family. For some reason, I really liked drawing pictures of toucans. We moved to Metairie, Louisiana when I was 5 and then moved again to settle in California when I was 9 or 10. I had never been in the presence of mountains so continuously before, and they looked like rumpled piles of velvet from our hotel window in Arcadia.

How long have you lived in Long Beach?
I moved to Long Beach in 2006. I was working for an apparel company doing designs for T-shirts and living in North Hollywood in a tiny, little shoebox of an apartment. I knew a couple of my co-workers lived in Long Beach, and, when my slumlord decided to raise my rent, I packed up and moved. The rent was a lot more affordable, and I got to have a nice, big place about a mile from the ocean.

“Lion,” acrylic on canvas

“Lion,” acrylic on canvas

How did being the daughter of a stained-glass artist affect you and your work?
My mom was the most supportive artistic influence in my life. She was overflowing with creativity herself, and just watching her work inspired me. I remember thinking I wanted to be as good as her, but I was much better at painting and drawing than at constructing windows. Her colors, patterns and textures with glass were exciting, and during her projects she would call me, and we’d bounce ideas off of each other.

What exactly did you do as art director for Edge Music Network?
For three years, I was responsible for overhauling the design of their website including the user interface flow, creating all the graphics needed for the pages, leading team meetings and working with the founder, CTO, and COO on business development ideas. I left Edge Music Network in February to become a full-time freelance graphic designer and illustrator because I wanted to spend more time developing Squeeze Art Collective.

Tell me about how and why you co-founded Squeeze Art Collective.
In 2011, I was introduced to Tracy Negrete at DiPiazza’s [restaurant and lounge]. She invited me to join a group of her friends for occasional get-togethers at her apartment to paint and be creative. I had been looking and wishing for a group of artists to hang out with, so I agreed to meet with them. We started meeting over at my house in my garage, and it turned out that Tracy and I had the same ideas about creating exhibits with the art we were making. After our first group show at Ashley’s Bar for Dia de los Muertos, we decided that we should formalize the group and turn it into a collective. We spent the first formative years planning shows and supporting community groups with our art. We didn’t know we were just testing the waters for what Long Beach was needing, but it turned out that our art collective was something valuable to the community.

“Cricket,” acrylic on canvas

“Cricket,” acrylic on canvas

We can be depended upon to gather a group of talented artists for events on short notice– even though we prefer at least a month or two– for live painting events, group shows and other gatherings that we can augment with art. Today, we have a core group of about 10 to 15 members that regularly attend our monthly planning meetings, and our mission has evolved into providing artists with opportunities and the community with a central point of contact for art services. Right now we are planning on acquiring a large warehouse space to convert into artists spaces that our members will have access to along with a voice in the programming of shows, classes and workshops we will host there. We are compiling a waiting list on our website, squeezeart.com, under the “Squeeze Art Spaces” link.

To view more of Phillips’s work, visit behance.net/katiepdesign .

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