I am honored to be featured on the cover of the Daily Camera Newspaper in Boulder today! Please read the full article below!
As an integral part of Boulder's art scene for 17 years, Phil Lewis continues to craft work that proves to be just as marketable as it is captivating. From a one-time touring musician sketching out poster designs for his own band to a gallery owner touting everything from leggings to engraved vaporizers, he's managed to create a brand built on hard work, accessibility and plenty of raw talent.
"This felt like the next step in the evolution," said Lewis. "Showing my art at festivals created a big widespread grassroots following. I wanted a retail location where not only could fans find my work, but walk-by traffic, [people] who had never experienced my work, could do so."
After working the festival circuit and having smaller studio spaces around town, he made the bold move to settle down in a permanent spot. His Pearl Street store, which opened in November 2017, is a mecca of creative consciousness — organically drawing in crowds on any given day. The space, with brick exterior, is an immersive conglomerate of color, texture and sound. Once inside, songs from The String Cheese Incident and The Brothers Comatose echo from Soundwall Novas — wireless speakers that feature Lewis' designs and understated lighting. From the trifecta of colorful foxes that seem to guard over the register to the custom couch cushions, each inch of this vivid establishment has been either designed or hand-selected by the artist himself.
"I love the sacred geometry found in his art," said Eun Jung Decker, of Arvada, while gazing at majestic prints of a unicorn and bear she would later purchase to hang in her children's rooms. "There's an energy and a flow. It has so much motion. It just hits me in my chest."
Growing up in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Lewis spent his days snowboarding and catching glimpses of wildlife that inhabit the terrain. Animals are a huge part of his work and he has a particular penchant for those of a stealthy and secretive nature.
"The fox speaks to me," said Lewis. "I like things that are mysterious. They dodge in and out of the edge of the forest and are not visible for very long. Same with owls — they are around in transition. You have to be hyper-aware to spot them."
Stylized, surreal and shamanistic, but at the same time very grounding, his repertoire includes pieces that vary from multicolored zebras to serene deer and howling wolves — all with eye-catching color palettes and intricate details that add to the overall visual feast.
Art that travels
"For me, artwork is all about sharing the artwork," said Lewis. "I've always found creating products that people can experience in all different ways very intriguing. You can put on a hoodie, walk down the street and essentially become a piece of artwork."
He even has a self-serve key duplication kiosk, minuteKey, in his studio, where folks can get a psychedelic depiction of the Flatirons stamped right on the very tool that locks and opens their abode.
Feasibly one of the most impressive pieces of equipment he owns is the Epilog Helix Laser — a fast-acting machine that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. In a matter of minutes, a water bottle's color is etched away in places to reveal patterns of visible steel and a matte finish. Even MacBook Pros can get makeovers with this state-of-the-art appliance allowing Lewis's creations to grace a myriad of surfaces.
His wooden mandalas adorned with luminescent plexiglass inlays offering subtle shades of violet, aqua and emerald provide a nice alternative to the richly saturated work he's known for.
All of his art starts with a freehand pencil sketch that is scanned into Photoshop, hand traced and then layers of color are digitally placed within the pixel-based, highly-magnified, finished product.
"This holiday season has been super busy," said Lewis, who on most days can be found wrapping work, running credit cards and talking to customers. "I love seeing people getting cool stuff for people they care about. It's awesome. It's an honor."
In addition to the gallery being a source of extremely unique swag, it also has become a place of community. The venue has been the spot of yoga classes, meet-and-greets for bands such as Rising Appalachia, shows for other creatives like Martina Hoffmann and just last month it hosted Smithsonian artist, the Boulder County-born Android Jones.
"In the beginning, I was very experimental in where I showed my work," said Lewis. "It's all about exposure. I'd display in coffee shops, restaurants, salons. Your fans are out there, but you don't necessarily know where, so you just have to put it out there."
While success has certainly been a part of Lewis's ever-evolving career, he's managed to let humbleness and gratitude be his anchors in a highly-competitive industry.
"A big part about succeeding in art is removing ego," said Lewis. "Sometimes, I step back and it's like I don't even make it — it travels through me."
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Lewis's work is its ability to resonate with folks of all demographics. Sure, there's the STS9 posters filled with trippy visuals, but there are also the coloring books that kids can't seem to get enough of.
Wire wrap-wearing jam fans and even pre-schoolers take to his boldly colored depictions of mountain sunsets and rising phoenixes that, at times, appear to be undulating.
He's worked with Liberty Puzzles for a decade and has recently collaborated with ROVR to produce a line of camping lanterns that don his designs.
Lewis teamed up with animation artist Josiah Holwick for a short film, "Finding Flow," and he said it's his hope to do more animation projects in 2019.
While the gallery has taken a lot of his time, Lewis still makes it a priority to create. He can often be found late in his home studio, working by the glow of one solitary bulb, with his headphones feeding in the sweet sounds of Desert Dwellers or whatever happens to be on his current playlist.
"For its size, Boulder has a lot of culture," said Lewis. "It's been an awesome place to plant roots."
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, firstname.lastname@example.org.