Where’s Phil? St. Louis artist hides profile in paintings
Phil Jarvis has never thought about being anything but a painter.
“I’ve been painting forever … since I was a little kid,” Jarvis said. “I just thought that was what I was going to be. Everybody said that’s what I was going to be.”
His parents encouraged him to pursue art by putting him in art camps and classes.
“A lot of positive things happened with me, and my parents made sacrifices in their lives to let them happen,” Jarvis said. “My mom told me that my kindergarten teacher called a meeting. (My parents) thought I was in trouble. I had just painted some cat that had a lot of three dimensionality to it. Kind of looked like a cat instead of just a kindergarten cat. After that they encouraged me to (pursue art).”
Jarvis’ studio is also the house he shares with his wife, Anne Childers. His art is everywhere, hanging from the walls and ceilings. On the ceiling in the back room he painted a blue sky with clouds, two of which are in the shape of his and Childers’ profiles. This is where Jarvis first mentioned hiding his profile in his paintings.
The outside of their home is colorful as well. Underneath the trellis, there are faces on the edges, like gargoyles on a stone building. Childers said the faces are meant to represent Phil and herself. Jarvis carved them out of styrofoam and painted them to match the original brick.
Parked right in front is Jarvis’ yellow Chevrolet Tracker. Jarvis has painted the car from front to back with original artwork. He said a stranger once knocked on his door to ask if they could have the artwork tattooed.
On the inside of his home, jazz music fills the space. Two little poodle-mixes run around the house.
Jarvis has two large rotating wheels that he uses as his easels so he can paint from different angles. He said this helps him get new perspectives.
Spreading the word
“A lot of artists have a signature item they hide in their stuff … I think it’s awesome, makes it a little more authentic,” said Liz Venom, a tattoo artist in Canada.
Venom is the owner of Bombshell Tattoo and found Phil Jarvis on Instagram. Venom just got a banner for her tattoo work from Jarvis.
“I started following him on Instagram, and I noticed he did convention banners … I didn’t want a printed banner—it’s a handcrafted trade—and I like to support fellow artists, so I was looking for something unique and original. He really fit the bill,” she said.
Most of the work for which Jarvis is contracted are banners and signs, but not exclusively. He says tattoo artists contact him for banners they can take to tattoo shows.
This is how Venom got in contact with him. She said she chose to get a piece of artwork done instead of using a printing shop.
“A lot of artists just use vistaprint because it’s cheaper, but I think if people treated our craft like that we would be pretty insulted. My work isn’t cheap, and I wanted a banner that reflects that,” Venom said.
Jarvis doesn’t want his work to be something that can be replicated.
“I try not to do anything that vinyl can do. (My work)is just more custom, more personal for the client,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis has also painted buildings, windows and cars, and has worked with gold leaf and polymetal. He says people usually call or email him with an idea, then give him creative license to interpret the idea into a piece of art. After he gets the idea he draws it up and sends the sketch to the client for approval.
Jarvis said most of his work is contracted locally, but he uses Instagram to advertise further.
“The Internet helps a lot … that goes everywhere,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said he used to have a steady job working for a signage company in Ferguson, but when the economy collapsed he had to expand beyond St. Louis.
“When the housing market went bust … signage was mainly new home construction businesses, so that kind of just dropped out. There wasn’t much left, so I just kind of went out on my own,” Jarvis said.
Childers says the loss of his job was a blessing in disguise because it led him to where he is now.
Jarvis has artwork all over St. Louis. He has done work for Trader Bob’s Tattoo Shop, The Cheshire Inn, Kakao Chocolate, The Highlander Pub and Grill, Strange Donuts and Anheuser-Busch.
Brian Pelletier, the owner of Kakao Chocolate, said he has used Jarvis for all three of his chocolate store locations. Pelletier likes using local vendors for his stores, and Jarvis fit right in.
All three of the Kakao locations got Jarvis’ profile treatment. Jarvis said for the most part, only signs and banners have his profile in them.
“My fine artwork has managed to escape the profile humor. However, I have two new works on the easel now … who knows,” he said.
Venom just found out about the profile humor. She said it amuses her.
“Now I really can’t wait to get (my banner),” she said.
For those looking for Jarvis’ profile in his artwork, Venom has words of encouragement.
“Happy hunting,” she said.
To see some of the projects and works created by Jarvis, head over to his Instagram page, @philjarvis.