Location: Maple Creek

Painter Geoff Phillips and His Rural Reflections

arts-quest-geoff-phillips-whispering-pinesNot our last interview but our last stop in Saskatchewan took us to painter Geoff Phillips’ house in Maple Creek. We had been through Maple Creek once before but this time it was with fresh eyes. It’s a cute little town in southern Saskatchewan nestled within the prairie landscape and close to the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. It was here that Geoff and Connie decided to move their family from Calgary, with both sets of grandparents following in hot pursuit soon after.


It would appear that the Phillips family lives an idyllic life in Maple Creek. Geoff’s steady income comes from their next door neighbour, the local Co-op food store where he works in the meat department. Besides not having to drive to work, living right next door has other benefits too. When he is not helping customers with their meat requirements sometimes they come in and ask to see his artwork. He asks his boss if he can pop home to show it to them, bloody apron and all, and off he goes. Only in a small town.


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For the past 6 years Geoff has had the good fortune of being the artist in residence at the Cypress Hills Inter-provincial Park for one month in the summer. But it is no coincidence that Geoff has had this opportunity for 6 years running. His unique style gives park visitors not only an appreciation for Geoff’s art but also for the surroundings that comprise the park itself. What started out as a pilot project has turned into a marvelous draw to the park, with subsequent years also being funded to carry on the successful project. With his family’s encouragement and the well wishes of his employer he stays at the park to paint and run workshops for visitors. His paintings are based around the flora and fauna of the park and are meant to bring awareness to those who make the journey there. Geoff’s art is colourful and certainly very eye-pleasing so his pieces attract people like honey attracts bees. Every year Geoff packs up his canvasses, paints, brushes and a theme that he will incorporate into his work while he is there. This past August he worked on 12 very large canvasses and painted micro sections of the park depicting the landscape and the common plant species which are found there.


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I have found over the last 6 years of doing interviews that each artist’s process is just as unique as the art they create. During his stay in Cypress Hills Park, Geoff will go out and wander the woods until he finds an intriguing spot he wants to bring to life on canvass. I would have thought a few pictures and maybe a sketch book would be what he would use to gather material for his piece. Instead he pulls out his really large canvass and spreads it out over the ground and then proceeds to stomp on it with his shoes to try to get it to lay as flat as possible, but of course there are always lumps and bumps creating hills and valleys. No matter, Geoff pulls out a can of brownish acrylic paint and proceeds to map out his future painting. He paints in oils but acrylic dries quicker for this part of the process. He then packs up and heads back to the art cabin where he adds a layer of primer and then proceeds with the oils. There are a few reference pictures taken as well. As Geoff puts it, it is very crude but he likes doing it this way because he can really get a feel for the spot he wants to paint and this helps to ignite the passion that goes into his work.


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When Gary and I stopped in on Geoff to do his interview we also got to see the new workshop and painting studio that he and Connie recently added to their home. Both Geoff and Connie, who is also an artist, have collaborated to bring all kinds of art programs through The Art House to the town of Maple Creek. They offer their artistic expertise to help guide children and adults through their own artistic expression, whether it be at a Splatter Party where one gets to pretend they are Jackson Pollock, or something a little more structured like learning the basics of drawing. It is obvious that both the Phillips family and the town of Maple Creek have benefited from their arrival. Geoff and Connie are bringing art to their community by teaching others how to express their creativity. They also enjoy the exposure of their art lining the walls of the local pub and restaurant and in the form of Geoff’s huge mural that was commissioned by the town of Maple Creek for the Heritage District revitalization program.

So if you ever find yourself in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan stop in to the Co-op, ask for Geoff at the meat counter and ask to see his art. He’ll be glad to oblige.

Be sure to check out our interview with Geoff. Also, help us spread the word about Geoff through social media by sharing this blog post. Clickable buttons are provided below for your convenience. And we love comments so please feel free to leave a nice one about Geoff and his work below. Thank you!