On a balmy spring day in May, Brandon Phillips proudly holds a plaque bearing the title, “Student Organization Officer of the Year,” an honor given to him for his dedication and work as president of the Vagabond Art Club at Illinois Central College. This East Peoria native, a graduate of East Peoria Community High School, has been making a name for himself both at the college and the local art scene. 

This year, his pieces were featured in several competitions including the 51st Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition, ICC CAP Show, and Retrospect/Layers, all at ICC. 

In years past, Phillips has also received awards and recognition from the Mid-Illini Art Show held at the Prairie Center of the Arts; and the East Peoria Women’s Club Art Show. His participation in the Juried Student Art Exhibition in 2018 garnered a first-place finish in the sculpture category. He also won Best in Show in 3D along with a Merit award in the 2015 Mid-Illini show. 

“I’ve known since high school that art is my calling in life,” he said. 

He became involved with the Vagabond Art Club from his first semester at the college and, by his second year, took on the role as president.

He took a moment on that spring day as he scanned the room, filled with oversized canvases and easels, to reflect on what he hopes his legacy will be. 

“My hope was to help ICC students thrive in the art world through service learning and projects over the year,” Phillips said. “I wanted to help encourage club members to pursue their passion for art and bring new experiences to the members. This is my last year at ICC, so I will leave my role feeling like I accomplished this.”

As a result of his efforts, along with the Officer of the Year award, the Vagabond Art Club was recognized as “Organization of the Year.”

At 20 years-old, Phillips’ body of work is already vast and expansive. His latest series, “Fun with Layers,” is a visual feast of texture, color and depth. Beginning with watercolor to create the scene, Phillips takes the process a step further by combining a variety of techniques that make each piece uniquely distinguishable as something he has created. 

“I have been experimenting with taking the materials off the canvas (by) using fabric, sand, and different modeling mediums (or) anything that gives the illusion of a landscape,” said Phillips. 

In addition to his landscape series, Phillips has a series of still-life portraits and 3D pieces and sculptures in his portfolio of work. He said he loves to experiment with different styles, but his artistic calling card is the combination of old-school elegance with a new-world flair. One of his latest pieces is an oversized canvas featuring a woman in profile. It too belongs in his “Fun with Layers” series. The deep maroon backdrop offers a stark, yet classical juxtaposition to the soft blues, grays and golds in the subject’s features and clothing. When examined up close, Phillips’ signature style is evident and evokes a desire to graze the piece with fingertips to feel the variety of textures before your eyes. 

On that spring day, Phillips smiles broadly as he describes how he created what was originally an assignment for class. 

“This is inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo; in art history we learned he used fruits, fish and even books to create paintings of people,” Phillips said.

“I took ornaments and crushed them,” he said. “Then I took flexible modeling paste that I placed in cake piping tubes to give a sense of depth” and used glitter for filled in areas to create “a sense of depth and tonal value to her skin and hair.”

“The initial creation took about a week and then right now it’s been a month or so that I’ve been working on this. I go back in and work on it over time.”

His long-term goal is to eventually display this piece along with others in his series in local galleries and continue to compete in art shows. Wrapping up his time at ICC, Phillips looks toward the future with the same enthusiasm he has for his art and roles at the school. 

“I will be attending ISU in the fall to receive my teaching degree in art education and plan to teach at the high school level,” he said. “I want to inspire young people to focus on their dream and help them find confidence as artists.”

To see more of Brandon Phillips’ work, you can follow him on Instagram at blphillips98 or visit his website at blphillipsart.com.