A short history about the artist

Phil studied Art and Design at Newcastle School of Art and The North Staffordshire Polytechnic culminating in a Masters Degree in Ceramic Design. He has been an inhouse designer for both Josiah Wedgwood and The Moorcroft Pottery with a long intervening period working freelance. He is now a freelance designer and full time artist, working by commission for many creative companies and individual clients from his Staffordshire studio. Although distinguished for his work as a Ceramic designer, drawing and painting have always been at the heart of his work. He paints using watercolours on some of the roughest rag papers available, where he can scrub and scratch the paper to get the effect that he wants. His subject matter is varied from mountain landscape and wildlife through to botanical studies along with private commissions.

Phil Gibson is also well known in the climbing world for his drawings and paintings of mountain cliffs and outcrops. A native of Stoke, Staffordshire shaped not only Phil’s artistic direction but also his climbing. He has climbed in many parts of the world: Yosemite, Colorado, the Dolomites, the Alps and many parts of the British Isles. He has held several exhibitions throughout England of his work, including exhibits at the Royal Academy. He received an important commission in 2009 to produce a work to celebrate what is believed to be the first  British climbing guidebook to the Welsh mountain cliff of Lliwedd that was published in 1909. This was to mark the Guidebook Centenary of The Climbers’ Club.

In 2011 the British Mountaineering Council commissioned Phil to produce a drawing of Craig Bwlch y Moch, a nationally important climbing crag in North Wales which is owned by the BMC. A limited edition of 100 prints were taken from the original, signed by climbing pioneers: Joe Brown, Eric Jones and Ron Fawcett and sold to raise funds for the BMC Access and Conservation Trust (ACT). The original drawing hangs at their headquarters in Manchester. The BMC also uses Phil’s work in the form of prints as awards for the prestigious ‘George Band Award for substantial voluntary contribution to mountaineering’ which was established in 2010.

The artists of the Alpine ClubPhil has exhibited a much larger collection of mountain landscape paintings and drawings at The Alpine Club in London. He has been included in the book ‘The Artists of the Alpine Club’, an intriguing biographical dictionary of some of the most important mountain artists from all over the world produced for curators and art historians. At Oriel Ynys Mon, Anglesey in 2012, he was exhibiting alongside Sir Kyffin Williams and Charles Tunnicliffe RA, who was also well known for his ornithological studies. This coincided with part of their 20 year celebrations. 

In 2013 Phil was awarded 'The Arthur Berry Trust Prize' for his painting of  Ptarmigan, Lochnagar at the Keele University Three Counties Open Art Exhibition (Cheshire, Shropshire & Staffordshire). The work was a study of this elusive bird which had been observed in its Scottish highland habitat. Arthur Berry was a well known local artist, poet and playright who taught at The Burslem School of Art and The Royal College of Art. Coincidently his plays were performed at The New Vic Theatre where Phil has recently exhibited a new collection of his paintings and drawings. It was entitled 'Wild Places'.

In 2014 he was invited to be artist in residence at 'Nature in Art' Gloucester, the world's first museum and gallery dedicated exclusively to art inspired by nature.​ Its first president was Sir Peter Scott and one of its trustees was Keith Shackleton MBE. Phil was also shortlisted by The Scott Polar Research Insitute, Cambridge University, as their artist in residence on board HMS Protector during 2015.

Phil’s preferred medium is working sometimes direct, with traditional pen and black ink on a white drawing board in front of the cliff – a brutal and uncompromising medium. Depending on locale he is very much concerned in his work with balance and design, with attention to form, textures and surfaces. He enjoys being in the natural world, capturing its atmosphere and its severity.

Phil Gibson - StudioMore recently he has also become aware of the advantages of the digital medium and although art studio trained he now uses the full potential of the latest creative software media available to produce creative design and to edit and publish some of his work as limited edition prints.

Having entered into professional design around 40 years ago, Phil has seen many changes, and he feels that having gone through these changes, he has a full understanding of the different aspects of art and design and publishing his work.

Artist's Statement

Drawing and painting have always been at the heart of my work and I believe expresses human emotions better than any other medium. My current work is about the nature of light and atmosphere and discloses to the responsive eye the timeless interaction of landforms, mountains, rock, sea, sky, flora and sometimes the wildlife that inhabit it. I wish to bring to attention the timeless, inherent worth of our natural environment. The purpose is to bring something into existence with my own hand that is both beautiful and harmonic with a certain balance and design about the canvas. Whilst the subject matter is of the most important consideration in relation to my being and relevant to my own experience within the landscape further contemplation reveals subtleties of texture and rhythm, qualities that I hope will outlast the viewer’s initial reaction - that will endure.

I paint using the watercolour medium, which I believe is one of the most challenging and purest in its execution. I use some of the roughest cotton rag papers that are available. It allows me to produce translucent washes and create effects of light and atmosphere, which is fundamental to my work and the relationship to its place. The drawing process is the foundational and structural element to my work, it provides the idea and the eventual connection to the painting process.

Every painting is a journey, along with the purity and mastery of the technique, which is also a journey in its own right, but I hope the technique will never override the paintings initial concept. Ultimately they must stand or fail on their own merits, not just on their subject matter.

My preferred medium for mountain illustration work is working sometimes direct, with traditional pen and black ink on a white board in front of the subject – a brutal and uncompromising medium. Depending on locale I am concerned with balance and design, with attention to form, textures and surfaces. The very nature of the environment that I experience and work in dictates that a desired finished result is sometimes impossible, and it is the process of drawing that allows the idea to be quickly executed. My final paintings never take place in the field but are a result of a distillation of the experience, sometimes over many years, often revisited, from simple field sketches and ‘aids memoirs’ in the form of photographs. The paintings evolve in the studio where the business remains pure to the process rather than the distractions of intense cold, atmosphere and poor lighting that can affect the materials and desired outcome. Being there to fully understand and experience the events is paramount. My own physical and spiritual connections, often through climbing and walking the mountain environment, hopefully will emerge on the canvas. I consider my drawings and paintings as old friends and visual souvenirs of the landscape of my life. I hope the viewer, too, shares in the landscapes that touch me – an almost modern romanticism. I believe my drawings and paintings are evocative of nature that are disappearing during my own lifetime and as thus subjects worthy of artistic expression.

On this note I do not study other artists too closely as there is always a danger that many times you learn formulas that disrupt the possibility of developing your own approach, although J.M.W Turner was a great influence. Finding my own answers in the struggle to paint well, if there is such a thing, is best served by own investigation. I am never comfortable with what I am doing, partly due to the environment I am working in and  that I am always seeking new inspiration. Experimentation is one of the most rewarding parts of why I draw and paint and the final results may be satisfying for a moment, but then its back to the process, which has taken a lifetime and maybe more.

I am constantly aware of the enormous natural forces that sculpt our planet, erosion from rain and melting snow, glacial forces, wind and maybe climate change that is affecting Polar regions. The earth has endured in more recent times ‘human folly’, which has altered entire mountain ranges, rivers and is displacing many species. It is these things that we should all be concerned about and I hope my work can inspire the same.

All Images ©Philip Gibson

No image to be copied, reproduced digitally, printed or transmitted without permission or a license from the artist.