by Rose Davis
Recently I caught up with artist Phil Seth in his home studio in the South Side slopes- a studio with a perfect view of the Pittsburgh skyline. Phil has been on the scene for a while and has been making waves in the art world with his paintings and t-shirt line, Forbidden Ink. You've probably seen his work around or worn one of his t-shirts and not even known it.
Phil has an upcoming art show here in Pittsburgh about the city's tattoo culture. This new body of work depicts the artists who do tattoos and the lifestyle that goes along with it. With this concept in mind, Phil lined his room with empty frames and set out to fill each one. This new series is nothing short of amazing. These paintings are carefully rendered and the colors are so rich and melt together in a way that makes you want to reach out and touch them--but don't. You certainly do not want to miss this show at Artisan Gallery on July 6th.
Rose Davis: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?Phil Seth: I'm from Zelienople, PA, North of Pittsburgh. Currently living in Southside.
RD: Your new show is titled “Only Skin Deep," what does the title mean to you?PS: Only Skin Deep is an exploration of creating art that is inspired by and a reflection of other art, in this case tattoos.
RD: How do you prepare for a painting? Do you paint from life or take photographs or do you just unleash your imagination onto the canvas?PS: The works usually begin with a photo shoot and a sort of in prompt to meeting, this is the most interesting part of the process where I get to talk with the models who are often tattoo artists themselves, see their studios or shops and let the painting references happen without planning. The photos are then tweaked and manipulated how I see fit to generate a composition that I start to draw from.
RD: How have you been influenced by the tattoo culture?PS: I think Pittsburgh has a great tattoo community of talented artists, running thriving small businesses. As an independent artist I have a lot of respect for the craft and have been hired to draw a handful of tattoos in my career. Ironically have no tattoos, (this process has introduced me to some really talented artists so that’s going to change soon) but I think tattoo art has not only inspired my oil painting but also a lot of my freelance t-shirt design.
RD: What's the weirdest place you have gotten inspiration from?PS: Recently in Budapest, I visited the House of Horror, which is a historical museum of two genocides. During the tour there was a room full of 1920-40s propaganda, screen-printed posters, hand painted ads, all cool looking stuff despite their seriously negative connotations.
RD: Did you study anywhere? Where did you learn your technique?PS: I studied painting in Baltimore at Maryland Institute of College Arts then Design at Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I Continue my studies in oil painting currently with the Conservatory of Oil Painting,(Academy of Southside) where I would say I get my pallet from.
RD: You also have a clothing line, Forbidden Ink, how did this line come to be?PS:Working as a T-shirt Designer for many years I always wanted to have my own ability to produce clothing myself, I slowly saved up money and from some small jobs I was able to get my own equipment. So I still do custom jobs for clients but forbidden ink is my line. The idea is that if something is off limits it makes you want it more.
RD: Do you collaborate with other artists on for t-shirt designs?PS: This year Forbidden Ink Released our first artist series collaborating with artists of many mediums across the country and of course printed here in Pittsburgh. It was an opportunity to widen the styles of line and promote the artists themselves.
RD: Who or what would you say has been the greatest influence on your life and how have they influenced you as an artist?PS: That’s a tricky question, I think I’m good a absorbing inspiration from almost everything and everyone, the hardest part is remaining your own greatest influence.
RD: Any other hobbies besides painting?PS: I love painting and often paint in other styles than tradition oils like my current show. Also, photography has become one of my favorite hobbies and useful in work and art. I've been working on Costume Design for a certain time-traveling dj duo and building a motorized bicycle are two recent projects.
RD: Whats next?PS: Friday the 13th Monster themed t-shirt party to follow up the painting show with a bang, featuring Forbidden Ink and many other local clothing artists.