New Colored Pencil Drawing–Pet Portrait

New Colored Pencil Drawing–Pet Portrait

Several weeks ago, I drove to Boyd, WI to drop off a colored pencil portrait of a black lab for a client. When I went to knock on the door, I was surprised to see a complete stranger standing in front of me. For a second, I thought I had the wrong house!

It turned out, the lady standing in front of me was to be my next client. She was a friend of the lady whose black lab (and blue merle) I had drawn. After we were introduced and having seen that drawing, she wanted one done of her dog, too.

So here it is: This is “Sydney,” her golden retriever, a drawing in memory of her. 16 x 20, colored pencil on paper. I also included a couple in progress shots as well. I used to do colored pencil drawings all the time back in high school–it’s nice going back to my roots!

"Sydney" In progress--sketch

“Sydney” In progress–sketch

I start off with a regular No.2 graphite pencil, and then fill in key areas of contrast with a sepia tone colored pencil. The key is to keep the tip very sharp!

"Sydney" In Progress, 30% complete

“Sydney” In Progress, 30% complete

Then I work my way left to right, starting with cooler, darker tones, and finishing with warmer, lighter tones. Working from left to right keeps what I’ve already drawn from smudging.

"Sydney", 16 x 20 colored pencil pet portrait by artist Matt Philleo

“Sydney”, 16 x 20 colored pencil pet portrait by artist Matt Philleo

And here is the final portrait. I dropped it off right before Christmas–my client was happy and told me it looked just like her. Let me know if you’d like a pet portrait done too, or know someone who does!

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New Old Portrait Drawing

New Old Portrait Drawing

I was doing a little cleaning when I discovered a CD that had a file saved on it I thought was lost. It was the image of this drawing here, a commission I did back in 2010. If I remember correctly, this was the drawing I did for a gentleman at my church–the commission that helped bring in the rent money when I was a month behind. I’m glad I found this portrait again–it’s one of my favorites!

He wanted to commemorate his parents wedding anniversary–I think it was their 70th, but again, this was 5 years ago, so I’m not sure.

This is an 11 x 14 pencil on paper drawing, and it took over 20 hours to complete. I got a really great scan of this drawing that captured the detail and texture of the graphite in the paper. First is the entire drawing and then below that are some close-ups…thanks for looking!

Custom Pencil Portrait by pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo

Custom Pencil Portrait by pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo

In the detail below, we see them at the time of their wedding, along with an image of their church.

Custom pencil portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom pencil portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Below, of course, is the picture of this couple when they are well advanced in years. In the lower right is an image of the family farm.

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

And here’s the detail of that.

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

Custom Pencil Portrait drawing by artist Matt Philleo, detail

I love doing custom commissioned portraits like this, where I can incorporate elements that are near and dear to the people being portrayed. When they receive this as a gift, it is extra special to them, to not only have a portrait of the two of them, but to proudly display the longevity of their marriage and interweave them into the surroundings of their lives.

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When I Couldn’t Make Rent

When I Couldn’t Make Rent

Last week, I shared part of my story on how I became a professional artist.

Here is “the rest of the story.”

Instead of just calling it, “Part 2,” I want to title this post according to the main problem I faced, which at the time was not having enough money for rent. I hope that my experience can encourage you, too, if you are going through a rough time right now.

The sketch shown above is a quick drawing I did that reminds me of Job–that man in the Bible who suffered probably like no one else on this earth ever did, except maybe Jesus and the apostle Paul. Great story of going through a trial and coming out on top! I encourage you to read it sometime.

My story was nothing like that, but I sure felt like Job when I was going through it. Maybe you have, too.

After my sales/service job was downsized during the great recession of 2008, I had made the choice to go into doing artwork full time. At first things were great. Several people in my church asked me to do portraits for them and business was rolling along. And then…

My commissions ran out around September of 2009. It didn’t take long to fall behind on bills. We were almost two months behind on rent. Things were not looking good. I thought, “maybe I need to scrap this whole artist thing and get a real job.”

However, my wife advised: “You need to do what God has called you to do. We need to fast and pray.”

“How long?” I asked. I didn’t like fasting.

“However long it takes!”

So we fasted and prayed. And there we were in the kitchen one night praying. Suddenly, the thought occurred to me: “What would you do if you had the rent money in your hands?” The thought was so clear and bright that I knew it had to be from the Lord.
I said, “Well, I would be lifting my hands and praising you!”
And then He said: “Do that right now.”
"Victory in Surrender" 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, by Matt Philleo.

“Victory in Surrender” 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, by Matt Philleo.

So I did.
And immediately, a feeling of peace and joy flooded me.
knew God was going to take care of me. I knew I had that rent money.
“Wow, so this is what faith feels like!” I thought. I wasn’t hoping. I was actually believing.
Faith is a gift. If you’re lacking in faith, take the faith you have to seek God for more, and He will increase your faith!

The next day at church, someone came up to me and said, “Matt, I’d like to commission you to do some art for me. I don’t even know what of yet, but here is a check.”

That down deposit took care of part of it, and then my brother in law, knowing my situation, decided to give me a gift for the rest of the rent. And we had it! God was faithful!

I’d like to say my faith was rock-solid since then. But I’ve had a few lapses.

Even though I was concentrating on art, I took up a couple side jobs to fill in the gaps between commissions.

My most recent job was working at a local recycling center–dirty, dangerous, and hazardous work. We would process aluminum cans, chop up pieces of brass from faucets, dismantle things that really aren’t meant to be dismantled, to extract the valuable metals from them. With the machinery we used, once false move at any time could be fatal.

I worked there for about a year and a half. My employers liked my work and treated me well. But one day, around Christmas, the thought occurred to me, “What are you doing here?

In the meantime one of my co-workers had a severe accident and lost part of his finger. That made me think! I had several commissions lining up that I didn’t have enough time to complete because of this side job. I prayed, and I figured it was time to move on.

That was two years ago.

I can now call myself a professional artist. This is what I do full time and how I make a living. Although things are pretty tight, God is providing for my family and I. Providentially, I’ve been able to do a few hundred commissioned portraits, and most of them in the last few years!
The best part is I get to be home with my kids and pray and tuck them into bed every night. I love being able to share my faith in Jesus in an authentic way at art shows when people ask what my work is about. And I’m doing what God created me to do. 
Is there a passion that you have lying dormant that you would love to use? It may not be something you necessarily need to do as a profession, but a special skill God gave you that you’d like to use but, for some reason, are hesitant to?
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How I Became a Professional Artist Part 1

How I Became a Professional Artist Part 1

When I was 14, I had my first art commission, back in 1991.  My mom’s friend asked me to draw a pencil portrait montage of one of her close friends. That started the ball rolling, and I did a few commissioned portraits while yet in high school.

During high school, my art teachers encouraged me to pursue a career  in the arts. I took that advice to heart and  attended Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 1996. I did well, averaging a 3.8 GPA, but with the extremely high tuition cost I left after a year.

Since that time, I worked in several jobs over the years–dishwashing, ad designing, retail sales, vacuum repair, recycling–but I was always hesitant to do art full time.

It was just something that I thought would “happen” down the road when things lined up perfectly, or I got that  mysterious “breakthrough.”

Then, in 2008, I was 31 years old, traveling on the road away from home, days on end, working at a fairly high-paying but stressful training/manager job. I was gone so much that my baby son didn’t know even who I was when I returned.

On a Sunday afternoon, my mother in law asked me this question: “Matt, why are you continuing in this dead-end job? What is it do you think you’re meant to do?”

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

I said, “I think I’m supposed to be doing art full time.”

She replied pointedly, “Well, why aren’t you doing it then?”

“Because I don’t know if my bills will get paid.”

“What?! And God can’t meet your needs? He can’t take care of you?”

That was like a dagger straight to my heart. I knew God was speaking to me.

I prayed and seriously considered giving my two weeks notice.

And then, out of the blue, my boss flew up from the corporate headquarters near Cleveland to meet with me. I didn’t know what the meeting would be about. I thought of taking this occasion to give my notice, but a friend who had prayed with me advised me to not be hasty, and just let God lead.

We got a place at the restaurant and sat down.

My boss told me, “Matt, we like everything you’ve done for the company. You’ve hired and trained the service technicians we’ve asked you to and done a great job. But, with the recession, we’ve had to make several cuts in the company, and had to let some people go. Unfortunately, you will be one of them.”

I said, “That’s all right, John. God’s going to take care of me.”

He was amazed. “I didn’t expect you would take this that well. It sure takes a load off my chest.”

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

And so I had the sign that I should step out in faith and do art full time.

I had a family: a 1 1/2 year old and another baby on the way. But although I was a bit scared, I knew that now was the time.

I announced this decision to people at my church, that I was now a full-time artist. Not everyone thought it was a wise idea, but immediately, I received several portrait commissions from people there. God really blessed my decision and I had confirmation right away that I was on the right path.

I’d like to say everything’s been a bed of roses since then, but I’ve had many tests of faith. 

I will share more about that in my next post.

How about you?

Are you currently in a job right now that you feel is not your calling? (I understand, sometimes it’s necessary to be there for a while.)
Or are you in a job you love?
What was your journey to get to where you are now?
Or the journey you would like to take to get to where you want to be?
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New Painting: Enjoying the Light of the World

New Painting: Enjoying the Light of the World

It’s amazing how fast the year went by. The dusting of snow on the ground, the crisp weather, the lights on the trees, the hustle and bustle in the shopping areas all indicate the Christmas season is here!
I love Christmas, but it’s always a bittersweet season for me.
Having grown up in a legalistic church/ cult, my family and I didn’t celebrate Christmas until I was 12 years old, after we left that place. We were taught from the time we were little kids that Christmas was pagan and evil.
For that reason, Christmas doesn’t quite have the “magic” for me–you, know, that nostalgic feeling that finds it root in childhood–since I missed those special moments: the awe and wonder of the decorations, the preparation, the suspense, and of course, the gifts.
Christmas also signals to me the the year is almost over. It makes me think of how quickly the time went by, and some things that I wanted to accomplish, but wasn’t able to get done. And I’m not a fan of winter!
But I definitely don’t want to be a Grinch. So, now I’m going to look at the positive side…
For Jesus, Christmas is a time of birth. For us, it’s a time of rebirth.
The year is winding down, and a fresh new year is ahead, with new opportunities arising: opportunities for business, and opportunities for relationships too. I’m glad my children can celebrate Christmas and enjoy the true meaning of the season. As they are getting old enough to appreciate it, my wife and I are doing special advent devotions with them. My wife actually has created her own Advent devotional for our family–complete with thought provoking questions to encourage us to focus on the Savior and thank Him for what He has done for us.
I’ve really been enjoying it this year.
I think the kids are too: at the close of the devotion, the kids get to blow out a candle. (It’s amazing how they will sit still through the devotional just to get to blow out a candle!)
We brought our candleabra to church, so here is the makeshift one my wife made. Egg cartons: useful things!
Homemade Egg carton Advent Candlebra--MattPhilleo.com

Homemade Egg carton Advent Candlebra–MattPhilleo.com

So in the midst of all the craziness, this is the perfect time to slow down a little, snuggle up to those we love, and spend quality time with them. Even better, open up the Bible together and discover again the joy of the coming King!  These verses come to my mind as I write:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-7)
That is the mystery of Christmas. We don’t know for sure when Jesus was born, but maybe it’s good that we celebrate His birth in the winter, when, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s cold and dark.
In the darkness, we can appreciate the light so much more.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; for those living in a land of deep darkness, a light has shined upon them.” (Isaiah 9:2)
When you string those twinkling lights up on your tree, take a moment and think about the Star of David–the Light of the World, God in human flesh that broke into our world of chaos, to bring order; into our world of angst to bring peace.
  Enjoying the Light of the World_1a3
In this painting I just finished, “Enjoying the Light of the World,” you can see the family sitting together by the warm fire, reading together the wonderful story of God’s love and grace to us in the Bible. When we seek the Lord during this special time of year, peace, joy and love will flood into our homes as a result. (By the way, I have turned this painting into a free Christmas card that you can download and print)
Christmas is coming. So go ahead, break out the sticks and logs, get a good crackling fire going, open up that Bible, and gather your family around to share the comforting words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
May God richly bless your Christmas season!
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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the left side or below. Thank you!
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