November 28, 2002 - Hampshire Gazette: Colombia RPCV George Phillips illustrates children's books

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 11 November 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: November 28, 2002 - Hampshire Gazette: Colombia RPCV George Phillips illustrates children's books

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 11:43 am: Edit Post

Colombia RPCV George Phillips illustrates children's books

Read and comment on this story from the Hampshire Gazette on Colombia RPCV George Phillips whose love of words has made the assignment to illustrate Hampshire Life's annual fiction issue fun for him. He's drawn all 11 covers and the pictures that go with the winning stories and has also illustrated children's books. Read the story at:

An illustrator's love of words*

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An illustrator's love of words

By DEBRA SCHERBAN, Staff Writer Thursday, November 28, 2002 -- A good storyteller can pull a tale from anywhere. That is the idea behind George Phillips' cover illustration of an African storyteller coaxing a dove from the magazine's border this week.

"No fancy equipment, just right out of the imagination," says Phillips, who has long practiced the art with his two now-grown daughters.

"When the kids were small, we'd drive around in the car telling stories. They would start and I would finish. Actually we still do that."

Phillips' love of words has made the assignment to illustrate Hampshire Life's annual fiction issue fun for him. He's drawn all 11 covers and the pictures that go with the winning stories.

He does the story drawings under deadline and has just two weeks to complete them from the time the winners are chosen in October. But for the covers, he has the whole year to think. And, he says, that's just what he does. He jots ideas down, doing thumbnail sketches in a book.

"I try to think about the process of reading and writing a story," he says. "I try to come up with an idea that shows the relationship between the story and a person."

A few stand out in his mind. One in particular is the wonderful old Underwood typewriter that graced the cover in 1994 and has since become the centerpiece of our yearly ad for the competition.

That old machine belonged to Phillips' father. "He had that typewriter until the day he died," says Phillips. That was 15 years ago. "It was a big old heavy manual and when he got it out and put it on the table you knew he was mad or serious about something."

Phillips, 54, who lives in Easthampton, said his father would pound out letters on it, the loud ding at the end of each line punctuating his work. "You could hear that thing two blocks down the street. I have very fond memories of that," says Phillips.

Other covers have shown a cowboy riding a pencil as if it were a bucking bronco, a referee standing among a group of people, pens in hands, poring over papers, dictionaries, thesauruses, while a crowd cheers them on. Then there's the man sitting at his computer, reams of paper spewing from the printer, the wastebasket overflowing.

All whimsical images.

It is not hard to understand why Phillips seasons his work with a dose of humor. His day job is very serious business. For 18 years he has taught math and science at the Hibbard Alternative School in Pittsfield to teens who are mentally ill. It's a public secondary school for children who would otherwise be hospitalized.

Phillips, who also illustrates children's books and does other art projects, has found a way to use his creative bent as therapy for his students. He has discovered that working on a mural with troubled children helps them talk openly with him. "If kids can't sit still and talk to someone who is older and grayer than they are, they usually can if they're busy and don't have to make eye contact," he says. "It's a nice vehicle for opening doors."

Phillips, who started working with special needs children in Colombia many years ago while in the Peace Corps, has also done mural projects with incarcerated children in Connecticut and underprivileged kids in Lowell.

His current art project, steeped in tradition, is one of the inspirations for this year's cover.

He is illustrating a folk tale from India about a monkey king who literally puts himself on the line to save his peers from hostile humans. It's a story that underscores the need for understanding, and sacrifice, and sharing cultures, said Phillips. Given current world turmoil, he says, "The story just hit me between the eyes. It focuses on everything I believe in."

He's pretty much done with the illustrations and now is working on updating the language before he sends it off to a publisher.

"It has been a dream of mine to do this," he says.

Phillips' illustrations and this year's top three stories will be published in Friday's Hampshire Life magazine. The winners were selected from 100 entries judged by Gazette editors Debra Scherban, Margot Cleary, Charlotte Meryman and Andrew Dennison.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; What RPCVs are doing; Special Interests - Art; COS - Colombia



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