Matt Philleo believes that God has called him to create art. But when all of the commissions dry up, his faith is tested.
“Maybe I should just scrap this whole idea of being an artist and just get a real job like everybody else, and just forget it,” he thinks.
One night Philleo and his wife sat in the kitchen praying for an answer when Philleo heard God speak to him telling him that though he does not have that rent money in his hand, he should be praising Him and believe that he does.
“I felt joy flood my heart [when I did that], and I knew that I knew I had that rent money,” Philleo said, smiling through tear-filled eyes. “I’m like ‘Wow, this is what faith feels like.’ “
There is the myth of the “starving artist,” although as an artist you would like to quench and demolish that myth, Philleo said. Nevertheless, there’s a reason why the myth persists and part of that is because it’s difficult to be an artist, he said.
“It’s challenging to do it full time and devote yourself to something creatively, and then put a price tag on that and ask people to buy it — to invest in your vision,” Philleo said.
While his classmates in kindergarten were drawing full body portraits, he was still drawing stick figures. Now as an aspiring fine art artist who is part of Artisan Forge Studios he creates representational acrylic artworks.
Through his spiritual and symbolic artworks, Philleo says, he wants to spread the message of the encouragement he experiences through his faith during difficult times.
“I want to bring that [courage and comfort] to other people,” Philleo said. “Somehow I want to capture that moment when I was encouraged, and I want to share that same message of encouragement with others.”
He creates his artworks with standard acrylic paint with a touch of Renaissance glaze, a technique a university professor in Greenbay taught him, giving his paintings a translucent and effervescent shine through the canvas. Philleo also does pencil drawings.
Although he appreciates some aesthetic elements of the abstract and nonrepresentational style, he personally enjoys representational or realist painting, he said. He wants to have that affinity with the viewer where they can instantly identify with what he is trying to portray, he said.
Through his art he wants to communicate encouragement, comfort and inspiration with those who are suffering and have gone through discouraging times, he said.
“I just want to come to the viewer in a way of ‘We all need help and, God, He’s gonna help us through anything, and I just want to share that with you,’ ” Philleo said.
Philip Kaveny, a writer, literary critic and bookseller, is a good friend of Philleo. Philleo did a commission for Kaveny’s limited edition book called Her Name is Fraye.
In 2008, Kaveny met him at his art exhibition held at Banbury Place. He liked him on first sight.
“He lacks pretension,” Kaveny said. “A lot of artists will kind of turn their nose up at people, but he’s not like that.”
Philleo values family, Kaveny said. He devotes everything to his family and wife.
“[He’s] exceedingly ethical, compassionate, honest and physically relentless,” Kaveny said. “At one point he had a job distributing newspapers, and he would end up walking 20 miles every morning.”
He has become Kaveny’s good friend. They share daily prayers every day, he said, where they’ll call each other and pray for people.
“He’s a very bright and profound guy,” Kaveny said. “Probably the thing that draws us together most is this idea of spirituality and art.”
Jim Casazza, a founder of the software company Endeveran, was one of Philleo’s client. Casazza found his portfolio online and commissioned him to do some portraits and a mural for his home, he said.
With Philleo over at his house to work on the mural, he got time to know him, he said. Philleo was a down to earth and sincere person, he said.
“Just his ability to take concepts from people’s minds and actually bring them to fruition [is inspiring],” Casazza said.
He has seen other portraits that are painted perfectly and thinks Philleo has tremendous skills. What makes Philleo a great artist is his dedication to detail and his patience, Casazza said.
“An artist’s role in society is to bloom out the creativity that others cannot do,” he said.
Philleo thinks artists can change the world and he wants to continue helping others through his art.
“As an artist, you see everything through that lens of this is an opportunity to do art,” Philleo said, “but then again your opportunity to do art isn’t just to do art; it’s to impact life. So life impacts art and art impacts life.”
Originally posted here.