John Jason Phillips



Painting is human being’s direct access to magic. The artist is granted the privilege of releasing his inner being with each stroke, while the viewer is granted access to a separate reality each time one looks upon the painter's work.  Georgia O'Keefe called this, "making your unknown known".  I call it "embracing the unexpected". The purpose of art is to cause thought; as I approach a canvas, I am ever mindful of the rare freedom and responsibility to share my unknown.

john jason phillips saw the light of day in an Indian hospital in Kingman, Arizona, the son of an elementary school teacher and an oil field worker with whom she eloped, and began a journey working their way from rural Appalachia across the United States to California.  It was wartime and they traveled from military base to military base – Mother setting bomb sights, Dad fashioning airplane windshields from Plexiglas. They were not to continue their journey.  Due to the death of his mother and the advanced age of his father, his maternal grandmother, who after a 7-day journey by train from the East, arrived to take john jason to his new home in Appalachia.

After such a dramatic beginning, the next 15 years of bucolic harmony were no match for jason's inherited wanderlust and his burgeoning artistic talent. Leaving his town of 342 people, he first studied at West Virginia University where he graduated with honors in art and design.

Then, fulfilling his parents dream of California, he arrived at Stanford University seeking an MFA in theatrical design. Once he realized the program was training him to teach, rather than becoming a practicing artist, he fled to San Francisco and was soon hired as a scenic painter for the San Francisco Opera.  Fate began jason's story here; at the Opera he was privileged to work closely with the 93-year old former head painter at the Bolshoi Ballet; needless to say, the experience was transformative.

After that, arriving New York, jason sought union certification for his theatrical career.  A rigorous union exam allowed him to join crews painting for Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera, among others.  These paintings were often as large or larger than 60 x 30 feet.

Over the next years he focused on design, not painting, scenery for numerous Regional theatres, or so he thought.  Once his painting talents were revealed, his contracts then read designer and  painter.  One contract took him back to the West Coast and after three years as the resident designer of Seattle Repertory Theatre he fled from design and began painting full time in Big Sur, CA. It was a lonely existence in his seaside cabin; this drove him to San Francisco where he became one of the mural kings, with murals in several locations.  The murals at the GRUBSTAKE RESTAURANT are intact after 44 years and will soon be recreated for the resturant’s new location.

Then Las Vegas "called".  Soon, it was back to Seattle where, as principal designer for the busiest producer of the casino circuit, he spent the next 20 years designing and painting the exuberant and dazzling scenery for which casino shows are known, creating designs for over 300 productions. This period saw jason's work in such diverse locations as London's West End and the Royal Opera House in Bangkok.  These efforts have been memorialized in a new book:  A Life in Revue by  Greg Thompson, all the while continuing as a fine artist, hanging solo shows of canvases and watercolors at Seattle Center and other local venues.

Currently life finds john jason as a resident of the city of his dreams – Santa Fe – where with no theatrical design in sight he pursues his career as a fine art painter without the distractions – at last!