Celina artist Bristen Phillips has been commissioned by Celina to paint murals around the city.
Phillips began working on the murals recently, starting on the wall of wildflowers.
“This started in late June, maybe late July,” Phillips said. “We started a 20-year project – that’s how long they wanted it to last. I found his mineral paint that is supposed to last 100 years. The first wall was the longest wall. Just a giant wall of wildflowers, so that has been quite an undertaking. It’s almost done. The other walls will hopefully go a little faster. It’ll hopefully take a month or two – ideally before it gets cold.”
Phillips moved to Celina three years ago where he took care of his daughter while looking for work in the area.
“My wife is from Celina, and I moved here three years ago when our daughter was born,” Phillips said. “I hardly knew anyone here, so it was a lot of meeting new people. A month after I came here, I tore my bicep tendon, so I’m stay-at-home-dad-ing it while my wife works. I was nursing an injury, raising a baby and figuring out how to make money in a new place.”
Phillips began doing smaller paintings as he healed, while neighbors offered help.
“A little over a year ago, people were tagging me on Facebook about this mural project, then somebody called me and said something about this mural project that the city was trying to do, asking if I would be interested because the artist they had fell through, so I sent them my portfolio,” Phillips said. “I didn’t really hear anything, so I didn’t know what was going on. Six months later, I was contacted, and they asked if I was still interested. I said I was, so they walked me through the process.”
Phillips competed with other artists and companies for the commission. After submitting his designs to the city, he received a call saying that he was chosen to create the city’s murals.
“I would love to be able to paint something a block away from my house,” he said. “I also wanted to dive into Celina history and learn what all that was about because I didn’t know anything about it. It’s been a great experience. It’s helped me develop more of a business instead of just being a random artist.”
Phillips began painting at a young age in Turkey, Texas, where his grandparents owned a ceramics studio. Phillips’ grandparents taught customers and their grandchildren how to paint on ceramic pieces before firing them in the kiln.
“I was always drawing, and I painted,” Phillips said. “There were a few painters in my family. I think that and a combination of my mom’s family is all farming, and my dad’s family is ranching. We all kind of lived out in the middle of nowhere in West Texas, and there’s not much to do, so everyone has a drawing talent or a painting skill. My grandmother’s a pretty good painter. My mom’s a pretty good artist. We’ve just kind of always done it.”
Phillips began creating logos in high school, where he drew for different groups and programs including the football team at his high school.
“It’s just something I kind of stuck with,” Phillips said. “Everyone was always telling me, ‘what do you do with art, what’re you going to do, you can’t make money with art,’ That was always a serious question. I went to school for art, but I also played basketball and minored in Kinesiology. I went back in forth on majoring in art of kinesiology. I kind of switched it up sometimes. I was just worried about whether or not I could make money. I eventually got to where people would just ask me to do stuff. I would paint them pictures, or I would just help them make a logo.”
Phillips’ mural commission started when he painted for the Dallas School of Rock.
“They do music-themed murals in their teaching rooms,” he said. “I asked them if I could paint for them. They said yes and opened up their three locations, and I painted the murals in their three locations these small mural. That kind of got me started. I figured that the bigger you make these things, the more you can charge for them. Everybody’s trying to make money off these small paintings getting them in a gallery. If you just go bigger, you can charge more. I went back to school and figured I can do better. I wanted to increase my skill and ability. I wanted to figure out how I can make a living doing this. I tried many different jobs and careers. None of them really seemed to pan out, but there was always someone who wanted me to do art. The doors were always more open in that direction.”