The Story Behind the Portrait of Dr. Al Philips
Dr. Philips was the founding president of Tulsa Community
College (formerly named Tulsa Junior College)located in
Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was instrumental in the inception, the
start and the growth of Tulsa Junior College. When he started,
the school was just a goal. Dr. Philips formed the outline
and mission statement of the school. He set the course for
future generations to be able to attend college where no
such avenue was before. His foresight brought the idea into
When I met Dr. Philips he was retired and in his 80's.
He still very much had all of his charm and mental acuity.
His physical body had however taken its toll. Wheelchair
bound he greeted me with the warmest of smiles and a twinkle
in his eyes.
As the college and I had not settled on what type of portrait
to create I spent my time just getting to know Dr. Philips.
We covered his early years through his retirement. I also
inquired about his physical size and shape in his prime.
I had a great time and owe any success of my portrait to
Dr. Philips for giving me so much of his time.
Long after I left Tulsa and my trip to TCC I was able to
start formalizing the portrait. We finally agreed on a theme
but there was just one problem - there were no good color
photographs of Dr. Philips at the age the school wished
for. Finally they discovered a black and white, head and
shoulders photograph that they felt portrayed him at the
right age. Now it was up to me to see if I could use this
black and white as a good reference for a three quarter
figure portrait. As I had already sold the concept of portraying
Dr. Philips holding some blueprints, signifying his role
as the "architect" for the school, i needed to
decide if I were up to the challenge. As you can see, I
accepted the job.
I hired a model that resembled Dr. Philips in stature and
photographed him in the same lighting conditions that the
black and white suggested. I then prepared two color studies,
one for the head and hair (when I met Dr. Philips he was
totally white headed and all of the photos I had seen suggested
he MAY have had red hair ).I found out I was wrong, he was
brown haired. The second color study was for the overall
painting. After the color studies were approved, I began
the painting. My biggest challenge was translating the b&w
values to the flesh tones.
My biggest disappointment is that Dr. Philips passed away
before he was able to see his portrait. I can only pray
that he will be pleased.