Best Visual Artist (2010)
The most amazing thing about Alfred Phillips is not that he has won at least eight Best in Show awards since moving to South Florida in late 2003, although that's pretty impressive. Nor is it that his cartoon of George W. Bush being sodomized by an Arab sheik landed him on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart a year later, although that's impressive too. (The image was for the Broward Art Guild's "Controversy" show.) No, the most amazing thing is that the artist didn't even begin painting until seven years ago. Before that, he worked in the ad business for three decades, first at agencies, then at his own graphic design firm, so it's not like he started from scratch. Still, the prolific Phillips has made the most of the past seven years, holing up in his studio at the Tarpon River Art Centre near downtown Fort Lauderdale and turning out painting after remarkable painting that demonstrate virtuoso technique and a broad mastery of styles and subject matter. He's highly competitive and enters lots of shows, hence the awards, but he's also supportive of fellow artists, showing up at their openings and offering encouragement and advice, such as this tidbit that surfaced in an interview a few years ago: "If you don't live and breathe it, don't even start. You have to be dedicated and willing to work hard. There is a glamorous side to art, but the work comes first." Strong words, but Phillips doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk.