A Conversation with Artist Phillipe Quinal

I don’t know much about Phil Quinal, but I do know that he is a unique spirit, an artist, an individual who is on a journey that inspires me. His ethic and words reassure me that what we need to do to be an artist is to create. I have the privilege to call him a colleague and a friend.

Take a moment to check his work and words below.

How’s everything?

I am good.  I’ve been working on these big ten-foot paintings right now. Is that a whole idea of just doing it? You know.
The miracle lies in action; you can think about things, and you can plan things out, but if you don’t take action, the miracle can’t happen.

New York doesn’t have much space, but I like working big. So I want to go against the idea that I’ve been working within the past year of being confined to my space, I hope to outgrow my space.
I really want Phil, from five to ten years down the line, to be like, “I’m proud of you.” So I try to wake up and do something for myself, take everyday life to the fullest that I can, and make the most of my time.

What inspired you to go big?

The last time I was out in L.A., I went to that Keith Haring show, and I was just like, he did all this work within a ten-year period. And they’re massive works, huge. Whereas I was like, Where do you even paint this? I was inspired by it. Keith did all that work within ten years because, at some point, he knew he would pass away. So he just went all out and produced all this work. So, it inspired me to go bigger.

When you approach the blank canvas, do you have a larger vision, or is it just a flow thing?

It’s mostly an intuition flow thing. I have a language already, so when I paint, I kind of have an idea, but I don’t look for a certain way it needs to be.
The way that I work is that I’ll make a mark, which then informs the next mark, and as I work with it, I see this thing start to form, and then I just work out all the details.

When you work, when do you know where to stop vs keep going?

My partner, Pia, is like my second set of eyes for everything because I kind of get this tunnel vision, which can sometimes end up being too much.
She has seen my evolution as an artist throughout the years, and she’s always been a second set of eyes for me. I feel like she has a definite say in most of my paintings.

What keeps you motivated to make art?

I’ve always done art since I was a kid. It wasn’t always consistent and disciplined. I would go hard for a certain amount of time and then leave it for a certain amount of time. But I always returned to it because it’s just something that’s just a part of me. So, I would always come back to it. I have this cycle of making things and not necessarily even making them for anything, just making them. Due to some health issues, I recently realized how fragile time is.

I tell myself if I were to have passed away five years, ten years from now. What would  I have to show for it? So, honestly, that’s the thought that really keeps me wanting to make things.

When I make things, I get to see myself developing; that’s also motivating. I went from working out of my 600-square-foot apartment on paper to getting a studio to work on making these ten-foot paintings. I used to work on my dining table, so it’s nice to have a space now. I feel like it helps me separate work from life. I want to see where I am going to be 2 or 5 years from now.

How do you deal with self-criticism and other imposed obstacles?
I think part of why I’ve been on and off for the past ten years is because of self-criticism. In your head, you go through, why am I even doing this? This is not good enough to be up in museums or whatever. I go through that all the time and it’s easy to go down that road. When I start criticizing myself, I try to stop myself and just be aware of how much is me just making shit up in my own mind.

Meditating has helped me a lot because I have a thousand thoughts going through my head, and meditating helps me narrow down which thoughts I follow.

I’ve learned that what you feed your mind is what you become.

Why keep going? Why keep doing it?

I don’t want to waste time. I don’t want to look back and regret not doing enough.
It takes effort, conscious actions, and a lot of awareness of what you do daily and dedicate your time to.  We can easily waste a lot of money and time on phones, TV, etc.
I could go and make something I can be proud of, or I could stay here and watch TV or be on my phone.

I like the energy of making things, and I love seeing other people make things as well.

What was it like to have an exhibition in NYC?

Doing that show was one of the greatest feelings of my life. It was just beautiful for me to put something together the way that I wanted it and actually see it come to fruition. I went through all the emotions, all of them, and I persevered to put on this thing. I mean, it was my show, but it really was for people to see and experience it and come out and be a part of it. It was amazing to me.

One of the most satisfying parts was seeing people inspired by it, especially the kids there. A lot of my nephews came out, also my friends with their kids and they would come up to me and hug me. They would just be amazed by it, and to see kids be inspired that I could affect kids even when I’m alone in my studio working, asking myself, what am I doing this for?
Now I can remember that moment when my nephew came up to me and was like, “This is amazing I am so inspired by you Uncle Phil” and stuff like that. I love that feeling of being part of a community.

Do you think art has to have intent and meaning to be art?

I think people are allowed to have different intentions for their art.

As for me, like, I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems. For me, it is more about evoking a feeling; it’s about that visceral, the universal truth of people. The basics of being human, reacting to color or reacting to the way things form, and how the things make you feel just when you see them.

What is next for you?

I want to have a show in LA. I’m trying to figure out how and when I will do it. But whether I make money on my art or not I keep making things because it feeds my soul, and that’s what matters. And who knows where all my art will end up?

But you know it will go nowhere if you don’t do it. I try not to think about the end result. It goes back to that whole thing of, you can only do what you can do, as long as you’re trying your hardest and you’re doing the work, you have to let life take its path.

If you do your part of doing something and taking action, the miracle will happen. I feel like that’s just how the universe works.

Check out more of Phil Quinal’s work at & @philippeanthony