Phil Howe is an American illustrator, fine artist, teacher and designer.
Starting his career in the 1980s, he worked for NY-based publishers producing artwork in various areas such as advertising, corporate projects, books and magazine covers.
In his time as an illustrator, he has produced over 4000 works and is known for his ability to produce artwork in many different mediums and techniques. Most of Phil’s illustrations were made in the traditional painted medium using gouache or oil paints.
His ability to create high-quality works using various styles made him an in-demand freelance illustrator. He would have to constantly work all-nighters to meet deadlines due to being booked up on back-to-back jobs.
Phil: “I'm not a name illustrator with one style, just someone who made a lot doing lots of techniques on 3-4000 jobs. That way, it was not boring and gave me time to paint.“
Phil’s illustrations would grace the covers of Nintendo Power magazine and Guides. A stand-out cover for the Magazine was his traditionally oil-painted piece for Nintendo Power issue #32, Super Castlevania IV: Simon’s new quest.
An example of a gouache-painted work is his masterfully painted The Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past Strategy Guide Cover.
His preferred method of working in Oil and Gouache was very well planned out and developed over the thousands of jobs and years he worked.
Phil: I would get the sketches approved and then work up to the deadline. If I had a few days, I would finish in oil. Otherwise, I transfer the image by drawing the outline onto a gessoed panel or illustration board, then paint quickly in gouache to block in most of the color. Then spray a light fixative over this and a quick coat of Liquin, and paint into that with Alkyd or oil paint, using a solid color for base tones and thin glazes (with driers) for quick shadows and deeper tones. Since it's done over the gouache base, it's already got a solid foundation of color to work over. Really fast and requires a lot of drawing strokes directly onto the surface.
Phil would be an early adopter of digital software to enhance his works, using Photoshop in the early 90s when it was first commercially available. For the first few years, he would only use it to tweak his oil and gouache pieces. This was another evolution of his technique where he started to combine traditional and digital mediums together. His method would be to shoot a high-res digital copy using (a polarising lens and filter to cut out glare) and then finish any details on the computer using (Photoshop or Painter).
Phil: I can blur edges and soften areas if needed to give it more realism. Also, if an art director wanted any changes, it's much easier to change digitally than to repaint areas in oil. I rarely had any calls for tweaks or changes during my career, so I guess that's saying something.
work in progress
OVGA has included below Phil Howe's full known box art catalog:
- Conan | Datasoft | 1984 | Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, FM-7, PC-98, X-1.
- Dallas Quest, The | Datasoft | 1984 | Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, TRS-80.
- Kung Fu Master | IREM | 1990 | NA ver. | Game Boy. (2)
- Market Mogul the Game | Datamost | 1983 | MS-DOS.
- NES Play Action Football | Nintendo | 1990 | Game Boy, NES.
- Punch-Out!! (Classic Series) | Nintendo | 1990 | NES.