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Coastal sights are artist's muse
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A shrimp boat trawls across one of Phil Church's canvases. - photo by Photo by Katie McGurl

Living along the Georgia      coast has provided ample inspiration for marine life artist Phil Church.

An avid fisherman, his favorite subjects are the fish themselves.

“When we’re out fishing, I’ve got my camera and I’m taking pictures right when they’re coming out of the water … I try to catch them when their colors are real vibrant,” he said.

He has captured them by brush in myriad positions – they jump from the water in splashes of color, school in underwater panoramas with sunlight from the water’s surface glinting off their scales, or stare open-mouthed from the canvas, alive with detail.

“I think fish are so colorful,” Church said. “There are so many species that it’s sort of like a never-ending chance to do it a different way – even though you may be doing the same fish, you can change their position, the light, the color, the water, the reflections.”

During a creative streak, Church will spend 20-30 hours a week on a painting, working in his free time and on weekends.

“My dream would be to fish on the good days and paint on the bad days,” he said with a laugh, referring to the weather. 

His preferred technique involves acrylic paint and airbrushing.

“I started out in oils,” he said. “I like oils because the way you can blend your colors is kind of more dramatic, whereas with acrylic it’s more of a layered technique that I do, but it dries so much faster, so there’s an advantage to both sides.”

Church, who currently works as a supply chain materials management consultant for local hospitals, has loved drawing and painting since he was a very young child.

“I started drawing, self-taught, before kindergarten, just copying and tracing coloring books, comic books, that kind of thing,” he explained.

At 13, he received an oil paint set and taught himself how to mix colors. From there, he took art classes in high school, then in college after serving in the Air Force.

During his early career as a freelance artist, Church created wine labels, logos, designs for t-shirts, and even ads for newspapers. Some of his artwork hangs in a California winery.

Although the artist, his wife Paula, and daughter Whitney have lived all over the country, they love Richmond Hill.

“This is where we’re going to stay. We really like it here. I can’t get away from the coast; I got salt in my blood now,” he laughed.

Prints of Church’s work are available and he gladly takes commissions. He plans to begin work on a website in the near future.

Church can be reached at 727-5155 or

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