Phil was born in The Hague, Netherlands in 1953. He immigrated with his two sisters and parents to America in 1957 on the maiden voyage of Holland-America’s Statendam IV, settling in Michigan City, Indiana, spending his boyhood in the dunes, and attending a Catholic grade school. The school had no art or music, just phonetics, which was practiced all day long for both study and punishment. Phil feels that his command of lettering started here. Then, in ’67, the family moved to Chicago Heights, Illinois, where Phil attended a large public high school with lots of vocational training. In his drafting studies, Phil continued his lettering. He joined the Navy after high school, in ’71, and became a naval photographer. Moving back to Illinois in the late ’70s, Phil worked a variety of wage-slave jobs until he stumbled across an old sign-painter who was lettering school buses with just a single pencil mark to indicate the spacing, and free-handing elegant block letters across the bus. He was hooked. Phil’s experience in printing and drafting gave him a framework to be able to compose and letter signs from the get-go. On his 30th birthday, in ’83, Phil moved to Minneapolis to recreate himself as an artisan, renting a succession of storefronts and warehouse spaces for twelve years until he found his house, where he still lives and has operated his shop for the past 20 years.
Phil’s forte is wall-signs and store-fronts, and he is proud of the fact that he has such an effect on the urban landscape. Phil does not claim to be the best actual letterer in town, but is very strong in design, and very prolific. Phil is a traditionalist in the sense of espousing the classic American block letter, known as “Western Egyptian,” and using classic layouts, which never fail. But many people have their own designs and fonts, which Phil is happy to arrange and paint to maximum effect.