While growing up in Decatur (IL), Phil Smith studied art privately for eight years with a number of artists and teachers at Millikin University. After moving to the Chicago area in 1969, he began to photograph subjects to paint in his spare time. Smith joined several area art leagues and began exhibiting his original framed photographic images. In 1983, Phil merged the disciplines of painting and photography, constructing three-dimensional mixed-media collage pieces that combine original photographic images with airbrush and traditional painting techniques and found objects.
During the past forty years, Phil Smith's work has been seen in numerous festivals in Illinois including the Gold Coast Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair, Old Orchard Art Fair, Fountain Square Arts Festival and the One-Of-A-Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart. Smith was awarded the honor of being designated as an “Invitational Artist” to Art On The Square (Madison, WI), and received an Award of Merit at the Gasparilla Fine Arts Festival in Tampa (FL). His work has also been seen at festivals in Mount Dora, Ponte Vedra Beach and Vero Beach, Florida, as well as in Northampton (MA) as part of the Paradise City Art Festival and Jackson Hole (WY). During the process of moving full-time to Arizona, Smith has displayed his work in art festivals in Tubac, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Tempe and Tucson. He has received First Prize Ribbons and Purchase Awards in the Broadway/New Town Street Fair (Chicago), Lake County (IL) Festival of Arts, Libertyville (IL) Festival of Art, Apollo Beach (FL), Open Spectrum (IL), Deer Path Art League Spring and Fall Shows (IL), Barrington (IL) Area Arts Council Winter Show, The Glen Art Festival (IL), Hendersonville (NC) Sidewalk Fair, Wilmette (IL) Arts Guild Fine Arts Festival (“Best of Show” 2001), Crested Butte (CO) “Best of Category 2008,” IMAGES in New Smyrna Beach (FL) and Fourth Place 2-D at the Historic Shaw Neighborhood Art Fair (St. Louis, MO). He has received several awards at the Smoky Hill River Festival, and in June, 2005, the city of Salina, Kansas purchased one of Smith’s mixed-media photo collage pieces for inclusion in the city’s permanent public art collection.