The Mad Hatter – Philip Smiley

Philip Smiley is an established freelance illustrator based in London with 20 yrs experience as an illustrator in fashion, editorial, web, publishing, and set design. His work includes creating prints for fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen, Victoria Beckham, Commes des Garcons, and Chloe.


London based artist, Philip Smiley did his MA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, New York. Over the past decade Philip has explored many different mediums such as illustrative, sculptural, installations and video besides freelancing for many editorial, fashion, web and book publications. Philip’s work is inspired by the conflicts of his rural American upbringing in the mountains of Virginia and his present urban setting. The result creates a third space where nature morphs into strange anatomical and embryonic visions. Emaho caught up with the artist to unearth his effervescence.


Emaho : You have a very psychedelic vision of art, be it your installations or illustrations. Where do you find the inspiration?

I think of it less as psychedelic and more as trying to capture a mood of otherworldliness. The mystery and detail I try to capture is heavily influenced by my rural upbringing in Virginia,USA.

‘Twas after dread when fortune left’


Emaho : Tell us about your ‘Hive’ installation. What was the motivation behind it?

I envisioned an installation that could function within a bar. I wanted to include various mediums into one collective large scale piece. I knew I wanted natural structural elements and a hive seemed to lend itself to this idea. From there I delved into the similarities between a swarm of bees and a gathering of people within a bar. Hive Mentality is when an individual is thrown into a group and they start developing sometimes bizarre or unnatural group behaviour.  This seemed to describe a bar environment perfectly



Emaho : Your work often portrays the rural-urban interplay as mayhem, as chaotic, as mystic. Why is that?

Growing up in rural Virginia I’ve always been inspired by nature. When I moved to New York City to pursue being an artist in my 20s, I started to find another side to nature and human nature and even to myself that was just as surreal but in a totally different way. Slowly I began to feel part of both places and also of neither place, but some ‘other’ place that morphed and blended all these things.

‘Untitled Island 1’


Emaho : What is your installation ‘Freakspace’ for the B Store about?

I wanted the random passer-by to be voyeurs onto this idyllic scene of a couple frolicking under a sleeping bag in the oblivious to nature’s encroaching menace.

‘Vine Couple’


Emaho : You have experimented with multiple media, namely, installations, illustrations, sculptures and video. In your opinion, which media enables you to express yourself to the fullest?

My ideal is to do work that incorporates all of them because that is when I can explore my creativity to its fullest.

‘Freakscape II’


Emaho : You’ve worked with some big names, including Burberry and Stella McCartney. What has your experience with the fashion industry been like?

It’s a challenge; sometimes because you have to think of it as a finished product and sometimes the best image doesn’t always translate onto clothing.

Untitled (tarred and feathered)’


Emaho : You have also ventured into writing your own music. Tell us about ‘Smiley’s Speakeasy’.

I’ve always written and played my own music. Smiley’s Speakeasy was an excuse to collaborate with my very talented musician friends. I recently took a break because music can be so time consuming but I hope to incorporate more of my own music in future work.



Emaho : What else is lined up for the future?

I’m currently working on two music videos to be released later this year along with my own personal book project.


Artwork by – Philip Smiley

Art & Culture Interviewed by – Suchi Kedia



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