A Mini-Biography of Phil Kantz

Phil Kantz knew he wanted to be an artist when he was 12 years old, and he has continued growing ever since. At 15 he started selling his cartoons while majoring in art at Senn High School on Chicago’s north side. He attended Saturday classes at the old Chicago Academy of Fine Arts while in high school. Upon graduation, he enrolled at the Chicago Academy full-time. He took such practical courses as advertising design and illustration, but his major interest at the time was cartooning, which he learned and practiced at the school.

When Mr. Kantz graduated, he was eligible for the draft during the Korean War. He enlisted in the Air Force and became an artist for special services and the base newspaper. He practiced as an artist and cartoonist throughout his military service. He also drew serious portraits of many of the personnel and their families. The great acceptance of his comic strips on base newspapers, stateside and overseas, encouraged him to publish a book of military cartoons, On the Double, which was sold in PX’s throughout Europe, the British Isles, and Africa.

Upon Mr. Kantz’s discharge from the Air Force, he took advantage of his GI Bill and studied at the University of Illinois at Champaign. Again, he majored in advertising design, but many art minors were also required. He chose painting, sculpture, anatomy, drawing, and art history. The sensitivity of all these subjects seemed to temper his commercial art attitude, and he felt a need to perform in both areas.

Most of his life, however, Mr. Kantz has been an illustrator and graphic designer with his own studio. Working in a variety of media, he developed a vast range of styles and techniques for the various demands of his clientele, which reads like a who’s who of top corporations: Amoco Oil, American Bar Association, Encyclopædia Britannica, Hammond Organ, Interlake Steel, McDougal Littell, Rand McNally, Scott Foresman, Sears, and Walgreens.

Promoting goods and services through art was quite exciting and creative, but in 1976 a need developed in Mr. Kantz to start making art more for himself than for his clients. He enrolled evenings at the American Academy to study oil painting, and he remained for five years with daily afternoon summer stints when he could squeeze them in.

In 1981 Mr. Kantz heard about a studio-gallery-workshop run by its artist members called the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts. He decided to leave the instruction of the American Academy and, as he put it, “fly by the seat of his paints.” He was accepted and has been painting there ever since. During his painting time, he has exhibited in over 30 states throughout the country and has won numerous awards nationally. A cover story about Mr. Kantz appeared in the June 1988 issue ofAmerican Artist magazine. He also participated on an international television panel show on portraiture, American Art Forum With Richard Love, in November 1989.

In June 1993, Mr. Kantz’s first one-man show, “Phil Kantz – A Retrospective” received critical acclaim as well as numerous sales throughout Chicago. In May 1994, Phil’s second one-man show, “Phil Kantz, Master Painter” at Gallery North in New Buffalo, Michigan, was equally as successful. Finally, in January 1997, a one-man show at the Public Library in Wilmette, Illinois played to another crowd of viewers even more successful than his first and second shows.

As Mr. Kantz continued to paint, his work was included in a volume published in January 1998, The Best of Portrait Painting, edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf, © 1998 North Light Books.

As the demand for Mr. Kantz’s work continues to grow in private collections, he divides his time between teaching classes, giving numerous portrait painting lecture/demos, and is often invited to be a juror in other art competitions. Viewers watching him at the easel have very little doubt that he is madly in love with painting.

Among Mr. Kantz’s other interests are his family, reading, classical and jazz music, grand opera, computer graphics, and doing crossword puzzles in ink.

Lady in Blue - oil on canvas by Phil Kantz
Elizabeth - oil on canvas by Phil Kantz
Man and Woman on the El I - drawing by Phil Kantz
Senses - pastel by Phil Kantz