In September of 1957 Phil Hays taught his first illustration class at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It was my good fortune to be a student in that class. Phil was not much older than his students were but he was already one of the top illustrators in America.
His work appeared regularly in Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, McCalls, Esquire, on record covers and in advertising. My classmates and I were thrilled to learn from such a successful and glamorous artist. He created great setups in the classroom with models and props. He introduced us to the best modern writers and sent us to plays, films and the picture collection at the library. He enlarged our world in every way.
The pictures that Phil was making in those days were vivid and memorable. There were two SVA posters in particular. One was a tightrope walker and the other was a parachutist. Images of risk and daring.
Phil was soon named chair of the illustration department at SVA. He developed a strong department while continuing to teach and to create great illustrations. In 1978 he went to California to chair the illustration program at the Art Center College in Pasadena and in New York we missed him as a friend and as an artist.
Phil’s favorite expression is “Why not?” He welcomes experimentation and innovation. He opens doors for his students in their work and in the real world, with lists of art directors to call on. Phil takes pride in his students’ accomplishments and in their individuality. There is no formula.
A wide and varied circle of successful illustrators were taught, encouraged and inspired by Phil. Many of them have gone on to teach and inspire others. Phil is a wonderful choice for this award. I studied with the very best teachers I could have wished for at SVA and the best of them all was Phil Hayes.