Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 19, 2006


Local artist and Navy veteran pulling up anchors again


          A few years back gifted artist Philip Andrews moved to Opelika to be near his two sisters. Now one of them is dead and the other has moved to Fairhope. So Philip, now in his eighties, plans to weigh anchors again and accede to the plea of his children. They want him to move to Florida and live near them.

          There he will have small quarters in an assisted living center. This makes down-sizing a necessity. So Philip has decided to have an estate auction to dispose of his treasures – many beautiful paintings and pieces of art that have been precious to him. The auction will be held sometime in March. Then Philip will sell his home on McLure Avenue and “sail away at break of day” to his new home.

          Lovers of fine art will surely want to check out Philip’s art collection. My wife and I have a couple of his paintings in our home. His watercolors are superbly done with a mix of strikingly beautiful colors.  I am especially fond of his rendering of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Philip’s love of the sea prompted him to produce many paintings of sail boats and different ports of call.

          Many years have passed since young Philip donned a Navy uniform and sailed away to serve his country. After finishing high school in Wetumpka, Alabama, his birthplace, he served three years in the US Navy, 1942-45. His tour of duty took him the South Pacific for two years where he served on the USS Bradford.

          After the war Philip earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University. An honor student and member of Phi Kappa Phi, Philip studied at Auburn under Professors Frank Applebee, Joseph Marion-Merlo, Roy Staples, Harry Lowe, and Maltby Sykes.

          His love of watercolors prompted him spend much time studying with outstanding artists Eliot O’Hara and Edgar Whitney. He was also a long-time friend and student of the late Kelly Fitzpatrick, recognized as one of Alabama’s finest artists.

          Philip also studied under renowned artists and teachers Bob Calrow, John Pike, Richard Brough, Tony Van Hassett, and Robert Brackman. He has traveled extensively, weighing anchors many times to study and teach in France, Spain, Italy, England, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, and Greece.

          When I asked Philip why he has painted mostly in watercolor, he said, “Watercolor is the poetry of painting and offers a continuous challenge to an artist. It is an elusive medium even though the materials are the simplest and most basic.” He explained that beginning painters can derive great pleasure from watercolor and sometimes paint quite successful watercolors.

          However he pointed out that few artists every really master watercolor on a fulltime basis. He even admitted, “I may paint a successful watercolor one day and come up with 15 failures the next day.”

          Philip’s career, in addition to teaching, included working many years for the US Army as an illustrator. He is especially proud of having helped produce the very first “Survival Manual” for the Army. He supervised the manual’s illustrations and did many of them himself.

          At Redstone Arsenal he worked on several “secret” projects relating to missile weaponry, and some projects dealing with space exploration. He served as supervisor of the graphic arts department at the missile school.

          Philip has other interests besides painting, one being cooking. He made my mouth water talking about his recipe for “Slum-Gulleum,” his version of what sounded like what my Mamma called Camp Stew. It is a meal in itself. About all you need to go along with it is plenty of cool water! If you admire his Slum-Gulleum, he may give you a discount on one of his watercolors.

          I never met Kelly Fitzpatrick nor do I know personally any of the renowned artists of the world. But I did get to know Philip Andrews when I was his pastor and I am thankful for the gift of his friendship. Wetumpka can be justly proud of this native son who distinguished himself by serving his country and becoming a splendid artist.

          If I were in Opelika on the day he moves away, I would try to sing the good old Navy song, “Anchors Aweigh.” But I can wish him smooth sailing as he pulls up his anchors once again. In the words of your familiar Navy song, “Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home”! + + + +