Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 14, 2016


'Self Portrait' by Phillip Erbaugh

Realist Painter Brings Third Exhibit to Campus

Kelleen Cullison

The solid and sturdy Phillip Erbaugh, who leans with his back against the windowsill of the Winger Building has come a long way from the preteen who enjoyed painting by numbers. He looked on at his exhibit with a sense of accomplishment. “I always knew I wanted to paint,” Erbaugh said. “I just wasn’t able to until I finally retired.” 

Erbaugh’s exhibit was hosted by its own artist on Oct. 8 as a part of Homecoming weekend. Alumni from over the years returned to Manchester University to reunite with their class, and a select few like Erbaugh, to display what they’ve accomplished. 

The artist began to paint original work in junior high school, encouraged by his art teacher, who, along with Erbaugh’s family, had attended Manchester. Following in their footsteps, he graduated from Manchester in 1986 with a BS in art education. Soon after, he attended Wright State University to get his degree in drawing and painting. After his education however, he found himself on a very different career path, employed by General Motors until his retirement a few years ago. It wasn’t until then that his “true” career could finally begin. 

Erbaugh’s exhibit is proof he’s been busy at work since his retirement. Most of the pieces on display were painted within the last five years, and a good portion within the last two. The only exceptions are “Antique Doll” and “Horse Skull,” which were both painted at Manchester in 1975. Erbaugh’s works are all traditional oil paintings of landscapes, portraits, still lifes and figurations. Each realistic painting is painstakingly detailed with deliberate brushstrokes.

 Erbaugh’s style is typically traditional, although he’s made attempts to branch out into other styles, such as abstract. However, he always finds himself back painting traditional works. “It’s just the way I am,” Erbaugh said. “I get a thrill out of making a painting of something look like the actual thing.” 

He finds himself an artistic rebel in this way, as the traditional style is disappearing to make way for more mainstream styles. Erbaugh has found himself removed from several shows for his style of painting, but he refuses to let it affect his drive. “I paint for myself, and if I sell a painting, great,” he said. “But I’m painting for me.” 

Despite this hurdle, Erbaugh has seen some of his paintings take home awards. He’s won both Best in Show at the 2011 Sacred Spaces Art Show in Preble County and the Anne Belle Henthorne Merit Award at the 113th Juried Show at the Richmond Art Museum. 

Erbaugh has painted over 500 paintings in the last few years depicting everyday life, with subjects ranging from motorcycles, sprawling fields like in his painting “Snow Covered Corn Stalks” to his neighbor.

Erbaugh even says he finds himself churning out paintings faster than ever. “They say it takes 10,000 hours to get good at anything,” he said matter-of-factly. “And I’ve found it to be true. Sometimes I paint 8–10 hours a day, finish a painting in a week. If you want to get good, just paint.” 

Of the many paintings in his show, Erbaugh pointed to “Morning Coffee” as his favorite. He’d stood in a McDonald’s parking lot early one morning at the start of summer and taken a snapshot of the Speedway station across the street. He played with the shot on his computer, adding people and changing colors until it met his liking before painting. The result was a realistic representation of an early Indiana morning, with truck drivers stopped to fill up their tanks while grabbing a cup of coffee underneath a lightening indigo sky. 

Although his display in Manchester’s Winger and Science Building is only Erbaugh’s third show, he hopes to continue on this path. “I’ll paint until I can’t afford to paint anymore.”