Philip Latimer Dike was born in Redlands, California in 1906. Dike was exposed to art at an early age as his family home was filled with paintings by his grandmother, Eliza Twigg. While attending Redlands High School, he received encouragement to pursue art from his teacher, Louise Arnold, and in June of 1924, he submitted one of his drawings into a competition and was awarded a scholarship to the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles. For the next three years, he studied under the guidance of noted artists F. Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle. It was during his time at Chouinard, that he met and married fellow student, Betty Woodward. In 1928 he traveled to New York to further his studies at the Art Students League with George Bridgman, Frank DuMond and privately in the studio of noted artist George Luks.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1929, Dike spent a year teaching at Chouinard before embarking on a trip to Europe to further hone his craft. Between 1930 and 1931 he studied mural decoration at the American Academy of Art in Fontainebleau, and while there, exhibited a still life at the Paris Salon. He then traveled to Italy to study lithography; then to France, England, Spain, and Morocco to paint.
After returning from Europe, he taught intermittently at Chouinard for 20 years, at the same time, working in the art department of Disney Studios (1935-1945). At Disney, he was the drawing instructor, color coordinator, and advisor. He assisted in a number of animated feature films including Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio and Snow White. During this period he continued to teach, exhibit, and receive awards for his work. Always willing to push boundaries, he was the first artist to add color to Disney cell animation, and incorporated calligraphy and geometric-abstractionist ideas into his artwork.
Best known for his Regionalist watercolors of the 1930s and 1940s, he is considered one of the most artistic and innovative leaders of the California Watercolor style. Phil Dike is remembered as a particularly popular teacher and mentor, and remains an inspiration to the art community.
—Dora James, Curator of Education at the Irvine Museum Collection at UCI
This article appeared in the Summer/Autumn 2018 Newsletter