Philip Vickers’ long and illustrious life included over 100 missions flying Spitfires for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in World War Two; ten years on the stage, in TV and radio; forty five years as a sculptor; and, more recently, authoring his very exciting biography on his life as a youth in the Great Depression and his adventures in World War II.
He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan but reared in Oklahoma City. After a couple years at the University of Oklahoma and armed with a new private pilot’s certificate, he headed to Canada to enlist when the U.S. wasn’t getting into the war quickly enough. After many harrowing episodes while training in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, he headed to Great Britain to fly the elegant Spitfire, often as wingman to Johnny Johnson, England’s top scoring Ace.
After the war he spent some time as a commercial pilot for Commonwealth Aircraft before discovering The Stage in New York City. Opportunity took him back to London’s West End where he had a starring role in Damn Yankees, emceed shows for Bob Hope, and played with scores of the 1950’s top actors and actresses.
But then, in London, he found a hidden talent for sculpture which became his new passion. His early portraits of British fighter ace, Air Vice Marshall Johnny Johnson, French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy, and theatrical producer, Sir Barry Jackson, earned him an invitation to exhibit with the Royal Society of Portrait Sculptors, which led him to a position designing exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. In the early 1970s, he broke away to open his own sculpture studio in Bethesda, MD, where he also developed a new casting process which he eventually trademarked as “Matrix Metals.” Vickers created heroic-sized figures, relief sculpture, and portraits for the Smithsonian Institution, Air Force, and Canadian museums, as well as for architects and corporations.
In 1975, Vickers met another young sculptor/furniture maker, Barbara, who became his studio mate and wife. Together they created large exhibit sculpture such as an over-life size Uncle Sam, which has his self portrait for its face, for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. They also designed and constructed a three room cave complete with life size early man figures for the National Geographic Explorer’s Hall.
Research for the caves brought them to Arizona where they discovered Sedona and settled in 1979. During his 24 years in Sedona, the Southwest became the inspiration for Vickers’ new line of over 75 bas relief, over life-size Western portraits, abstracts and a new art form – landscape sculpture (in which he captured Southwest scenes in multi-colored metals). His sculpture has been featured in many art periodicals and galleries all around the Southwest and nation wide. Vickers’ work was in MATRIX™METALS limited editions, which allow thousands of people to enjoy his work in their homes even today.
Vickers did not want his casting method to disappear with him, so he wrote a manual, “Art You Can Create That Makes Money,” outlining the complete process. The manual is available in its entirety, for free on this website in PDF format, for use by all who wish to use it. Writing the manual, Vickers again discovered a new calling – writing.
At the time of his demise, he had just finished writing his memoir based on his life as a young man in the Great Depression and his adventurous World War II experiences. Phil turned out to be an exceptionally good writer with a tale of adventure that is difficult to put down. “Surviving Victory” is a story of survival: surviving an abusive father, surviving the Great Depression in the Oklahoma “Dust Bowl,” surviving for five days in a downed aircraft in heavy Nova Scotia snow, surviving 100+ operational flights over France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and, finally, figuring out how to survive the armistice with the enemy. It is emotional and riveting.
Now Philip Vickers’ “RCAF Pilot’s Flying Log Book” has been replicated in its entirety, as a companion book to “Surviving Victory.” It is a very legible, detailed and even artistic historical document.
Philip Vickers died at his home in Sedona, Arizona on June 16, 2003.
This website is dedicated to Philip Vickers’ three sons: Stephen, Mark and Christopher Vickers, Christopher’s wife, Helen (graphic artist for “Surviving Victory”) and daughter, Penelope.
Email Contact information: BV(at)BarbaraVickers.com