Boggling The Mind Is His Game


December 20, 1992|By LOUIS BERNEY

Dave Phillips' job portfolio is as diverse as his talents.

At various times during his 41 years, he has been a manager at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, a bridge construction worker, a London dockworker, a commercial artist, a photo retoucher and a technical illustrator. Throughout all of those endeavors, however, he has held fast to one undying passion.

He draws mazes.

He has had 14 maze books published and distributed on four continents. He draws a weekly maze for the United Features Syndicate, and his puzzles have appeared in numerous national magazines. He's even designed jigsaw puzzle mazes.

The self-taught artist's designs are not simply an amalgamation of lines wending intricately around one another and into frustrating cul-de-sacs. They are not just games. They are works of art, full of dinosaurs and dragons and colorful flourishes of abstract shapes.

"The maze is the king of puzzles," he proclaims as he looks over sketches for a new maze at his home studio in White Hall, where he lives with his wife, Pam, and daughter, Tessa. With this latest project, he's embarking on a new path through the labyrinth of his life -- electronic mazes.

Q: Why did you switch from regular, drawn mazes to electronic?

A: It's not a switch. It's just another avenue, and a very excitinavenue, because what I'm able to do is not only color, but also movement and sound. [Players can] interact with the maze. When you have the maze move, it enters another dimension. Now I'll be able to do some wonderful things with the computer. You have two things -- the maze itself and how it looks. And the two should be in harmony. I'm now working on an electronic maze game that will be distributed worldwide.

Q: Does making mazes for video games require skills differenfrom those used to draw?

A: Yes, it involves the creativity of other people: You have twork together with programmers. There's a give-and-take. At this point the drawings I do for video games are not final -- they are a guide for the graphics person who is putting them on the screen. He interprets my designs and puts them on the screen. Eventually I'll be doing that myself. I plan to do other electronic-based games in the future, and then I'll be putting my designs directly on the screen myself. I'm learning that now.

Q: Your mazes seem to have themes. What are some of them?

A: Adventures, pirates, dinosaurs, dragons, fairy tales, nursery rhymes -- every kind of thing I can think of. I use my abilities as a technical illustrator, a cartoonist and an airbrush artist.

Q: What do you think makes your mazes unique?

A: Anyone can create a difficult maze if they use enough pathways and walls. What I do is make a difficult puzzle using a minimum number of lines. Some of my puzzles look very easy, but, in fact, they're difficult. Some of my mazes don't even look like a maze.

Q: How do you begin a maze? Does an idea pop into your head the middle of the night, or do you sit down at the drawing board and see where your pen leads you?

A: First of all, I have a specific application for what I'm doing -- whether it's for a book or magazine, how big is it, is it color or black and white, is it for a jigsaw or video game? That's the first step. Then it's a question of parameters -- how intricate is the maze going to be, what age group will it appeal to, what element makes it appealing? Then I dance around those elements. I can be walking in my woods and put all of those elements together and come up with an idea. I never sit down and come up with an idea while I'm at the drawing table.

Q: What is the toughest part of designing a maze?

A: Selling it. There really isn't one tough part in the drawing of maze. It's all part of the same thing. What I do is conceive the idea, then do roughs, then I execute it. It's not really a question of what is most difficult. It's time-consuming.

Q: Do you consider maze-making an art, or is it more of an intellectual-logical endeavor?

A: To me, making mazes is an art. I have a need to create, and drawing these mazes satisfies that need.

Q: Do you like to solve mazes?

A: No. I can't remember, except when I was very young, having any interest in solving mazes. I have a dim recollection of seeing a particular maze of a castle in a book. It was red and yellow. I don't know how old I was, but I was very young.

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