Q&A: Creative Process with Renee Phillips and Everyday Adhara

A few months ago, I had the honor of sitting down the Alaina Gurwitz, founder of Everyday Adhara, to chat about my series, Controlled Chaos, and the often unplanned reactions and results that create each work of art. Enjoy!

Alaina: Let’s talk about your most recent series, Controlled Chaos. What is your process?

Renee: I’m a big fan of the concept of alchemy, the medieval ancestor of modern chemistry, as my approach relies heavily on investigating the properties of materials in my studio. Manipulating acrylic paint with water and alcohol, applying enamel over a wet surface, creating papers with chemicals, using heat to alter material composition - these are just a few of the practices I use in my work. 

Alaina: How many layers do you typically do?

Renee: Anywhere from ten to fifty. I build up, and sand away many layers of these alchemical techniques to reveal the passage of time, energy and process, and draw the viewer into a conversation about how the piece was made. My favorite question to hear from any viewer is “how did you do that?”

Alaina: What are you inspired by most?

Renee: The passage of time intrigues me. When I work in my studio, I allow the a work to unveil itself over time, while also contemplating the notion that time as we experience it is an illusion. My surroundings inspire me in so many ways. Nature and its evolutionary cycles of birth, decay and change, urban decay and transformation. The city is in a state of constant state of evolution as layers are applied by humans and removed by nature, revealing a unique conversation of decay and rebirth.

Alaina: Given that you layer over time, how can you tell when a painting is complete?

Renee: I live with them for a really long time, and through that rest period, I usually know when it’s not done. I never say “It’s done!” I say to myself, “It’s not done.” A lot of the time, I live with them to settle myself into thinking they are done. After a week or two, I usual know. 

Alaina: You know what I like about them? To you they might not be done but there is something to talk about at every aspect of the process, which can’t be said for all art. I would hang many of them, even though they aren’t done, because they are already interesting. But I like how you don’t force action until the feeling is there. Does there come a time when you feel in a rush to finish something?

Renee: No, that's why I work on a lot of pieces simultaneously, because I’ve learned that it can drive me crazy. I ruin art by not being present with the piece. I create art so that I can get into the flow and lose myself, and I can lose myself down the wrong path if I’m forcing it. 

Alaina: What happens to the limitless timeframe when someone is commissioning a piece?

Renee: They are different because after meeting with them I usually have a very clear vision about what they want. My own pieces take longer because they are completely unknown. I like working on a mix commissioned pieces and unknowns because the unknown itself can be hard to live with.  

Alaina: There’s seem to be a push and pull in the creative process where we have to know when to push ourselves forward and pull ourselves back and sit with things. Do you work every day regardless or work within this push and pull?

Renee: It’s all a process. I’ll go for a morning walk or an afternoon jog to clear my head, I work through a lot of creative problems while moving. sometimes that problem solving only reveals the next step or idea, but, sometimes it is the next two or three steps. It’s always on my mind. I literally dream in colors and shapes.

Alaina: What do you think your relationship is with creativity in a more general sense?

IN my life. I’m constantly inspired by everything around me. And I choose to see things with a creative eye. I made that choice when I chose to become a full-time artist. I was in business before and when I made that switch, the business side of my brain shutdown, and the creative side rebooted. Now, I live a creative life with a business minded sense, whereas before I lived a business life and tried to incorporate hobbies creatively, but I live a far more inspired life now that it is fully creative. 

Alaina: How did you know to make that decision?

Renee: When I would try to infuse creativity into my life, I would get a headache. I was taking art classes to keep my craft up, but trying to be creative pained me because it wasn’t what I was doing with my life. It was in my heart but was being forced. 

When I made the change, it was pure intuition that led me to become a full-time artist. I was listening to my intuition the entire time and it took me from next step to next step, and it wasn’t ever forced ever. And it isn’t on a daily basis. 
 

Alaina: How do you deal with creative blocks or bursts?

Renee: Either way, I need to move my body physically. If I have too much of a burst, I’ll meditate. If I’m in a rut, I’ll run. So, it's the yin and yang of whatever I’m going through. I’ve realized that keeping my body strong helps me to keep my mind strong so I can get through anything that arises. 

Alaina: How do you use action as a tool during the creative process?

Renee: Action is the best for me when it is focused action – action with a purpose. I ask myself what type of energy do I want to put in the expression. I use grand gestures in my art with my entire body and I want to make sure when I move my body with that gesture that I am focused with that intention. If I want to put energy or serenity into the piece, I focus on specific frequency of energy to try to channel my expression. 

And I try to make sure that I take a moment before every action. It’s hard to remind ourselves of this, but over time it becomes a habit. Now, I notice that after the first layer or two some paintings are complete when I’m super focused. If the right initial energy is put into it, it turns out really cool. 

Alaina: We often have preconceived notions about what creativity is supposed to look like. How do you give yourself the space to break these molds?

Renee: I found that trying to be creative puts pressure on myself. I created these perimeters around what creativity was, and I had to be, in order for me to feel good about my work. Once I untied those perimeters, I realized creativity can be anything. 

Alaina: What is one that inspires you and gets your wheels turning?

Renee: I started journalizing before bed every night to right down wandering thoughts and what I’m grateful for, because I have a great life and I need to remind myself how awesome it is. Being an artist isn’t an easy path. There is emotional turmoil, constant questioning and working solo, and I find that journaling really helps me live a more positive life.

And for inspiration, nature is the biggest inspiration. Every morning, wherever I am, I go for a walk and just experience the environment and culture around me. That mixed with my growing curiosity about science and technology – how our brains work, what’s in the universe, what is the universe.? I subscribe to all of those magazines to keep myself informed and inspired. 

Alaina: If you could speak to your younger self, what is one piece of advice you would offer her?

Renee: Don't be so much of a perfectionist!

I grew up not wanting to draw outside of the lines (literally) and it shaped who I was as a teenager and young adult. At the time, I thought it helped me gain control of our crazy world, but it made me more stressed out than I needed to be. I could have enjoyed the littler moments in my life if I wasn’t trying to control them so much. 

Alaina: What is one thing you are reading, watching or listening to for spiritual growth and wellness that you want to share with our readers?

Renee: I am obsessed with the TED Radio Hour Podcasts. They are hour segments with the most intelligent and insightful people. 

I’m reading Tony Robbins original book called “Unlimited Power” about Neurolinguistic Programming. Basically, he says that our brain is a machine that can be taught how to work properly if we know how our brain functions. And we can learn about how other people’s brains work as well to have more heightened conversations. It’s made me think differently about my art and the world and every human I talk to. Humans are weird and cool and different, and as a New Yorker I went through so many years with a head down mentality but now I want to talk to people and learn as much as I can about being human. 

And then there’s "The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh about mindfulness. To me, art is the one thing where people are present. And I’m present while I’m creating it. They are both practices in mindfulness. That's why I love what I do.

My goal is to make viewers truly feel something. I believe that every object, person, environment has a vibrating energy that can be altered and elevated through human emotion and connection - my goal is to connect the viewer to their environment, to instill a presence that allows them to open up to a deeper dimension within themselves that ultimately reveals the answers they seek.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'." Erma Bombeck

Check out the complete is of Everyday Adhara HERE. 

 

Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2015

Tomorrow marks the official opening of the 2015 Architectural Digest Home Design Show where I will be debuting my new "Controlled Chaos" series at MADE, Booth M36.  

Alchemy, science, nature and an awareness of natural life cycles - growth, decay, evolution and rebirth - play a prominent roll in the creation of this series. By exploring my surrounding environment at a macro and micro level, from the mold and organisms that grow over New York City street posters to the cosmic evolution captured by the Hubble telescope, each piece aims to map a moment in time within the evolutionary progress of life.

Join me and many wonderful artists and designers for the 14th Annual Architectural Digest Show at Pier 92/94 in NYC March 9th-12th, 2015. Booth M36

Experiments in Art: Spray Paint

Spray paint is a hot commodity in my painting arsenal and i love to see how various colors, brands and applications can achieve different results when manipulated with wind or water during the drying process. I've been experimenting in the art studio (and preferably outside) with spray paint for the past three years and have happened upon some pretty stellar techniques..  the technique varies at different humidity levels, and by color and brand.

So go have a ball in the Home Depot paint aisle. Make sure you’re in a well ventilated space, preferably outside, and I like to wear gloves and mask just to be safe. It’s all about experimenting, and since every color comes out differently maybe you’ll even discover a technique that’s uniquely your own.

Artist Residency: SVA Summer Residency

I had the privilege of being accepted into the School of Visual Arts Summer Residency for Mixed Media & Painting this year. And what an incredible experience it was! 30 artists from around the world descended to the SVA studios in the Meatpacking District to join the amazing roster of artists, faculty members and art critics that would become our mentors and teachers for the next 6 weeks.  I'm talking serious artists here - Steve DeFrank, Steve Miller, Tobi Kahn, Gregory Coates, Danica Phelps, Ira Richer, Andrea Champlin, and lectures like Jerry Saltz, art critic for NY Mag, and Heather Darcy Bhadari, curator of Mixed Greens Gallery in Chelsea.  Every critique helped take my work to the next level and opened my mind to new ideas that were brewing below the surface. Much of the art I created in the residency became study work - new techniques, new color studies, new concepts emerged, and I see now that those studies are only just the beginning of an art process that I hope to unveil in the coming months. 

I can't say enough great things about SVA's Residency program. I highly recommend applying if you are an emerging or mid-career artist that benefits from structure and professional critiques. The SVA program is an annual summer residency, so don't be late to apply. For other artists residencies, you can check out: artistcommunities.org, resartis.org, transartists.org, nyfa.org

  

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FAB.com Designer SALE!

The FAB.com Sale has wrapped up and we are thrilled at the success!  FAB.com is an international online design store connecting exciting designers to consumers.  From July 15th-July 22nd, all of my Sea Creature Illustrations were made available at a discounted price on FAB.com.  But, you can always purchase Sea Creature portraits, framed and unframed, at our Art Store, Billie & Olive's!

Check out FAB.com for more great design products, and keep an eye out for future sales! 

 

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2013: The Year of the Green Sea Turtle! Art & Conservation

Year of the Snake....no thanks...for me, 2013 is the year of the Green Sea Turtle!  Every year I will be adopting an endangered species and sponsoring their conservation efforts.  For our inaugural year, 2013 will be the year of the Green Sea Turtle!  In addition to yearly adoption, any original work of art purchased includes a special donation in your honor to the Green Sea Turtles from the World Wildlife Foundation.

Painting the Green Sea Turtle at Spruce, Mizner Park, Boca Raton, FL.

Painting the Green Sea Turtle at Spruce, Mizner Park, Boca Raton, FL.

March marks the beginning of turtle nesting season on Florida's Atlantic coast.  For me, it invokes awe-inspiring childhood memories with my family on the shores of Melbourne Beach, FL.  My Dad, an explorer by nature, and vet by profession, would wake us from our post-dinner slumber and escort us to our beach house deck as the moon rose high in the sky and made the sea sparkle.  I will never forget the first time I witnessed a giant sea turtle emerge from the Ocean - I felt like I was given a very special gift.  It is a rare experience to witness an ancient and magnificent creature on its primal quest to extend her species, and I feel very blessed to have had that experience while growing up. 

2013 Green Sea Turtle Adoption Certificate

2013 Green Sea Turtle Adoption Certificate

6 out of 7 remaining sea turtles are endangered, including my muse - the Green Sea Turtle, Chelnoia Mydas. The green sea turtle is among the oldest creatures on Earth, and according to scientists, they have remained virtually unchanged for 110 million years.  These majestic giants of the ocean now depend on our support and protection. Through my art, I hope to provide not only inspiration, but more importantly, awareness for the special creatures on Earth that need our help. 

Your artful purchase not only adds pizzazz to your walls, but assists in caring for the amazing creatures on planet Earth.  You can check out the latest Chelnoia Mydas from my collection available in a variety of ready to hang canvas options at Billie & Olives

If you would like to donate and educate yourself on the many creatures that need our help, the WWF houses an excellent donation and adoption center

Experiments in Art :: Cheese Cloth

I've recently became obsessed with using the cheap, yet texture forward, material of cheese cloth; available anywhere from Home Depot to your local grocery store or dollar store. There are so many ways to use this awesome $3 material.  Here are a few I have experimented with recently.  

Transient

By placing the cheese cloth down on your canvas/wood and painting over it you can achieve an almost Xray like quality.  Above, I tried experimenting with beet juice, however it dried dull and lifeless.  Below you will see this method used with an acrylic wash (60% water/40% liquid acrylic)....viola!

You can also dye the cheese cloth, and then place on your art for a more bold 3D texture.  I placed my cheese cloth in a cup filled with the water/acrylic wash combination and left it in the sun to dry.  Once dry, I applied it to my canvas with gesso and manipulated the cloth to form a movement that I was happy with.  It was the final touch for my latest piece Miss-Ing.  

I'll keep you informed as experiments with cheese cloth continue in Chelsea. Have fun cheese clothing!

For more inspiration, check out Berlin based artist, Eno Henze, installation works on BOOOOOOOM!

Inspiration Hunting @ Taken for Granite

On a recent sojourn back from Newport, Rhode Island, we were inspired by a NY Magazine article on "Summer Drives", specifically the "Art Lover's Way to Providence".  The article listed a selection of museums and stores curated by RISD staff such as the Bruce Museum, covering topics and events surrounding science, art and history…and most recently featuring an exhibit on "The Olympic Games: Art, Culture, and Sport" (1 Museum Dr. Greenwhich, Conn.), the Silvermine Arts Center, for multiple gallery showcases and beautiful gardens (1037 Silvermine Rd, New Canaan, Conn.), and the Florence Griswald Museum for American Impressionist works (96 Lyme St, Lyme, Conn.).  But the stop that caught my eye was the "flea market stocked shop" Taken for Granite…and we were not disappointed! 

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Off a rural exit (56) on I-95 lies this great interior design store featuring found objects, jewelry, clothes, gift books, and enough handmade decorative accessories to delight your senses for at least an hour.  As soon as you enter, you are transported to a lush French garden room, or turn the corner and find yourself in a Bermuda beach house.  The palette of soft eggshell colors and slate grays was right up my alley.  And the hints of magical terrariums in glass jars and sea shell adorned objects dispersed throughout the store was enough to satisfy my inner nature child.

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What a successful stop! And  a perfect opportunity to satisfy my need for inspiration and juice up my creativity organs.   Signing off from NBC Channel 10 Providence, RI

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Printsource :: Summer '12

As I jump into this new world of art licensing, I will be sharing on this blog some of the important people, places, lessons, etc that I find along the way, in hopes that this information will aid any aspiring artists considering a similar path. With that said, I attended my first art/design tradeshow yesterday - Printsource NYC!  Printsource is the "premier market for surface and textile design" with three shows annually in NYC.  The show had more of a high end, international, boutique feel to it, and was definitely geared towards apparel textiles.  The show featured designs for the Fall/Winter '12/'13 line.  According to Mudpie we will be seeing three key trends emerging this Fall...Wanderlust: embodies the modern day adventurer in ethereal colors for high winter, Reflective: Eastern European masculinity meets young capitalist culture and Expression: focusing on positive trends in youth culture mixed with artistic aesthetic. 

There were a range of designers and patterns shown from the 30 or so 10x10 booths, but the designer that stood out to me was Ana Romero .  Ana started her design brand in 2008, and will be featuring her new line of scarves, pocket squares, pillows and iPhone cases at the ICFF in NY - she is a brand to be followed. 

Ana Romero Scaves

Ana Romero Pillows

The next Printsource event will be held January 14th, 15th and 16th, so mark your calendars!