A Miami Artist’s Rainbow-Hued Circular Art Beckons Closer Inspection


artist jillian whelan in her studio with artworks behind her

Coral Gables artist Jillian Whelan creates textural works that consist of circular layers of colorful paint.

Like shiny pieces of mouthwatering candy, Jillian Whelan’s rainbow-hued artworks beckon, as if a craving, for a closer inspection—or even a curious touch. Her “dotscapes,” as she calls them, consist of hundreds or thousands of thick, layered concentric globs of paint—four to five circles stacked largest to smallest—that form multicolored plateaus on gallery wood panels. “This stemmed from a desire to get back to my creative roots,” the artist says of her concept. “I thought it would be a great marriage of technique, color and texture. I want the work to invoke a light sense of wonder or joy.”

artist jillian whelan applying paint onto a panel using a restaurant squeeze bottle

Whelan applies the paint on gallery wood boards via restaurant-style squeeze bottles.

a portion of one of jillian whelan's colorful

Each “dotscape” is coated in epoxy resin, offering a layer of protection from curious hands.

close-up of one of jillian whelan's

A close-up reveals the dimensionality of the artist's work.

cans of colorful spray paint in jillian whelan's studio

Spray paint also figures in her work.

faux cupcake with saying on it next to one of jillian whelan's

Although most pieces are rendered in rectangular or circular shapes, other concepts include fashion and sweet treats.

Whelan grew up studying fine art from a young age but began exploring this unrestrictive process in her personal time during a career working in textiles. Her pieces start as sketches in her inspiration book—filled with ideas such as circular motifs, pill shapes and fashion accessories—that are scaled for the board in a computer program. After sanding and sealing the wood in her Coral Gables home studio, the artist projects the image onto the panel. Then come the dots: Using squeeze bottles of varying sizes, she outputs a landscape of circles from custom mixed acrylic paint. Once the first layer has dried, anywhere from five to 10 days later, Whelan builds another on top of each—and then more layers, drying in between—constructing a kaleidoscope of rounded pyramids.

Decades immersed in art and design helped her gain an understanding of color theory, which reveals a spectrum in her portfolio: Many works are neon for a retro Miami vibe, while others have jewel tones like emerald green with dark hues, and some convey a sense of calm with beiges and light pink. “I’m always cognizant of how the tones talk to each other,” the artist says. “I’m into happy energy and want viewers to feel a joyous curiosity that captivates them.”

Once a painting is complete, she coats the work in epoxy resin, using a heat gun to pop bubbles as the substance is poured. Two to three days after being sealed in an airtight tomb, the completed piece conveys a hard, glass-like finish that not only presents a shiny quality but also a level of protection that allows viewers to touch it—an act Whelan encourages. “The world is a hands-on place,” she muses. “Feel the rainbow.”

Although the artist’s work was born from an exploration in creative fun, it has morphed into a deeper meaning, with the circles representing moments of individuals’ life journeys cohabiting in one space. “There’s so much energy and effort we put into our own layers, but it’s the bigger picture of the whole— how we all work together despite our flaws and differences,” she says. “We’re all touching each other, and it’s not perfect. The colors might not all match, but they work well together. There’s beauty everywhere. And the more diverse, the better.”