See How A Delray Beach Artist Paints With A Scientific Approach


Renee Phillips sitting on counter sketching

Delray Beach artist Renee Phillips.

While Renee Phillips manipulates latex paint on canvas and wood—mixing, pouring, layering, spraying—the artist is not merely painting. She’s sculpting, conducting meditations on color and experimenting with the very chemistry of her materials to produce forms with drips and lines that tell the story of their creation.

series of leftover paint against a white background by Renee Phillips

A recent series involved displaying leftover paint fragments that had dried in buckets.

blue, white and brown paint on black canvas

In her Delray Beach studio, artist Renee Phillips creates textured canvases influenced by the natural world.

gallery room with lots of different artwork and paintings by Renee Phillips

Renee Phillips' Delray Beach studio.

blobs of brown paint against a brown background

detailed color journal on blue marbled background belonging to Renee Phillips

During her process, Phillips maintains a detailed color journal recording factors such as the time of day a layer of paint was poured.

The Delray Beach artist elicits texture from the paint itself. “I’m trying to get the signature characteristic of what that color wants to say,” she explains. “Whites give me these luscious, soft ripples, but dark greens give me more of a cracking experience. I found that if I studied just one color at a time, the color would tell a story.”

Phillips’ method involves mixing large paint buckets in her Arts Warehouse studio, occasionally adjusting the viscosity level with additives, then pouring onto a panel and tilting the board to maneuver the color. After bringing it outside for spray-painting, the artist then adds more layers, repeating as needed. “It’s a very physical process,” she acknowledges. “I’m creating art with my body and the elements of wind, water and gravity.”

In the end, viewers see “layers of alchemical techniques and color fields,” Phillips says. “I’ve been turning the studio into a science lab for the past decade, figuring out the different ways paint and material work together.” After hundreds of hours spent (quite literally) watching paint dry, she knows the ins and outs of pigments and polymers. In a detailed journal, the artist meticulously documents how colors and finishes react to variables like temperature, humidity and time of day when poured.

She owes her scientific bent to her father, a veterinarian from Colorado who encouraged his daughter to look through his microscope and observe the outdoors. “He opened my senses up to the natural world,” Phillips recalls. Heavily inspired by aerial photos, she pores over NASA satellite imagery and takes trips to examine mountains, layers of rocks and tides. In response, the artist’s work is reminiscent of Earth forms and the overview effect astronauts describe upon seeing the planet from far away.

An exhibition of her work animated by 3D motion artists is now on display at the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach. “I want to create new methods of working with paint and explore color as a raw material,” Phillips reflects, “and see where that takes me.”

Photography: Sonya Revell