In our bodies, everything is connected. Our sense of touch changes our mood. Our sight influences flavor. Smells transport us to a fond memory. Tastes dictate what we put in our bodies, and how we feel.
Today we speak with New York-based artist, Renee Phillips, about how we can combine mindfulness, art, and self-care.
Splendid Spoon: Hi Renee! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Renee Phillips: Hi! I’m a ginger, artist, lover of nature, and most importantly, mom to my 6-month-old daughter, Olive.
SS: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
RP: I’m a big believer in walking meditation. I live and work in Chelsea in Manhattan. In the morning I walk to the Hudson River and simply try to be present. I take in the surrounding environment, the changing tide, the life cycle of the trees, the decaying wood and eroding metal…I often take some photos or journal my thoughts. Through movement, my mind opens up to new ideas and inspiration. I then go to the art studio with fresh concepts and start working with color and form.
I also take frequent trips outside of the city to be in nature, and every summer I plan an inspiration road trip. The last two years we ventured to the National Parks. Zion and Yellowstone were incredibly powerful in terms of inspiring new work.
SS: How do you combine meditation and art for your Meditation Series?
RP: Prior to creating my Meditation Series, I was working on a series called Controlled Chaos. For this series I tapped into the frenetic energy of New York and was often able to translate this energy onto canvas — it was a high frequency point in my life.
The Meditation Series was born from my desire to find stillness in my art, to tone the noise down and focus on the basic visual elements of color, form, and movement. When I began to be present with these basic elements, a whole new world opened to me.
SS: Can you share a sight-focused mindfulness practice?
RP: We consciously surround ourselves with a color palette, but there are over a million colors visible to the eye. Subconsciously, we create a much larger color story, which influences our day-to-day life. You may have chosen blue, green and grey as your living room color scheme, but it’s actually so much more than that.
Go to your favorite room in your home, clear your head, and explore. What colors do you see? Look closely and study detailed features. Blue is not just blue — there’s indigo, cobalt blue, midnight blue, teal, hazy blue green, peacock green…Look at the wood tones, the metals, all the textures. Put names to the colors you surround yourself with and have fun doing so!
In the end, you’ll have a better idea of a color story that is uniquely you. As you study and observe color in this simple way, new shades, tones, and color combinations will make themselves known to you in your everyday life — you’ll begin to see in full color.
SS: How can we view and approach art mindfully?
RP: Keep an open mind when approaching art, and tap into your internal reactions, emotion, and voice. See what it stirs in you. Then — after that — grab an artist’s statement from the gallery or museum and read about how (and why) the artist created the work, and their unique point of view. Artists’ statements will help provide context to what you are viewing, but don’t let them drive your internal dialogue.
SS: Do you aim to create a sense of synaesthesia (when one sense stimulates another sense) in the people viewing your artwork? Do you experience synaesthesia when creating them?
RP: I want viewers to have a visceral reaction to my artwork. What that reaction is will be specific to that person’s individual experience, memories, and view of the world. Being an artist does help me see the world in full color. Instead of shapes and hard lines, I often see combinations of color and patterns in form.
SS: How can art help us tune into ourselves and connect with the world around us?
RP: Art provides a window of clarity and an opportunity for the viewer to be present to an interesting internal dialogue. It overpowers the mindless chatter that can clutter our mind. I find that these moments of presence help slow me down so I can better connect with the world around me.
SS: Do you have a go-to self-care routine?
RP: I’m a big fan of self care. Where do I start?! I love a good massage and have taken to the new on-demand massage craze through my Zeel app.
I try to eat well, keep my body strong through yoga, jogging, and stretching, and focus my mind through mindful meditation. And, obviously, there’s nothing like a hot soak in the tub with some bath salts at the end of a long day.
SS: How do you stay grounded while living in NYC?
RP: By staying authentic and surrounding myself with a tribe of friends and family who keep it real.