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Studio Visits: Cecelia Phillips

Between studios at present, this painter of geodes talks about the need to have her workspace close

By Andy Campbell, Fri., Aug. 2, 2013

Cecelia Phillips
Cecelia Phillips
Photo by Jana Birchum

"I was growing my hair out and wanted to keep it straight, so I went to see a stylist," an innocuous lead-in from painter Cecelia Phillips as to how she came to make the small glowing paintings of geodes that until recently (we'll get to that in a minute) hung on her studio walls. "It was the stylist's birthday, and she was going geode hunting later in the day. I kinda had a little crush on her, so I told her I could make her a geode painting." For an artist long interested in both portraiture and landscape, the subject seemed like a natural fit – as it was an homage to her stylist as well as a representation of the stuff landscape is made of.

But back to Phillips' workspace: Perhaps the most important thing to know about her studio is, for the time being, it doesn't exist.

Cecelia Phillips: I'm actually moving studios now, so I'm starting over in a new place. I had been in the last space for about two and a half years and had shared it with a musician. Sharing with someone who is creative but doesn't work in the same media can be wildly interesting, as you can talk about the creative process. I've always enjoyed sharing space – I like absorbing information while I'm working.

Austin Chronicle: Since it's difficult to see your studio at the moment, what's your studio look/feel like when you're in high work mode? In a lull?

<i>Untitled</i>, by Cecelia Phillips
Untitled, by Cecelia Phillips

CP: High work mode and a lull! My studio can be kind of a crazy mess of stuff no matter what. I have bits and scraps of everything – little crystals and plants and postcards from 10 years ago. I'm the type of person who can get inspired by a quick and fleeting moment, so I've always surrounded myself with stuff to look at or get interested in. During a lull period, you might also find other kinds of things in the studio that I'm working on – maybe knitting or embroidery.

AC: Because the room is small, does that force you to work small? Or if not, how do you work big in a smaller space?

CP: I will admit that I do work with size constraints being in a smaller room, but I actually prefer to work small. I feel like what I'm doing right now requires an intimate scale, and when I've tried to make the geodes larger they lose their power. Important to my work is a quickness and immediacy, so I've enjoyed doing paintings that are "gestures," completed within a day or two. They each reflect a day in my life, and so a feeling of time. There might be a time and place where I do longer-term, large-scale paintings, but I'm really happy with where I am right now.

AC: Are there benefits to having your studio in your home? Do you wish you could have a studio elsewhere?

CP: It's an interesting experience to have a studio in your house, because it can be really easy to wander in and out of work to do other things. "Well, this piece isn't doing what I want to right now – I'll make some coffee/clean my kitchen/play with my cat, etc." But that can also be very good for me, because whenever I get a bright idea, I can just go back into that space rather than having to travel there. One of the great things a mentor of mine told me was that you should be in your studio eight hours a day. You could be there reading the newspaper or working with white-hot intensity – as long as you were there. Because if you aren't there when the moment hits, you're screwed. I like treating my house as a creative place, because I don't ever miss a moment.


For more of Cecelia Phillips' work, visit www.celiaphillips.com.

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