PHS student recreates high school through watercolor art


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Princeton High School (PHS) senior Elaina Phillips was able to showcase her love of art when the school administration displayed her latest artwork recently on the walls of the main office.

The Cranbury resident and senior had finished a watercolor painting depicting the front entrance tower of PHS at the end of the 2019-20 school year as the coronavirus pandemic turned the end of the academic year upside down.

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“My piece features the front of PHS. This iconic perspective is one etched in my memory from freshman year, which is why I chose to use watercolor,” Elaina said. “The flexibility it provides helped me to capture a more dreamy, nostalgic and peaceful atmosphere. I’m honored to know that it is hanging in my high school, the front office no less. I’m incredibly grateful.”

The painting was for her Studio Art III 2D class with Visual Arts teacher Matthew Pembleton. Elaina was able to finish remotely with the help of photographs she had taken of PHS, which aided her ability to capture details in her watercolor painting.

“Working at home was indeed a new environment, but there are pros and cons to both. I did miss working alongside my peers, though. Even if we weren’t talking much, just working near people who share a passion for art along with me is inspiring,” she said. “I also really like the art classroom setup and openness and positivity that Mr. Pembleton brings to it. You feel welcome and there is a sense of belonging.”

Principal Jessica Baxter said she believes the painting is a generous gift for the high school forever.

“Elaina originally drew this in a smaller format in an art class at school. I had seen that version and thought it was stunning,” she said. “I appreciate that Elaina captured a view of our beloved tower from a different perspective. Most photos, pictures and drawings are from our front circle, which is what visitors see. Elaina’s painting is the perspective of our students who sit in front of our school and enjoy the school’s outdoor spaces.”

Elaina has fostered her love of art through classes at the Arts Council of Princeton, as a contributor to the annual Members Exhibition (2018-2020), and as a Monroe Township Cultural Arts Commission Juried Art Show contributor for two consecutive years, contributing 2D and 3D art.

Before she arrived to PHS as a freshman, she had won the Tamara Woronczuk Art Award from the Cranbury Arts Council and was asked to contribute to the Cranbury School’s art gallery.

When Elaina became a freshman, she said the unique architecture of PHS drew her eye.

“I think one of the reasons the perspective watercolor painting is etched in her memory is because three years ago, as a freshman, she began taking pictures of the front of the school each day as she got off of the bus,” said Nina Phillips, Elaina’s mother. “She continued this for months, to compare changes in the seasons and students.”

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