E: I love the lighting in this picture, and the gazebo! What drew you to illustrating a night scene?
J: I’m so glad you like it! This illustration is pretty different from what I usually do (think dancing elephants etc.), so I was a little nervous.
This scene was one that stood out to me after reading SACRED, an it had the advantage of being not too far along in the book. There’s another gazebo scene later that could have had more action in it, but I didn’t want to give anything away. Besides, I’ve never illustrated anything overtly romantic before, so it was certainly a challenge for myself. Same goes for the fact that it’s a night scene. I was drawn to the challenge of representing two different light sources within the image: the moon and the Christmas lights on the gazebo.
E: What was your process when creating this piece?
J: 1) take detailed notes from the book
2) thumbnail sketching
3) loose line drawing. Using an unsharpened pencil always forces me to stay general.
4) scan into computer at 500 dpi
5) tighten and clean up line drawing in Photoshop
6) add layers of texture and color
7) wonder if you stuck to the notes (I think Will was supposed to be wearing brown??)
E: You seem to travel pretty regularly. How does your travel affect your art?
J: Very true, I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust – that’s one of the reasons I call my art studio Nomadic Concepts. I’ve been to all seven continents, and I take my sketchbook and journal wherever I go. When I first started traveling, I made a point of trying to mimic the art style of a particular area (for example, practicing aboriginal designs when I was in Australia), but as time has gone on, I find that the time it takes to teach myself a new art making style takes away from the time I have to spend in the particular place. Also, I used to travel for months and months at a time, which made that sort of thing more practical. Now, with my husband’s “real job,” we can only escape for a few weeks at a time, so I want to see and do as much as possible outside.
|Julia at work|
E: Who and what inspires you?
J: Art art art! Illustrators: Quentin Blake – my goodness, his freedom with the line. So envious.
Fine artists: Klimt, bar none, as cheesy as some people think it is. One of the portraits from his gold period came to LACMA a few years ago, and I was just blown away by how different it was in person. The Klimt Museum in Austria is still, surprisingly, on my bucket list. I see this happening soon.
E: What is a typical work day like for you?
J: I get up around 7:45 and tell myself to exercise (only happens for sure 3x a week), then coffee, catch up on email and social media. Once the coffee kicks in, use that prime focusing time to write or do art, depending on what project I’ve got going at the time. Lunch is sad – 9 times out of 10 it’s just a protein bar, but that’s because I get into what I’m doing and I don’t want to stop. Afternoons are typically better spent doing a long stint at my Wacom – detail work, coloring, something time intensive that is strictly visual. That way I can listen to audiobooks or NPR and know what’s going on in the world. On a productive day, I work until my husband comes home around 7, but when I’m not on deadline, I usually pick up a book or waste time on social media after 5pm. Night times are a no-work zone, unless I’ve got a big deadline.
E: Do you have a favorite type of art to create?
J: I’m happiest when I’m in the same space as other people who are creating. They don’t have to be painting, but for me to feel really alive, it’s usually painting acrylic on canvas that’ll do it for me.
E: What other projects—both professional and personal—are you involved in?
J: I just painted a zombie mural for a Halloween party – and made some zombie heads. That was a fun project.
My next commission is a proper portrait – it’s of a mash-up of internet memes. This is for a repeat client and he’s always coming up with fun ideas. The last piece I painted for him was the LOLcat using a banana phone (Google it if you don’t remember).
On the personal front, I’m currently writing a YA novel called HOW TO SAY FRENEMY IN CHINESE. It’s a satire centered at an extremely exclusive private school in LA. Fictitious OF COURSE, wink wink!
E: What advice would you give people who’d like to break into the art world?
J: Don’t wait for someone to give you permission when it comes to art.
I was lucky enough to have had a person in my life (a family friend), who was essentially my angel – when I was still toiling away at an office job, he got ahold of my wishlist from an art supplies catalogue and bought me EVERYTHING I could have wanted. I had always intended to slave away for a decade or so when I was young to get compound interest working in my favor, and then retire super-early to write and illustrate children’s books. I even got my MBA, for crying out loud. But he basically told me to be a little stupid, to take some risks, and do what I really want to do. I haven’t looked back.
E: Do you have a web presence?
J: I certainly do. If only I updated my blog as frequently as I update my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts!
E: So you have a favorite character in SACRED?
J: I’m always partial to the crazy best friend characters in books. I like to think I’m that friend - *crazy wiggly eyebrows* - so I can relate.
And here is Julia's lovely piece once more!