In ‘05 Blah Blah Gallery turned you on to a rising master of flat art, Julie West. Back then she was very good but lately she has turned up the heat: working her flat magic in 3 dimensional form. Intrigued by this move and wowed by her latest work we decided to toss Julie a few questions.
INTERVIEW (by Richard Mullins) Aired February 2007
I wasn't able to find much biographical information for you. Where and when were you born and where in the world is your studio located?
I was born November 3rd, 1975 in Peoria, Illinois where I lived until I was about 18. At that point I moved to Milwaukee, WI to go to the art school there... After graduation in 1998 I lived in various parts of the US until last November when I moved to England.
Your use of line weight, color and composition is very accomplished. Do you have any kind of graphic design background?
Not particularly, I took graphic design courses in school, but I primarily took illustration and drawing / figure drawing courses. I never used a computer while I was in school, I only picked it up after recieving one for graduation. I spent a few years after graduation working as a web designer, so I probably picked up a bit out of necessity, however, my style was pretty much developed while I was still in school.
Hard edges and a very clean crisp approach are present throughout your body of work. Are you a neat freak all around or just in your work?
No, thankfully it's just in my work. If I was that way with everything it would probably drive me a bit mad. In fact, I had to spend 15 minutes just clearing away paints at my desk to get to the keyboard to do this interview. :) I'm not a super messy person, I just have lots of projects going on at once and it seems pointless to put things away until they are finished... My work area is seriously cluttered.
On your Flickr page I see you are working with three-dimensional paper toys now (great stuff by the way.) How different is it from 2D and does it seem to be affecting your vision for the 2D work?
I'm loving it actually. I've made a few painted wooden toys as well, I've been working with someone on some vinyl toys, and I'm about to start making my own Munny for a show in March. I think it has already started changing my 2D work, in that I'm becoming a lot more decorative even with flat shapes. I never thought that my work would lend itself to 3D, it has forced me to think a bit differently. Progression is always a good thing.
I noticed your piece for the 8 Bit Show was painted on fabric. Did you silk screen the images of the figure and objects on the fabric or hand paint them?
The 8bit painting has watercolor paper glued over the top of the fabric - I then just painted directly onto that. Fabric itself would not hold up well to the technical pens that I use for my linework. I've done it a few times in the past and just realised that using paper over the top works better.
The “Happy Pants Girls” series is really well done and pretty amusing. What is he story with them?
Those images sort of stem from a variety of things that changed about my life after I moved to England. First, "Pants" in England are underpants rather than, well, pants as I used to know the term (they are trousers here.) Second, I'd been building up to the actual move here for so long that I'd been living in a weird state of transition. I had given up a great majority of my possessions and lived various places... I think those images generally represent the feelings I had of finally being here and being grounded again. You start to appreciate the little things around you, and your surroundings become "home" again.
Besides vintage greeting cards and children' books what are some influences on your artistic style?
When my style was originally developing, I was influenced a great deal by old books in general. Specifically old drafting books because all of the diagrams were hand rendered... there is something really beautiful about them. I think my line work is probably in some way connected to old architectural and engineering drawings (the thick vs. thin lines to represent various parts of an object.) I don't think that I directly drew influnece from old illustrations, but more from... the idealisitic view of the world that was portrayed in old books. Meaning - I don't look at an old illustration and think "I'd like to draw like that," more that I tend to be more fascinated with the way people viewed their world and their future. For instance old books on space exploration - related artworks tend to be a really clean and shiney view of the future with hovercrafts and robots.I think that my work has progressed on from this now however, and in a general way my influence is just human nature - The way that people react to various situations they are presented with, and the objects they surround themselves with to make themselves feel good. Can you describe your working process?
I always draw everything first, irregardless of its outcome. The drawings are usually scanned into the computer and then either traced in Adobe Illustrator, or printed out larger for paintings. I usually transfer the drawings using a lightbox to watercolor paper and then adhere the paper to various surfaces.
You seem to be exhibiting often and all over. Are there any exciting future projects you can tell us about?
I have a number of small group shows coming up over the next few months,then in August I will be showing a lot of my new work at DVA gallery in Chicago. I usually keep track of upcoming events on my myspace page and on my website: www.myspace.com/26_red www.juliewest.com-END