19 November 2014

Artist Highlight: Julia Blake

Growing up in a household of artists, I'm always intrigued by other artists.  They are, more often than not, unique and interesting.  Ryan always introduces me as an artist, but I've never really felt that that is my title.  My medium of fabric isn't traditional.  But my need to create is very much driven as any artist is to make something that didn't exist before.  When I asked artist Julia Blake to answer some questions, I loved reading her responses.  It reignited a passion to create more in my own soul.  For those of you who say you can't follow a dream for some reason or another, read on. 

KD: When did you know painting was "your thing?"

JB: I had loved art and taken classes as a teenager, but abandoned it for more 'practical' studies. Many years later, after my 6th child was born I was really sad to be done having babies. REALLY sad. When he went to preschool I knew I had to do something BIG. That's when I started painting again. My first few paintings were pretty bad, but then I had the break-through painting. It was a huge painting and a gift for a friend. I feel like God gave me the gift to paint because of the sacrifice I was making. I could not stop working on it. I didn't want to eat or sleep. I just wanted to paint. That was the defining point. I painted 100 paintings the first year and sold 100 the next year. I am so happy to have found something that fills me - I'm pretty obsessed about it and I have to remember that my kids still need me. I have to finish that job I started.

KD: Speaking of 6 kids, when do you find time to paint?

JB: Right now 4 of my 6 kids are still at home.  I try to paint every minute that they are in school. I usually take a break when they get home and through the dinner hour, but not always. When my littles are in bed I try to paint again, but sometimes I'm too exhausted. Thankfully, I paint very quickly. My paintings actually stink if I slow down and think about them too much. 

KD: Do your children show interest in artwork, and if so, how do you foster that?

JB: My 16 year old daughter is a very good artist. She was chosen for the Intensive Drawing and Painting class after her freshman year. I sometimes pass along portrait commissions to her because she is better at them than I am. This summer we took a 3-day portrait workshop together at Southern Virginia University with one of my friends, Rose Datoc Dall. It was a very fun getaway for us. I hope that she will pursue art in college. My 6 and 8 year old sons paint with me sometimes and seem to really like it. The whole family sees my painting process because I have set up my easel in the kitchen. I find I'm most productive that way. I can help with homework or work on other things when I step away from a painting.

KD: What is the fulfillment or satisfaction you receive from painting, and is there anything else that comes close to replicating that feeling? (i.e. other types of creativity) 

JB: This gift has really filled the void I had when I was done having babies. I always loved being pregnant, anticipating a new baby and loved the first couple years of mothering where I felt like I could be the perfect mother. The older my kids get the less I can be the perfect mother to them. Painting is about anticipating and nurturing - it's about saying something through process, symbol and color. The satisfaction for me is multifaceted. Sometime I fall into bed with the current work in progress on my night stand so I can look at it. I can sit and stare at something quantifiable that I have done. SO much of mothering gets undone or has to be redone. Laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping don't stay done, but a painting stays done (unless I decide to work on it some more). There is something so completely validating about having something physical, tangible and meaningful to show for my hours and efforts. And to have people buy my work just magnifies that validation. When people say they like my work that makes me very happy, but when they part with their money and hang it in their home I am deeply satisfied.

KD: So, what's on the horizon for you?
JB: I am so excited to be buying an old church in Western, MA with artist J. Kirk Richards. We will renovate it and use it as an art studio for ourselves and we plan to host visiting artists for residencies and workshops. You can read about it here: www.artistcommon.com and any purchases you make from myself our Kirk will have make this project happen. We'd love your help. 

KD: What advice would you offer to those who want to create but feel inhibited for one reason or another?
JB: That is a great question. I want to just say DO IT. Fear of failure needs to just go away! That is the lamest excuse. If you try but you don't do something well, take a class or study via books and videos. We live in an amazing time where information is available. Practice. Keep a sketchbook or notebook with you all the time to write down ideas.  If time is the issue then figure out what you want most and put that at the top of your list. We all have the same amount of time in a day - figure out what you are willing to sacrifice to do something you love. For example, I used to love shopping for clothes but I rarely choose that over painting. I have cut back on running and cooking  (both things that I really like). I hardly volunteer any more. I feel like I've done my time with the PTO already. My oldest is 20 and I have put in plenty of hours running carnivals and auctions etc. I still go read in the class room and chaperone field trips, but I have stepped down to let younger moms run the organizations. I don't feel guilty about that. I am making deliberate choices. I have two demanding jobs at church and I try to do those on Sundays only. It is very hard to find the right work/life balance and I don't claim to have found it. Being an artist is a full-time job for me, but it is the second most important job I have. Being a wife and mother is the most important thing to me and I hope that my epitaph will reflect that.

Admit it, you're ready to shut down the computer and go create!  I love it!  And aren't Julia's paintings incredible?  I'd like one of each in all the colors.  Maybe even purple. ;)  Original artwork makes me happy.

Shall we do a giveaway to celebrate creativity?  Julia is offering $100 towards her painting to one of my readers. To enter, do these 2 things:

+ Sign up for her email list on her website www.juliablakeart.com
+ Comment on your favorite IG painting on @juliablakeart
+ Open Until 11/30

Or, you can take 15% off using code NoBigDill15 on anything painting!   


  1. The artist common website just says "coming soon" :( Is there another place we can go to learn more about Julia and Kirk's project?

  2. Signed up for email and commented on IG

  3. Sorry Brenda. Check back tomorrow. Our lawyers said we needed a couple signatures before we could share.

  4. Hi - I signed up for email but could not find where to comment? I loved every single painting. WOW! Beautiful. Hope I may still be eligible..thanks.


Be a lamb & tell me what's on your mind.