Julia Iredale was originally more interested in writing stories before she hit her teens and getting into visual arts. She spends half the week working for a print publication doing layouts and ad designs, and part time for herself working on freelance illustration projects. Julia talks to us about how she is always trying to make her digital work and her traditional painting practice intertwine with each other.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design/illustration? As a kid I always loved writing stories more than anything, and it wasn’t until I was a young teen that I seriously got into visual art. I remember there were a few books that really stood out for me – Shaun Tan’s “The Red Tree” the most notable of them. It is primarily a picture book, and each image has a sentence or two to go along with it. The emotional and conceptual impact of the images in that story completely blew me away. Before then I hadn’t fully internalized the many different levels that a single image can resonate on, and how it could speak to me in a language beyond words. It was after reading that book that I started to gravitate more towards image making and less towards writing.
Where did you study?
I studied fine arts and art history at Langara College for two years before transferring to Emily Carr University (in Vancouver, BC) and applying to their small yet-new Illustration Program.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
My plan after graduating was just to keep making art as much as possible. I tried not to have any huge ambitions that could be easily disappointed, and instead have just focused on developing my own style and honing my skills. I feel I have grown immensely in the past year since getting out of school. Being on my own and fully free to experiment without crushing deadlines has helped a lot with finding my own personal voice as an artist. In school our teachers were always telling us how hard it is to get work as an illustrator and to survive as an artist in this cruel cruel world (hehe). I think this caused me to have super low expectations (which may be a good thing?) and overall I have been pleasantly surprised by the response to my work and the many different opportunities I have been given since graduating.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
Right now I am working part time for a print publication doing layout and ad design, and part time for myself working on freelance illustration projects, as well as finding time to spend in my studio working on my personal work. On a good day, it is a really nice balance between working in an office surrounded by other people and spending time alone with my thoughts (and maybe some great podcasts) to dig into the more imaginative realms that I love.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?
Finding a style has always been a confusing process for me. In school people would ask that question all the time, wondering if they should sort-of manually steer the process by “deciding” to create art a certain way, or let their style emerge slowly and intuitively through the process of making images. I tried out a lot of different mediums and styles in school, and looking back, certain semesters look like a completely different artist’s work than others. I was always looking around at the world of other artists and illustrators and getting super excited about the different things that were happening and the different things I COULD do. It took a while before I could discern a thread through it all that was more inherently my own. I guess in that respect, I would say that finding a style is a something that emerges over time. Given enough messing around we do start to figure out exactly what makes us tick, conceptually and aesthetically.
What role do digital tools play in your studio in 2015, and how do you apply traditional design and illustration skills in a digital age?
For me there is always a huge amount of back and forth between my traditional painting practice and my digital one. Over time I can see how both have influenced each other in exciting ways. The different tools that Photoshop offers cause me to think about how I could recreate those effects when I am working with real paint. Cutting out shapes with the polygonal lasso tool, for instance, is somewhat like masking off areas with tape and blocking in shapes. Transparent overlays in Photoshop are somewhat like painting with glazes. To go the other way, I am always attempting to make my digital work look more hand made and less polished, so I look for any way that I can introduce interesting textures and “accidents” into the process (much like real painting). I’m a huge fan of chunky pastel brushes and grainy pencil brushes, and I always try for a somewhat traditional mixed media effect when working digitally. In this way, I think both traditional and digital tools are integral to any of the art that I make, and the conversation can always been found somewhere in the result.