Local Artist Julia Powell
Today we are talking with Julia Powell, a local artist I had the pleasure of meeting a few months ago. Her paintings are gorgeous — so textural and full of bold color. Along with her inspiring work, I loved hearing her story of switching careers to become an artist, and how real she was about art as a livelihood. I hope you enjoy hearing from her as much as I did!
I know your path to becoming an artist wasn’t a straight line! Can you describe your career, and how you ended up working as an artist?
I went to Yale for undergrad and then Stanford for law school – I was a lawyer for several years before starting to create art and then sell my work – once I made enough from selling paintings I became a professional artist! In law school and post law school I was always watercoloring for myself and then I did about 10 diffeent wedding invites/wedding programs for friends for fun. My brothers were instrumental in encouraging me to paint and giving me support. One bought my first easel and the other bought a second easel for me. My friends also were early and vocal supporters.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Do you work from photographs or in nature, or are your paintings done from memories of the feeling in a certain place?
I go outside and engage with the world – I hike and engage with nature and then try to paint a mood or a feeling – I never paint from photographs because photographs reduce a painter’s creativity. I like to go outside, or read, or interact with people, and then try to paint a scene that evokes the feelings I had when I was outside, or with friends, or reading a great novel or poem.
I absolutely love your color combinations and your use of texture. How did you refine your technique? Your color combinations are often bold but work so well. How did you get such a great understanding of color?
Thank you! So the main answer is: PRACTICE! I am self-taught so besides looking at a few landscape painting books, I just paint ALL THE TIME to try and get better and figure out what works. I love color and have always been drawn to bold colors and trying different color combinations is my favorite thing to do in painting. Besides working a lot, I try to go out and see other artists’ work. Museums have amazing collections, obviously, and the impressionists have always been a go-to, but I also find inspiration in modern art and the way color is utilized.
You have a huge following on Instagram! How did you get into social media and grow your following? What are your thoughts on how this platform can be best used by artists and art appreciators?
I was encouraged two years ago to get on IG because it’s a great platform for visual artists. IG is a game changer. The vast majority of my work is sold via Instagram and to people who don’t live in my state. My three biggest client bases are California, Washington DC and NY (then North Carolina and Texas). New England is not a huge art buying market – though there are some exceptions – so it’s great to be able to be exposed to the rest of country. Instagram is a job though. I am on IG every single day posting and commenting and engaging. That’s how you grow a following. I consider it part of the admin/business side of my job and at some point I hope to hire someone to handle it so I can spend more time in the studio!
Ella Fitzgerald, your golden retriever, is one of your most respected critics, and the pictures of her looking at your work are so cute. Did you just happen to catch her staring at your paintings one day?
Yes – it was when I returned from being away for several weeks in Japan. It was the longest we had been separated. She did a few times and the fourth or fifth time I caught it on film. It’s fun and funny but it hasn’t helped me sell. There is very little overlap in the Venn diagram of people who are interested in cute dog videos and people who can afford to buy my work. But it’s still fun.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring artists hoping to make a career with their work?
Oof. Try not to be too sensitive. Work at your craft every single day. Know that luck is a huge component of success so don’t get too discouraged if it isn’t working at first. Spend as much time with the business side of being an artist/selling art just as you do with creating art. At least in the first few years. It’s not as fun but you won’t be able to create art for a living if you can’t sell it. Get on instagram and facebook even if that seems scary. Put your work out there.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Julia! So inspiring! You can see more from Julia on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. (This profile makes me want to find some time to paint… those colors are textures are amazing.)
See more local artists here.
Image Credit: Julia Powell