Written By Elise Olmstead
Sometimes the most lighthearted spirits have the deepest thoughts stirring inside. Julie Young greeted me with a sweet smile when we first met, and though I had seen a couple pieces of her art I truly did not know the depths of emotion that her art could stir within me. Themes like space, dreams, and self-reflection come together to create her surreal paintings, all with a splash of color and sweetness that makes it uniquiely hers. She is always defloping her talents, with a knack for portraits and an affinity for space. We were honored to experience her gallery showing “Cosmic Contact” at Werk Out Music Festival and delve deeper into her magical world in this interview.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in Indianapolis in a small two bed, one bath home that was next to where the cornfields were abundant and now are continually growing suburbs. My parents have been musicians their whole life, playing just about any instrument they could get their hands on, and they were always really good at all of them. At a very young age, my older brother took up the piano and guitar, and shortly afterwards took up the trumpet. He became an idol to me to become good and in love with creating something. My childhood is filled with memories of my family playing their instruments and creating music for fun either in the house in the evenings or in the front yard while neighbors walked by. Often I would go to work with my mom when she would play music at schools or nursing homes and sing along with everyone, enjoying the fun of creating music. There is so much I could say about my childhood, but what really stands out to me in relation to my art is the encouragement from my family to create things to entertain yourself and others, and whatever you’re doing, try your hardest at it and don’t give up.
When was the first time you remember creating art?
One of my biggest memories when thinking of making art and drawing, was when I was in preschool and I looked forward to 11AM when my favorite TV show came on. Right before 11AM I would grab my paper and pencils and sit down to watch Pappy Land, which was a show where you learned how to draw different things from a farmer who had a farm house and animals that would talk to him. This show was a foundation in learning to draw and use my imagination.
When did you discover that was something you were passionate about?
I have always been drawn to creating and have loved art my whole life, but I think I realized it was my passion when I was in middle school and got to choose my elective classes, and art class was what I would look forward to every day. My middle school art teacher Mr. Shumaker and my high school art teacher Mrs. Barnes were crucial figures in motivating me to go after my passion.
I would like to say I’ve studied art throughout my life. In school I joined art clubs, took extra art classes, and signed up for as many art camps and workshops in my childhood and teenage years. I somehow managed to get away without ever taking a foreign language so I could take more art classes. I also attended one year in art school when I was 20, but I decided to quit and try to a different route. Dropping out of school was a tough decision to make, but everything happening in my life seemed to be driving me to step back and reevaluate what I really wanted to do with my life.
What artists inspired you as a young artist and what artists inspire you more currently?
When I was a child, I came across Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali in elementary school and became inspired to make art that was fun and friendly like Rockwell and surreal and weird like Dali. I also watched a lot of cartoons and Disney movies and would become inspired to try and draw the characters for fun. Nowadays I find so many artists inspiring in different ways, but I’d have to say that Wiley Wallace, Emily Kell, Mr. Melty, Germana Marcelo, Chris Dyer, Hannah Yata, and Alex Grey are inspiring me to move deeper towards a fun and colorful realism-and-dream-like-combo style in my newer works.
I love to paint stars and outer space, faces and unique body poses, whimsical alien-like creatures, things in nature, and cute but slightly creepy animal characters.
What sort of themes do you find manifesting in your paintings?
Within this past year I have found myself creating works that are leaning towards the door to my imagination that I often pass through while creating or meditating. I often wind up painting images that represent a forward moving spiral, eyes with things coming out of them representing bringing ideas and visions into the physical, and various symbols and patterns the relate to the inner and unseen dimensions.
What is your favorite medium?
My favorite medium at the moment is acrylic paint. I love how fun it is to blend and layer.
What is the medium you find challenges you the most?
Oil paint is a challenge that I want to overcome. I’ve used oils only a few times in my life so far, and the colors managed to get muddy on my canvas each time. With my focus on progressing technique with acrylic paint, I haven’t tried oils in about seven years now. I plan on picking up oil paints sometime in the near future to help further my artistic rendering techniques.
What is a subject or medium that you would like to work with more?
I would love to have access to clay and a kiln again. When I was a teenager, building sculptures of surreal characters was more enjoyable for me than painting. I would love to make crazy eye-popping and surreal gumdrop laser beam face sculptures.
What is your process? Do you create an outline or a plan? Do you draw from a reference or from memory? Tell us a little bit about how you bring your imagery to life.
Depending on what I am working on, I will either do the painting unplanned and fully connect to flow, or lightly planned. The images that I create in my mind’s eye are very vivid and typically stick in my memory in order to transform into artwork. Most often, my paintings are created by picking a handful of colors that call out to me, and I begin covering the canvas with texture and blended colors. After the paint dries I start to add layers of paint to build whatever object or vision that comes to me based on what I have been experiencing around that time. More recently I have been trying to get my figures to look much more realistic, so I will either sketch out the person using a reference photo, or do a light outline with a projector. If there is any type of plan for a painting, you may be able to find a stick figure drawing in my sketch book to remind me of what my vision was.
The first time I live painted was in 2012 at the first Hyperion Music and Arts Festival in Spencer, IN. I was a little nervous because I had only seen people live paint a couple of times before and I typically would just paint at home. I was kind of nervous, but thankfully I had really good friends there to remind me that this experience was going to be great, and it absolutely was. Painting while surrounded by fun loving energies and so many beautiful people provided an atmosphere to paint in that felt encouraging and connected, and I felt as if that amplified the fluid “flow” of my painting. I met a bunch of great people while at my canvas, sold the painting I made during the festival, and heard Papadosio live for my first time. Little to say, I wanted to do this again.
Where have you live painted since then?
Since 2012, I have live painted at all sorts of fun events including every year of Hyperion, Rootwire Transformational Festival, Resonance Music Festival, Color Dance, Good People Good Times, Nightmare fest in Maryland, and many local Indianapolis events at places like the Indianapolis Zoo, The Mouse Trap, and recently a wedding in the woods.
I participated as a gallery artist and live painter at The Werk Out for my first time in 2016, and this was also my first time traveling out of Indiana to live paint and show my paintings in a gallery space. Almost immediately I met some truly inspiring and talented painters that I am happy to call friends, such as Ryan Byrd, Gavin Gerundo, Aaron Raybuck, Mike Hancock, and Lauren Schildberg among so many more. These dudes have such unique personalities and artistic styles and I continue to run into these folks in various states all thanks to our mutual love of painting. One of the best memories of my first time at Werk Out was coming from the art gallery down to the main stage at night, and seeing the huge crowd of live painters taking up a large space in between the two stages. Since the previous events I had done were smaller festivals and local shindigs, I had never seen so many people painting in one area before. A few tears rolled down my cheek as I took in the beauty of so much original creativity being emitted in one central area. Aside from painting, I have always enjoyed the late night stages and getting to here the Werks and Dopapod collaborate and put out all the best tunes to get down to.
What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
I love you, the Universe loves you, and you are here to create. Do not give up. If you think you messed up, or you’re unhappy with what’s on your canvas then try it again, or try it a different way. Find other artists that inspire you, and follow their work and their growth to promote more growth in your own work. I would recommend to take classes or workshops about building technique with the medium you’re wanting to use, and most definitely take workshops by the artists that you admire. No matter what amount of experience you have, there is always room to learn more and be better at your craft. If you can’t find the resources to take a workshop or class then you should get some books or watch Youtube videos on techniques to help improve what you’re trying to accomplish. Each person is different in how they learn, but my personal favorite way to learn is to just go for it, experiment what you’re doing, and remember that making art should be fun, and not stressful. Just go for it.