JF: My artwork sits somewhere between painting, drawing, and illustration. I really love surface pattern design—creating patterned artwork for things like textiles and packaging—but both my schooling and family’s background in fine arts have kept me sufficiently in love with paintings and drawings for the sake of making them.
JF: As far as style, it’s lots of abstract patterning with wonky shapes, and minimal architectural ink drawings. I feel like it’s not a stretch to use the word “obsessed” when describing my current fascination with parapets and battlements. These came from a period spent in Tuscany studying early Renaissance panel paintings. I was struck by their whimsical color palettes, dominated by golds and pinks, and their unusual ways of painting architectural structures and features. This translates, in simplest terms, to painting a lot of castles.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JF: This comes from a variety of sources, the most typical being paintings from the 1870s to the 1960s. That’s a wide range, but most of what I love—bold uses of color and shape—-falls in there. Museum visits really do it for me. Otherwise, I really love looking to 1960s and 70s film, textiles, interiors and graphic design. I think I like them because they feel unashamedly playful, bright, whimsical, but with the deliciously nostalgia that comes out with the film grain in photos of this time. I post a lot of this on my inspiration blog— www.julietfurst.tumblr.com
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
JF: I’ve had to train myself to think only about beginning… to borrow from and act on Nike’s slogan “Just Do It.” That might mean making a few quick sketches just to get my brain warmed up, or to actually begin a painting without planning it out much first. Once I’ve begun working, the piece is dictated by how “right” it feels, a concept described in the Gombrich book mentioned a few questions below.
JF: I want people to see something weird or slightly “off” and to find it tickling. This isn’t a new concept, but within illustration, maybe still a bit unorthodox. I think the weirder, the better. For me, this means drawing buildings or shapes that don’t really make sense, which is where they derive, I think, most of their appeal.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
JF: I’m working mostly on custom illustration projects and freelance photography, so those keep me busy the majority of the time, but otherwise it’s a lot of gallery openings, museum visits, and collaborating with other artists. I like reserving morning hours for making my own work. It’s really chill, while at the same time the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done. I’m not illustrating full-time yet, but it’s part-time and I’m SO happy with that at the moment.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
JF: I typically just begin by opening my sketchbook and forcing my hand to put pen to paper. Before beginning a painting, though, I like to make several quick sketches of different concepts. I think it also depends on the materials used. When working with egg tempera, it was necessary to plan a bit beforehand, whereas watercolors are a bit easier to come by and easier to use.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
JF: To keep going! That lame work, bad work, and clichéd work is better than no work. Not everything has to be published, submitted, exhibited, or even posted online if it’s any of the above. Making work is just a thing that has to be done, and done now. If not now, tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, this week. That can be a series of sketches or a painting. It doesn’t really matter, it just has to get done. Pushing myself into feeling this sense of urgency has been really helpful. It’s possible to whip yourself into shape while simultaneously allowing some time to breathe and collect thoughts and ideas, too, of course. This is a subtle art I’m not perfect at yet, but I’m working on it!
JF: I think styles change dramatically over the course of most artists’ careers, so I’m allowing mine to do the same. Taste also varies wildly, so along that line, I know that as long as someone somewhere is learning something or taking something from my work, I’ve done what I need to be doing. I ultimately make it because I love it myself and because I feel like I need to, but to a certain extent I do hope that it’s fun for other people to look at too.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
JF: The answer to that has never been what I might have expected in the past—that people wouldn’t take it seriously or something. The most difficult thing has actually been finding the brainpower required to be constantly coming up with new ideas, or new variations on the same ideas. It takes technical skill and knowledge of how one’s materials work, but also enough creativity to churn out enough ideas.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JF: I love that a huge part of my life are color, shape, pattern and line. They’re close friends of mine and each other’s. I love how far into my senses this pushes me. If my career is in a way built upon these, they’re always at the very front of my mind. Artists are fascinating creatures. Most are more than likely walking around the earth seeing nearly everything as moving shapes and colors, intensely aware of leaf shapes and shadow formations, wave ripple patterns, etc. I love knowing that it’s this way for other people too.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
JF: The artists who inspire me usually do so not necessarily because my art does or needs to look similar to theirs, but because their art evokes the feeling (an elusive lil’ thing, that feeling is) that I want mine to evoke. Those artists, mostly working during the 20th century, are Anni Albers, Philip Guston, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, and Paul Gauguin, to name a few that come to mind. I especially love the Impressionists and the early-Renaissance panel painters.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
JF: The technology of the last 20-25 years has revolutionized the art market and I feel very much indebted to it. Visibility no longer requires having an art catalogue feature, as we’ve now got personal websites, art blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc. for displaying our work and finding + connecting with other artists and potential clients. I’m overwhelmingly thankful to have modern technology available to me as I’m in this beginning career stage as an artist.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
JF: I think that among artists there’s a tendency to have a wide-eyed curiosity and fascination when encountering the everyday and the mundane, but this feeling isn’t limited to artists necessarily. Even if one doesn’t paint in a studio several days a week, I think he can use his work commute to trace lines and count shades of yellow passing his train car just as an artist might. It’s a sort of optimism about what the world in a few short minutes can offer your eyes, as well as an eagerness to see as much as your eyes will allow, without really having to see more than the average person, but rather seeing deeper.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
JF: I do! Berlin is fairly well-situated for short weekend trips, so I’ve enjoyed seeing some of Germany’s neighboring countries. I think Amsterdam and Vienna are two pretty dazzling cities. They have a special charm about them that come in just the right dosage for a traveler passing through. I think my ideal town, where I think I’ll end up living, is somewhere smaller and closer to the mountains. I’m from North Carolina, a state flanked on its western end by the Appalachian Mountains, so I don’t think I’ll never be able to forget how being there feels. For the moment, Berlin’s diverse and vibrant creative scene is just my cuppa’ tea, and I’d definitely count it as one of my favorites.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JF: I feel like I have to at least mention E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art. It’s a good introduction to the art history timeline, and never fails to elicit wonder in me as I read what feels like something so juicy and rich it can only be a work of fiction. And then it reminds me…surprise! It’s not. Art’s just that cool.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
JF: I’d really like to continue exhibiting, collaborating with other artists, and selling in stores. The next big dream is to have a line of clothing up and running, in addition to the prints, pins, and other products I currently have for sale. I’m working on the designs for those fabrics at the moment. I think the ultimate goal in mind is to have companies approach me to design patterns and illustrations for their products. I LOVE the concept of merging themes and businesses—-eg. skate shoe brands, breweries, chocolatiers, fashion labels, etc. using funky artists’ patterns on their clothing and packaging.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
JF: In the visual arts at least, I think it’s employing all or one of these elements—- color, shape, line, pattern, value, space, and texture—-to create something that wouldn’t have existed without the artist’s own hand and mind. Art has taken many forms by now, so it’s perhaps a bit more complicated to define than it was five centuries ago, or even two centuries ago. Nonetheless, I think central to it is using very basic elements of the things we see to create something either wildly different or subtly different from what it began as or what we have already seen existing in nature.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
JF: Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay. It’s a goodie.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
JF: Just going to name themes as they come to me—- quirky, lopsided, unusual, playful. I think that covers it!