Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Colorful World of Artist Julia Forsyth

It used to be that there were two ways to discover contemporary artists. Either you read about them in one of the contemporary art magazines, or you travelled enough to see a range of galleries and museums beyond your own locale. With the advent of the Internet this has definitely all changed, especially with the development of the new social media. Artists not only have websites, they have work in online galleries, and on their blogs. They form communities on Facebook and Ning that inspire and encourage others, and share their work on Flickr and Twitter, which is how I came across Julia Forysth. Her bright spirit shown through her colorful pieces and I asked if she would share some of herself here.

Ennyman: When did you first realize you were more creative than some people and decide to pursue art?

Julia Forsyth: It was bluntly pointed out to me!

I was taking my first drafting class for interior design freshman year at Baylor University. I was also taking my first drawing class at the same time. I enjoyed both classes but liked my drawing class even more. My drafting instructor wrote what I thought was a very strange yet telling comment on one of my completed drafting assignments. I vividly depicted a wood pattern on some furniture I chose for this particular assignment. My teacher wrote, 'Too creative!!' as that assignment's only critique, and she circled the wood grain I drew. That seemed funny to me that being too creative in a class where you draw and use imagination could ever seem like a problem. At that moment I realized that my apparently overabundant creativity would be valued the most studying painting, so that's what I did. I graduated with a BFA in painting from Baylor four years later.

Even deciding to study painting was a leap of faith since my only painting experience before my first college class consisted of one painting in oils and working in gouache and watercolors on various projects in high school. I liked drawing but was head over heels in love with all of the paintings we were studying in art history. I knew there was a good chance I would really like learning to paint since I loved learning about and looking at other artists' paintings so much. After taking my first acrylic class, I knew it was something I would want to do for a long time.

E: It's obvious you love color. Have you always worked this way, creating large colorful surfaces?

JF: One of my earliest color memories was from when I was 5 years old. I recall remembering how compatible I thought red and pink were. Color excites and fascinates me. It's amazing how each color can be seen one way individually, another way when it's next to a contrasting color, still another way when outlined in black, and yet another way when multiple colors are viewed together in a pattern. Several paints I use from the tube (my core color palette that recurs in each painting), and other lighter colors I mix fresh for each painting.

I enjoy exploring different colors, patterns, and experimenting with how different color and pattern combos work when they're next to each other in every painting. When I was learning how to work with oil paints as a medium in my painting classes, I worked in very muted colors (mainly whites and navies) and blended them into each other throughout the paintings. (BTW, these early muted oil paintings were all abstract, as well.) Then I painted some transitional abstract oil paintings in the blended method but I amped up my colors to full saturation. From that point on, I transitioned further by dropping the blended element of my earlier works but maintaining the fully saturated colors within semi-abstract figure-based paintings. The black outline further emphasized both the shapes painted and the colors within the shapes.

While on vacation in Santa Fe, NM, earlier this year, I made two changes in one experimental work. The size was smaller than usual, measuring 5" x 7", and the subject was a desert landscape instead of having one or more people as the subject. So far this one painting is my only small painting. My largest painting measures 36" x 72", and my two favorite-sized canvases to paint are 24" x 36" and 36" x 48".

E: Who were your early inspirations?

JF: By far, the amazing paintings and drawings of Georgia O'Keefe still inspire me as much today as they did when she was the first artist I studied in depth. Other influences include (deep breath) Ancient Egyptian art, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, my 2nd favorite Fauvist Maurice de Vlaminck, Paolo Uccello, El Greco, Edvard Munch, Marc Chagall, Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, Antoni Gaudi, William H. Johnston's paintings from 1940-1944, bold Islamic geometric patterns, detailed classic Hawaiian quilt designs, Joseph Cornell's boxes, and Howard Finster's crazy paintings.

E: Who are your favorite artists today and why?

JF: David Bates has been one of my favorite artists for a while - and my very favorite living artist. Something about David's prominent use of the color black and exaggerated forms in his paintings captivates me. He's just as talented in sculpture as he is in painting, and his Seated Man sculpture series is incredible. Joan Mitchell, 1926-1992, painted colorful abstract paintings that catch my attention and make me look for a long time.

I've become active on Twitter for less than a year, but Twitter really surprised me with such an active visual arts community full of talented artists. It's so encouraging and energizing to know that prolific, talented artists like Alison Jardine (@alisonjardine), Laura Guese (@lauraguese), Annick McKenzie (@annickmckenzie) and so many others are there sharing their work and day to day happenings as artists. David Pringle, a photographer on Twitter, organized an Art Swap (#artswap2010) for visual artists on Twitter to physically send artwork and receive artwork internationally from 62 different countries. I participated in that and loved seeing the other artists' artwork.

E: I see you've been in some juried shows. Where else can people see your work?

JF: Well, if you had a time machine, you could set it for 1998-2002 and hop in for my first chapter of creative output. 1998 was the year that my work made the jump from local membership shows to several juried shows. Three of my paintings were selected by the Kimbell Art Museum Director Ted Pillsbury at 500X Gallery in Dallas, TX, for the Expo 98 Juried Exhibit. I was included in several juried shows from 1998 onward and won multiple awards and cash prizes during that time.

Two solo painting exhibits culminated this beginning chapter of creativity. My first solo painting exhibition was shown in 2002 at the Union Gallery at The University of North Texas. My second solo painting exhibition, also in 2002, was at The Studio Gallery in Dallas, Texas.

I went back to school for two years, then my husband and I started our family in 2004. Since then, I've painted a commission painting and continued finding the balance between raising a family and painting. Now that our children are 6 years old and 4 years old, it's much easier than it was when they were infants. This year alone I've completed four new paintings.

So I'm continuing to paint and prepare for my next painting exhibit, but at the moment, my paintings are seen by appointment in my home studio.

E: What are you currently working on that excites you and why?

JF: I grew very attached to my latest commission painting, so I decided to paint a somewhat similar painting for myself when I completed my client’s commission. Now I'm working on my own mixed media piece with cut aluminum foil attached to sections of the painting. It's fun to see where this is leading me.

E: Any advice for young people interested in pursuing an art career?

JF: I've learned how important it is to stay active in sketching things that interest you daily if possible, attending as many museum and gallery exhibits as you can manage, researching artists who interest you, and surrounding yourself with other artists will nourish you creatively.

Even from the mid-90's to now, changes benefiting the artist have taken place. Previously, the main path to exhibiting your artwork was based on getting representation and resulting shows from an art gallery. Now artists can sell their own work through their artist website or online through Ebay, Etsy, Red Bubble, etc. There are still lots of benefits with being represented in a gallery, but now there are other options too. Also, the Internet has leveled the playing field and a prolific, talented, even self-taught artist can do very well.

To get experience exhibiting your art, look into the local art museum members' shows and alternative galleries like a show at a restaurant. I showed at three restaurants locally right after I graduated from Baylor. My most successful restaurant art show sold seven paintings and lead to two commission paintings and a write up in the Dallas Observer newspaper. Beware, however, that a restaurant's main concern isn't your artwork. One of my paintings was stolen right off the wall at a restaurant show, and another was damaged.

E: A lot of us have shown our work in public spaces, so thanks for the warning! And thanks for your time...

To see more of Julia's original work, visit


Ed Newman said...

Julia Forsyth was today mentioned as one of 21 Artists to Watch In Twitter in 2010. More about this in tomorrow's blog post. Congrats, Julia!

Julia Forsyth said...

Thanks so much for taking your time as an artist to shift gears and talk with me for this post! I appreciate it.

Ed Newman said...

You bet... Thanks for your time as well. Keep pressing on. Your work is very interesting.

Popular Posts