Award winning artist Julie Gilbert Pollard can be found as at home with watercolor, acrylic or oil painting. She has been teaching over 20 years and has brought that artistic knowledge to three books and several video workshops (including the three we carry here.) For Pollard, it’s not just about capturing the world, but instead she wants to convey her reverence for that world.When did you become interested in art?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in art and being an artist. It’s always been an important part of my personality and identity.
What inspires you?
The natural world is what inspires me most. It’s hard to explain – I just love it and want to paint it.
Did you go to art school? How did it prepare you for a life as an artist? How did it not prepare you?
I treated a local community college like a trade school and took only art classes. Four semesters of life drawing was the best thing I did as it teaches you to really see and appreciate the beauty of all shapes. It’s awfully hard to draw and paint something if you don’t know how to really see it.How long did it take you before you felt like you could call yourself an artist? Was that a long and hard transition to make or was it a quick one? Do you think it's important for artists to call themselves artists?
I think all aspiring artists call themselves “artists” long before becoming professional and so did I. The word “artist” is more a statement about our identity in this world than what we do or how well we do it. The term “professional artist” is a bit different.
Earlier in your life, before becoming a full-time artist, how did you find the time to paint? Was that a struggle? How did you balance “life” and “art”?
As a young mother I wasn’t able to paint. Instead I did craft projects with my daughters. It wasn’t exactly “art” but it fulfilled that need somewhat and it was such a fun thing for us to do together.
How did you approach learning to paint? Was it self-instructed? How did you use teachers, art videos and books to direct your learning process?
When I was young I drew all the time – anything that would hold still, and my family members often posed for me. It was always pretty easy for me to get a good likeness. That early drawing practice still stands me in good stead. However, I was very chagrined to learn that, although drawing is a huge part of painting, being able to draw does not mean that you will automatically be able to paint. Paint is a whole different animal with many more parts to it that need to be learned. That was a pretty big stumbling block for a while.
What advice would you give about self-teaching to someone who wants to learn to paint?
If you can, get some quality instruction. I am mostly self-taught. I really believe that the right mentorship would have helped me progress a lot faster.
How much time do you spend painting now? Do you set a weekly or daily schedule or do you just see where the week takes you?
Due to the classes and workshops I conduct and the North Light Books and Videos I write, illustrate and prepare for, my actual painting time is limited, though often the books, etc. actually makeme paint! That’s the good news. It’s really the administrative tasks that are required in any business that are the major limiting factors to painting time. It’s hard to achieve a good balance between the two but both are required so I just do my best. I often pull “all nighters” in order to get it all done.
Have you ever changed mediums you work in? What did the new medium say that you couldn’t express in the previous medium?
I work in three mediums: oil, watercolor and acrylic. I like to alternate between mediums and alternate between transparent and opaque methods – I like to think it keeps me on my toes. I love both and wouldn’t be able to give up either.What type of images move you to paint? Do you paint from reference photos? From memory? How do you approach a piece? Do you work through thumbnails before beginning or do you go directly to the page?
I paint from photos most often, and mostly because of the impracticality of plein air painting and my schedule. My favorite subject matter is water, rocks and flowers. When I can put all three in the same painting I’m a very happy painter! I often do preliminary studies – I think they can and should be fun. Fun is good as it makes it a lot easier to do and the studies are so helpful. Often I paint an abstract painting as a study for a realistic painting or even a small painting as a study for a larger painting of the same subject. It’s all fun!
Do you work on more than one painting at a time? Describe your process.
I usually have several paintings going on at once, mostly due to many paintings begun as demonstrations that I want to finish.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
I find that getting that final balance in a painting to be the hardest part of the painting. When it still feels balanced after not looking at it for several days, that’s a good sign that the painting is finished. But sometimes I won’t see a problem in a painting for longer than that – very aggravating! When I do see a problem, I fix it if the painting is still in my possession!
How can less experienced artists find their style?
Learn the nuts and bolts of your chosen medium until their use becomes second nature. Your personal style is a combination of your natural handwriting, subject choices, color choices, likes, dislikes, etc. It will all come through in your work gradually as you build your foundation of the fundamentals.
How do you market your art?
Do you teach?
I teach weekly classes locally and workshops in various out of state areas.
Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years? Any hopes and dreams?
I would love to do fewer administrative tasks and more painting!
In closing, what one or two pieces of advice would you like to give to newer artists?
Paint because you love painting – have fun!
Learn more about Pollard's workshops:
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