Illustrated by Julia Mann
The other day I was enjoying a refreshing swim at one of the many lovely cold springs in Austin with my friend Julia. As I was listening to her talk about her love for painting, I couldn’t help but notice the way her face lit up as she talked about her art. It was evident that painting was something that brought her tremendous joy. I thought to myself: She is talking about painting the way I feel about writing!
Then I wondered: Maybe everyone has something like this, something they deeply love and feel passionate about? And if so, why not use my writing to highlight this love and share it with others? My prayer is that in reading this, you will be encouraged to seek and create beauty in your own life, if not for any other reason than to nourish your soul. Thank you, Julia, for being my first interviewee and my source of inspiration! (All of the works featured here are hers…isn’t she amazing?!?!).
And now, I’d like to present to you…sketch artist, illustrator and muralist:
When did you first know you loved to draw?
Gosh, I have memories of drawing ever since I was little, probably 5 or 6 years old. We moved to Switzerland when I was 6, and that’s when I really remember falling in love with drawing. My parents bought me my first set of colored pencils and I just loved them. I still use many of them to this day (some are just little stumps now!).
I first started out drawing by using a book of stickers. I would look at the image on the sticker, then re-draw it. And that’s pretty much how it went from then on – re-drawing anything and everything I saw. Pretty soon I was redrawing comic strip characters like Garfield or characters from Disney movies. I taught myself how to shade with colored pencils.
What drew you to it?
I felt like drawing was something I was actually good at, something that not everyone else could do. I felt unique.
How does it make you feel as you draw?
I am taken to another place. I call it my ‘safe place.’ It’s peaceful, and I can forget about everything else around me and just immerse myself in my art.
Is there a spiritual component to your art? Explain.
Yes, definitely. Many times before I am painting a big piece, like a mural, I will pray over the artwork. I pray things like: God, show me how to paint this like You want it to be. Help me paint this. Let it be blessing to everyone who sees it.
When I got the illustration job for my book, My Santa, I filled an entire journal with pages of my prayers for the illustrations I was about to design, draw, and color. With every piece I work on, I try to put Him first and seek His guidance and direction in the act of creating.
How do you hope others respond to your art?
I hope that it makes them smile. Especially children. I love seeing their faces as they walk into their bedroom and see what I have painted on their wall. Or when moms, nursery workers and church members see one of my murals on their building. It’s so humbling to hear about church staff members who have kept artwork that I made for Vacation Bible School sets many, many years ago!
I also hope that I inspire others to try art as well. To follow their heart, if it’s something they love and want to pursue.
Who are the artists who have inspired you the most?
When I was little, I was deeply insired by Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss, and Shel Silverstein. I loved their writing and illustration styles. I love anything done by Walt Disney—the original Mickey Mouse cartoons and animated movies. I watched them all the time, along with the Looney tunes cartoons.
More recently, I discovered Hayo Miyazaki (famous director of animation studio, Studio Ghibli). His movies blew me away with his use of color and characters. I can watch his movies over and over again. They are just so beautiful, especially his backgrounds. He takes the time to slow down and show real life, like people eating meals together (which we don’t have a lot of in American films!). His art transports me into a different world. I also love John Lassatter of Pixar. His story is amazing and he has done unbelievable things in animation.
What does it look like to practice your craft on a typical day?
Well, I don’t have a lot of free time these days, but I make it a goal to draw something everyday. With 2 small kids, that doesn’t always happen. But I try to draw during nap time or after the kids go to bed at night. Every couple of weeks or so, I get away for a few hours and use that time to draw. Right now, I’ve been doing a “lunch box” drawing for my son at school. He loves getting a new drawing in his lunchbox every school day and now gives me requests on what to draw next. It’s a great way to keep me drawing.
How do you make time for it now?
It’s definitely not easy. I’m trying to be gracious with myself and the fact that I’m a mom and right now, that’s my number 1 job. Whatever I’m working on, I know I might end up using later on down the road when my kids are older and I have more free time. So for now, I just take whatever time I can get and be thankful for that!
What does it look like for you to continue to grow and improve your art?
I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading books about artists that I love, character design and illustration books, following blogs and reading interviews or listening to podcasts of animators and children’s book illustrators/writers. I find it really helpful and encouraging to realize that most artists struggle with feeling like they are never good enough and they constantly want to improve and learn more.
How do you wrestle with the desire/need to make money and the desire to create out of pure enjoyment?
I’m trying to do both, but it’s hard. I try to make sure whatever project I’m working on, that I’m enjoying it, as if I were creating it for myself. I have heard, from many other artists, that your art is changed when you are doing it to make money and create what others want as opposed to painting what you love and find to be beautiful.
What would you tell someone who is a budding artist following in your footsteps?
Follow your dreams and don’t give up! Keep at it. None of us think that we are any good, so don’t listen to that negative voice in your head. Every artist is fearful and scared of rejection. We need to face those fears. I don’t want to go through life and regret not trying it out. I’m so thankful I listened to my art professor in college and switched majors. I can’t imagine how miserable I would have been if I had stayed in biology and worked in a lab the rest of my life. It wasn’t for me and I knew it. Listen to that voice. Trust it.
If you believe in a heaven and it is a place where you will get to use your artistic ability to the fullest capacity, what do you imagine that would look like?
What a fantastic question! I can’t even begin to imagine how incredible it will be. To be able to create exactly what I think of, without making any mistakes. To not be held back by fears and being worried about rejection anymore! To have a palette of color for use that is beyond anything we can see here on earth. Just absolute perfection and beauty. And then to also be able to be right there, learing from the masters of art who have gone before us! How amazing that will be! Makes me excited for Heaven!
To learn more about artist Julia Mann and her works…check out her website.