“I’ve been into art since I could grip a pen…or a piece of sidewalk chalk,” says artist Julia Johnson. Illustration was her first love, introduced to her by her mother, who is an artist herself! Julia’s childhood was peppered with artistic influences, such as children’s books showcasing famous paintings, and she experimented with several different artistic mediums, including photography, stenciling, painting, knitting/crochet, and more. But she always circled back to black and white illustration. Sculpture is now a large part of her work, as well, and what drew her to it was the way she learned to cast shadow to create “lines.”
Much of Julia’s most recent work consists of line illustrations and flower sculptures. The sculptures came about as a byproduct of her 2011 senior thesis, which was an interactive calendar product design. A professor recommended the same waterproof, tear-proof synthetic paper for this project that she still uses today, called Yupo.
She started experimenting with abstract floral forms in 2012. “The forms and folds used in my current sculptural work are rooted in the experience of designing that thesis product,” she tells us, “so you could say every floral sculpture has been a riff on that. The heat and coloring applications I currently use were developed in the following years.”
Julia finds much of her inspiration in viewing other artists’ pieces of work. “The most inspiring experience for me is to attend a fine art show,” she says. At art events, she describes the concentration of energy as artists’ work meets enthusiastic patrons as “electric.” Art shows only come around once or twice a year, so she turns to natural history museums for another great place to foster inspiration. “Organic formations such as fossils, bones, plants, and (of course) flowers always catch my eye,” she explains.
More artists she admires include Patricia Urquiola, recommended by her mom, and Dale Chihuly. “I have viewed [Urquiola’s] Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition at least five times! Lately I’ve been looking at Dale Chihuly for sculptural inspiration, particularly his large sculptures,” Julia says of her artistic influences.
As inspiration hits, the medium Julia uses depends on what she’d like to create. For something expressive and abstract, she turns to sculpture. “I tend to sketch first, but sometimes you just have to ‘make the thing’ before the feeling evaporates. If I’m inspired to work in color, which is much less frequent, it’s usually a quick, energetic application,” she says about her process.
Exhibits and Current Projects
Julia’s latest project s a stunning floral sculpture and designed for placement on a large brick wall in the lobby of a hospital. The display consists of two “sister” pieces, each measuring 4.5 x 7.5 feet. (One piece is shown below.)
“The client was looking for an assembly of floral forms that echoed the hospital’s brand with gray accenting. On a technical level, we were working within depth parameters, so I used these gray accents to enhance that. It was important that the pieces had a soft, peaceful feel and my goal in creating them was to bring some tranquility to the space. The compositions are purposefully asymmetrical, not at all visually challenging but rather free-flowing. I truly hope that future viewers of the pieces can find a brief moment of calm in front of them,” Julia shares.
Since 2016, Julia has exhibited in 13 shows and events in Delaware, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania and looks forward to the next opportunity to display her unique and gorgeous work alongside other talented artists.