Juliana Neufeld is an award winning illustrator and mixed media artist living in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been inspired by the whimsy of children’s illustration, journal art and an obsession with textiles. Her work has been showcased in galleries in Japan, France, Los Angeles and across Canada. Some of her clients include The Globe and Mail, Element Skateboards and Arts and Crafts Records.
Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my mother’s collection of old childrens books from the 40’s and 50’s, so I think I’ve developed a nostalgia and love for the worlds in those books, which has kind of found its way into my work. I gravitate towards whimsical character based illustration… children, monsters, animals, but with a darker touch. I also love animation. I dig the idea of my finished product looking like a moment from a larger story, but without all the specifics.
Q2. How do you approach starting a new project?
If it’s client directed work, I’ll do some image research, make some preliminary sketches and just mess around – whatever medium gets my brain running. I work best when I don’t overthink the work, which is why its super important I do the planning and research first. Then I can give my brain some leeway to run around. Sometimes I work in pencil and sometimes I go straight for watercolor… still a sketch, but with a different, looser finish. When something sticks, then I redraw a new refined sketch on a larger scale and then I get right to painting. I used to do most of my work digitally, and sometimes time constraints force me to go to the computer, but lately I’ve been trying to do all my work in watercolor and ink. My lines and decision making feel less forced with watercolor.
With personal work, I just jump in. Sometimes the journal sketch ends up being fleshed out with color and it becomes the final piece. Sometimes it starts in a journal and if the idea has some kind of pull or power to it, I’ll try to recreate it with more considered decisions for a final piece.
Q3. What is most important to you when working on a piece?
It’s important to me that I always respect my own creative voice when I’m doing personal work. I have a tendency to be hard on myself, constantly questioning if my work has relevance, and wondering if I should bring my work in more abstract directions. The designer in me wants to try everything and be everything and I so I have to remind myself that I can still appreciate a variety of styles of work, without feeling the pressure to try to execute them all.
Q4. What’s the role of sketching in your creative process?
Sketching has a huge roll in my work. It gives me a place where I can make mistakes and try out line and color combinations without feeling the pressure to make a final piece. Trying to translate something that worked in a sketchbook without losing the looseness and charm can be difficult, but when it works, it feels amazing.
Q5. Weapon of choice (favorite materials)?
India ink and watercolor are my top two favorite weapons. I love the smooth gradations and transitions from one color to another that you can achieve with watercolor. You can keep layering and layering. My wacom tablet has also been a crazy, crazy game changer.
Q6. Do you have a favourite place outside of your workspace that you like to go to sketch?
My apartment. I basically spend most of my evenings with a cat or a sketchbook on my lap, watching a movie or listening to a podcast. Sometimes I try drawing at a coffee shop, but I usually get self-conscious.
Q7. Your favourite procrastination pastime?
Checking art/design blogs, bike rides, coffee breaks with other non nine-to-fiver’s.
Q8. What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
I listen to a bunch of podcasts. NPR’s Radio Lab and This American Life, Savage Love and CBC’s WireTap, and lots of old blues, jazz and reggae. The trojan tighten up box set is amazing!
Q9. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Artists’ sketchbooks, Old black and white cartoons, postures and facial expressions… weird daily life moments. My friends who are hustling to make their love a living.
Q10. If you weren’t a professional artist, what would you be doing?
Probably teaching? Art classes or creating extra curricular art programs for kids.
Huge thanks to Juliana for providing so many awesome photos and for taking the time to do this interview.
Don’t forget to stop by Juliana’s site!
All images ©2011 Juliana Neufeld