Jules Julien creates dramatic painterly portraits from code

Often working in just one colour, the French illustrator’s approach sees him zoom in with perfectly rendered detail.

Date
22 October 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

As you can probably tell by looking at Jules Julien’s most recent series, colour is hugely important and influential in his artistic practice. A series of highly detailed illustrations, each made using vector software, Jules’ eye builds up portraits in cascading palettes of red. “I have been a bit obsessed with colour for a while,” admits the French illustrator.

Working as an art director for over decade – until “I was disturbed by the purpose of this work: consumption” – Jules made the decision to spend his time with “my favourite activity, creating with no other purpose than my own work and pleasure,” he says. After this bold move, luck (and hard work) appears to be on the now-illustrator’s side, as a year since making this decision, Jules is busier than ever, working on illustration commissions alongside personal pieces.

The most recent of which is Red Glow, a personal project which feels aptly representative of the attention to detail that appears across the illustrator’s portfolio. In what Jules himself describes as “minimal and emotional at the same time,” the creative often finds himself working with only one colour, each having “its own force and personality”. Utilising one colour’s palette to focus heavily on a person or object in a series, Jules’ work will often zoom into “details or tight shots where there is no action or movement,” he tells It’s Nice That. In turn this communicates “A close up view on people to accentuate the sensation of privacy,” for example, also highlighting other qualities such as “their sensuality, their beauty and the power of their skin”. The result are pieces which almost look like “marble statues” as Jules describes, following his aim to “praise the beauty of the human body.”

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

Red Glow in its harsh and constrained use of red came from a place of wanting to understand why he seems to keep returning to the colour, what it evokes in himself and in others too. Describing red as a symbol of both desire and violence, the pieces in the series are an attempt to represent both of these feelings, “like they are separate snapshots of the same scene,” he adds. A system he has adopted in other series, “I see them like a messy storyboard which gives room to the viewer’s imagination, something like the game Cluedo.”

As mentioned above, each of the pieces in Red Glow are created using vector software. “I like that my works are not physical in the first place, but just a code,” the illustrator explains. Working by hand, “but with a mouse rather than a pen”, unless the final pieces are printed “it’s just a combination of ones and zeroes.” A long winded process, it can take days for Jules to complete one piece, adding to “their wholeness by the perfection of its rendering,” he says. Working at a snail’s pace in a high speed world is also an act of personal resistance for the illustrator, taking time to reach a level he’s happy with. Perspective also plays a huge part in the series, shifting the viewers eye from piece to piece. “It also accentuates the power of this colour,” adds the illustrator. “It is not a colour to which the eye needs to go to, it’s a colour that jumps over your eyes.”

Working on the series while shifting his own life to work from home in recent months, Red Glow also grew out of Jules seeing his work from a new perspective. Usually alone in the studio, the illustrator now shares his working space with his husband at home. “My work was a kind of way to escape from myself before,” he explains, “but this year I use it to escape from my surroundings.” Tuning out of daily life by listening to music, the illustrator also adds that opera music, notably Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, has inspired the richness of this work – another example of current working conditions influencing creativity in unexpected ways.

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

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Jules Julien: Red Glow (Copyright © Jules Julien, 2020)

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

lb@itsnicethat.com

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