The thing that so often draws us into an illustrator’s portfolio is a sense of perspective. It’s an opportunity for us to see the world as that person sees it and with its over exaggerated sense of scale, proportion and with a range of points of view, this was certainly the case when we came across the work of Julia Rose Barnes. Born and raised in New Jersey and now based in Philadelphia where she’s completing her final year at the University of the Arts, Julia is an expressive, idiosyncratic and intuitive illustrator.
“I’m a traditional artist, so a big part of the joy in working with the medium I do is the physical nature of it,” she explains, “I have to work with my materials, the materials react on the paper, with each other, and I have to respond.” Working with gouache, Prismacolor, graphite pencils and oil pastels, Julia places importance on marks and energy, rather than defined outcomes, imbuing her work with a liveliness and vivacity.
When it comes to what, and who, she draws, “people, places, animals, plants, daily activities and interactions,” fill her sketchbook. “Aspects of our natural world are what amaze me endlessly,” Julia adds. Although her colourful works could lead you to think otherwise on first inspection, Julia’s subjects are mundane, snippets of her everyday life. “I think it’s necessary to send out those reminders to anyone that may see my work, that there’s a lot of magic we don’t always see through the ever-present muck.”
In one piece, Julia’s hand appears holding a sketchbook, a drawing of a street filling a double page spread, while the actual street sits far below her. It’s a work which demonstrates Julia’s aptitude for manipulating perspective. While her hand appears larger-than-life, the people moving below are reduced to mere lines. “I think that skewing things such as perspective and proportion can almost make a picture feel as if it has more energy and liveliness to it than a perfect drawing that’s anatomically realistic may have,” she says. “It’s characteristics like playing with perspective that makes a person’s art unique to their mind and hand.”
Coincidentally, this very drawing marked a change in Julia’s approach to the medium. Having previously stayed away from using graphite in order to avoid blacks or greys in her work, she found she “wasn’t able to translate the textures and shading [she] was receiving in [her] sketches solely from coloured pencils.” Opting to include the darker tones in this instance proved successful, altering her process and allowing to become the instinctual illustrator she now is. She concludes, “[it] showed me I shouldn’t have to hold such rules to myself, and if I’m drawn to a material, I shouldn’t be afraid to use it for my work.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.