If you made it to the Tampa Indie Flea or another event last month, you doubtless noticed among the various vendors and attendees, a collection of works hanging on the walls throughout the theater. 8-Count Studios at the Rialto is proud to present the work of Julianne French, a mixed-media artist from Jacksonville Florida with a penchant for architecture. Recently, she took some time out of her busy week to chat about life and work, being an artist in Florida, and discovering the reasons behind the innate desire to create.
Julianne grew up in Florida, where she first studied for her BA in art history before going to New York City for her MFA. New York is a creative mecca, which makes it a desirable location for any young artist seeking to make a career out of creativity. The New York program was strict; drawing and painting classes focused on human anatomy and structural drawing, drawing boxes for heads and shoulders, realistic interpretations that left little room for creativity. Julianne found it difficult to see how the regimented practice of figurative artwork would be useful in her future creative work.
“We were doing structural drawing, so boxes in place of heads and shoulders, building the figure before actually drawing it.”
After completing her time in New York, Julianne made the decision to return to Florida. Why would she leave such a creative area at the beginning of her career? She was nervous about coming back to the south, but made the decision to be closer to a significant part of her life: family.
Julianne began working her art in Florida in 2005. It took some time for her to get her bearings with student loans before she could get into the studio and start producing work and applying to shows. Julianne realized that once you graduate no one cares if you make it or not, and so she took personal responsibility for her career. In 2009 she seriously pursued her work, stating that it took 4-5 years for her to feel comfortable putting work out.
For recent graduates of art programs this is relieving news. Oftentimes students are burnt out after art school. To find oneself graduated, entirely responsible for one’s own career, and entirely “done” with making art is a scary cocktail of negativity.
Julianne began networking, making contacts in Jacksonville and elsewhere, and getting her work featured in shows. She cites the Internet as a game-changer. Now an artist’s work can be seen from anywhere. You don’t “have to” live in a place like New York City to be seen.
In 2009 Julianne started focusing on architecture. With an artist’s eye Julianne dissects buildings into parts, much like she was required to do with the human form during school. By breaking large complex structures into manageable pieces she sees things others miss. Julianne feels the human form can be seen in architecture and that breaking apart and segmenting the structure provides a new view: an interesting pattern, repetition.
“I don’t want the viewer to immediately recognize what it is.”
Julianne uses many techniques to produce her work, both traditional and digital. Photoshop is paired with transfer techniques and hand drawing. Julianne uses photos from her travels, scanning them into Photoshop to push and pull the lights and darks. The result is an image devoid of grey and consisting of black and white graphic aesthetic. She then enlarges and prints them out to employ a mixture of transfer methods and hand drawing.
The end result is a layered image that works to dramatic effect which often captures gritty textures that give the image’s subject a timeless feel. The black and white, high-contrast imagery is striking and looks fantastic behind a black frame.
Discussing the subject of architecture led Julianne to divulge her theories, bringing added clarity to her choice of subject matter. For her, architecture speaks of ancient cultures, classical works and icons. Architecture, with its longevity, takes viewers back to an age long-gone and Julianne is fascinated by the concepts of ancient knowledge, the beginnings of the written language, and iconography. Fascination, coupled with a deeper, innate and unexplainable desire to create, are the sources that Julianne French draws from to produce her work. Our interview was summed up nicely by a quote from Hippocrates that Julianne heard in school.
“Art is long. Life is short.”
Julianne lives and works in Jacksonville Florida. She spoke of local downers lamenting the fact that Jacksonville will “never be an L.A.” but Julianne feels Jacksonville shouldn’t have to be another L.A. It’s unique in its own way. Jacksonville boasts the Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as a monthly “Artwalk” through downtown. There is an art community there that’s doing just fine. Julianne French lives in a house built in 1899. Her studio is upstairs and she can often be found there, with a cat or two.
Written by Phillip Andrew Leslie