Featured Member: Julia Rix
Interview by Karen Hunter McLaughlin
Julia Rix earned an M.Ed. in Art Education from Tyler School of Art and taught Art, English, and ESL for Abington School District for 11 years. Her watercolor paintings have won awards at both the Abington Art Center and the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. She currently teaches the Drawing Workout class at the Abington Art Center and is a member of the local artists’ cooperative Artessa Alliance (formerly members of MamaCITA).
Karen- In the past year and a half you have started a few personal art making initiatives, such as your 30 in 30 project, which you used your blog to share. Have you found these projects helpful in your art making practice?
Julia- Yes! Deadlines are very motivating, so I made up some of my own! I realize that the structure of these types of projects harmonizes with my natural working patterns. First, I’m a teacher. I’ve designed many projects whose primary goal is to motivate the creation of meaningful work, so I turned these powers on myself. Second, I was a Division I college athlete (Go Georgetown Lacrosse!). I survived some physical training that took me to the next level. Some tasks were so hard that I just needed to surrender and do it. Some say that painting and publishing a painting every day for 30 days is crazy, myself included. But what I desired (and got) was a structure where I surrendered my overthinking to simple daily practice.
Along the way I stumbled upon a use of social media that allows me to share my work with others. As an artist, this is the core of my mission. I want my work to communicate with people in my world. So, not only do I have a way to show people my work, they also write comments about how the work connects to them! That is awesome! I am filled with gratitude.
K- You’ve recently moved from full time teaching to full-time art making. What drove that decision? How’s it going?
J- That’s a tough one. That transition took a lot of soul searching and negotiation. I really liked my job teaching middle school art and ESL. I put my heart into it and I think I learned to do it well. The only problem was I felt a calling. As a wife and mother of young children, working full time while stubbornly making the art I needed to do…I was pulling myself apart at the seams.
I always wanted to be an artist. It’s an idea that I first felt in childhood. It resurfaced during my college years, then went underground again while I made a “practical” application of it. I just didn’t have the tools to deal with the uncertainty of the field and, at the same time, I found other things that I could do.
Life is short and I realize that I want to be focusing not on what I can do, but what I feel put on this earth to do. Full-time art making is challenging! It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I love it!
Between making art, teaching at the Abington Art Center, blogging…and dropping off/picking up the kids, I am keeping busy. I am fulfilling a dream by having my first solo show at Elcy’s Cafe (April 1 – May 12, 2016), I am collaborating with my husband Josh and fellow member artist Teresa Shields at a Trunk Show ( April 8- April 9) at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts Shop in Elkins Park, and I’m getting started with marrying my two loves of writing and art making by pursuing a picture book illustration project!
K- A lot of your work seems steeped in apiology. Can you tell us about your interest in bees and why/how it influences your art?
J- I think it all began with a nature journal I began with my son when he was about 4 years old. We observed a grasshopper eating a leaf on a pumpkin vine while on a walk in our neighborhood. This initiated a series of projects where we sought to learn about nature in our immediate environment.
The bees came into the picture the summer we planted a butterfly garden. We didn’t get many butterflies but our plants attracted beautiful bumble bees…and hummingbirds! I take lots of photos with my DSLR that act as an inspiration for my art making. The more I learn about these pollinators and their current plight the more fascinated I become. Supporting them aligns with my concerns for the environment and I hope that by raising awareness and appreciation for the natural environment through my artwork I can contribute to a constantly improving future. I do believe that we are stewards of the Earth, whether we realize it or not.
The act of discovery defines my practice as a printmaker, painter, and educator.
K- Tell us about your work with our artist collective.
J- These women have been an inspiration and a lifeline to me. When I first became a member 5 years ago, this inspirational group of experienced artists supported me by taking an interest in my work and providing exhibition opportunities that I did not have the time or resources to seek out myself. Now it is my time to give back. I’m taking what I have learned about social media to support my colleagues through maintaining this Featured Artist series. I enjoy both learning more about the artistic journeys of these lovely ladies and having the opportunity to shine on them a well-deserved spotlight.