NORMAN — Julie Robertson’s life is all about balance.
The Norman artist, better known by her Japanese name, JUURI (pronounced the same way), draws inspiration for her multimedia works from her dual identity as a Japanese American.
References to Robertson’s cultural heritage as a child in Japan and a youth and adult in the United States can be seen throughout the body of work that scatters her studio. Her studio, of course, also is a balancing act: Robertson answers phones for a local construction company between painting.
Though Robertson has a degree in graphic design from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, she made the switch into fine art in 2010. Her work is exhibited all over the country, including recently at DNA Galleries in Oklahoma City. She was also a 2011-2012 recipient of Norman Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award.
For more on Robertson visit juuriart.com.
Q: What’s your inspiration?
A: I just really like faces. So I look at them all day. I look at blogs and faces all day. I really, really just like faces.
Q: What kind of faces stick out to you?
A: I don’t know. Sometimes people make fun of me for always drawing beautiful faces and ideal faces, but I think it’s just what I think is beautiful.
Q: At what point did art become a part of your life?
A: I’ve been drawing pretty much since I was 2 years old. There’s pictures of me drawing when I was a baby.
Q: What attracted you to it?
A: I don’t know, I guess I’ve just always done it since I was really little. My mom is a really good artist and my dad is not artistic at all. But I guess I got it from my mom. I guess some things really are genetic. It’s weird.
Q: How long have you been working as a professional artist?
A: I’m not sure what counts as professional. [laughing] I don’t know if I’m even right now completely professional because I have a day job. I’ve been selling my paintings since about 2010. I got a graphic design job when I graduated because that was my major, but then I decided to do more of the art again in 2010.
Q: What’s your day job?
A: It’s right here. I’m a receptionist. I just answer the phone but it doesn’t really ring in the afternoon. It’s for this office right here. It’s a local construction company. I have no idea about construction, I just answer the phone and pass it to whoever.
Q: And they let you paint? While you’re working?
A: Mhm, yeah.
Q: That’s really cool.
A: Sometimes the phones are so crazy I can’t really paint, but sometimes they don’t ring very much and I can get a lot done. That’s why I took a job a monkey can do so I can do a lot of other stuff. [laughing]
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I knew someone who worked in the office. And they’re really supportive of my art.
Q: That’s nice. You don’t find that everywhere.
A: Yeah. I do realize I’m very lucky.
Q: Tell me about your style. Is this something that has evolved or is this how you’ve always created?
A: It really has evolved. When I got out of college I really didn’t know what I wanted to do as far as art. You do so much in college that is just assignments and you don’t really know what your style is. So it took me a long time to figure out this is what I like.
I usually do girls, there is amazingly two boys here today, but I usually only do girls and with the patterns and the Japanese — some of them have like kimono patterns around them and some are just flowers — but it took me a long time to figure out what I liked.
Q: How did you do it?
A: I think I just figured out what I didn’t like. And stopped doing it. I used to try and make it super complicated and do animals and backgrounds and landscapes and costumes and clothes and all this stuff — maybe I’m super lazy, but I just like faces. [laughing]
Q: What are the mediums you’re using for this series?
A: This is pretty much a style I’ve come up with: It’s watercolor for the base — like you can see on this one how it’s really rough, just watercolor — and then it’s color pencil on top and then it also has some acrylic paint on top as well.
Q: What kind of reaction do you want people to get from your art?
A: I like it when people say it’s the most beautiful thing they’ve seen recently and it makes them really happy. Because I know on days that I feel in the dumps, if I see a really beautiful blog or a nice magazine I didn’t know about before I’m so happy. It’s really cheesy to say I want my art to make people happy but I really do.
And some of the newer ones have questions. Like this one: Of course you can’t tell because it’s Japanese but this one is “trash or treasure?” It’s like young girls wondering about their worth and some questions that I have myself, too. And that fighting girl over there is “strong or weak?” She’s strong because she’s in a boxing stance but she’s crying, too. I kind of feel that way myself sometimes.
Q: For these pieces with the questions, what was the development like for them?
A: All I did was think about how I was feeling at the time and started each new painting. It’d be a new week so I’d have a new dilemma of my own, a new dilemma for every week. Or just whatever I was thinking about at that time.
Q: How much does your cultural heritage influence the way you create?
A: I think in some of the themes and obviously in some of the letters. I wouldn’t say one particular style influences me. I really love to look at old Japanese art — even though it doesn’t really look like my art that much — but it really energizes me a lot, with the colors.
Q: What’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
A: Well I sell a lot of my work online and I’d like to keep doing that more and more. I really love shipping them to other parts of the world. People that like my work tend to be in California and Australia.
I also would like to be able to travel a lot more. I do travel as much as I can but I think I get inspiration each new place I go and that somehow molds in with the Japanese stuff and becomes more interesting. I wish I could take all my art stuff with me and just make paintings there in different countries. That would be super cool.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
A: I think if you’re in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition is a really good organization to join. They helped me out a lot at first when I had no idea what I was doing by letting me know about opportunities and networking with other artists.
I think just practice — and I’m saying this to myself, too, because I don’t practice enough — but practice what you’re doing so you’re really, really good at it. And then don’t worry too much if people are noticing or not because if you’re really good people will notice.
For online stuff I think it’s good to comment on pages of artists you like and keep up with the current art trends. In Oklahoma we don’t see that much. We’re behind the trends. There’s a couple of really good magazines that are really inspirational to keep up with.