Meet This Girl Julia Ryan
On her background
I was born and raised in Locust Valley, New York. I graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2017 and received a BFA degree from the Roski School of Art and Design. I have been drawing since I could hold a crayon - my mom likes to say that I made an “impressive illustration” at 21 months old. I come from a big family of artists, including painters, designers, sculptors, illustrators, writers and musicians.
On what she’s up to now
Right now, I work full-time for my company Julia Ryan Art, LLC. I take privately commissioned projects and my work is shown around the world.
On the best part of being an artist
What excites me most about what I do is that I get to color for a living. I remember being so excited to learn that I could study art in college, and now, getting to have a career devoted to my single favorite activity makes me feel extremely lucky. Everyday I wake up determined to work towards improving my craft to the best of my ability.
On the most difficult aspect of being an artist
There are challenges in every freelance job, but in terms of career, art specifically doesn’t have the best reputation. My painting teacher used to tell us that even the term ‘art-career’ is an oxymoron. The business side of art doesn’t come as naturally to me as the painting part, but I'm learning. This is a field where there isn’t one path to take that guarantees you a ticket into the art world, which can be daunting to navigate on your own. Luckily I have the help of my manager, my mom, who reminds me to enjoy the highs of the job and not stress too much over the unknown.
On the biggest challenge she has encountered so far
It has been a challenge learning how to separate myself from my work when I’m faced with criticism or negativity - in other words, not to take it too personally. Artists tend to blur the line between themselves, and the work they create. When you’re painting, it can feel like you’re pouring your soul into the work, so when it is criticized it is hard not to take it as a personal attack. This is always a challenge but through 7 years of art school and critique I have tons of practice in the art of having a thick skin.
On a typical day for her
One of my favorite things about my job is that every day is rarely the same. Some days I spend my whole day and night working on a painting, while other days I’m preparing for an exhibition or photographing subjects for paintings.
On how she recharges
To be honest, I sleep a lot. I like to take time to rest so that when inspiration strikes I have the energy to be up all night tending to an idea. I also love to go to museums and see other artists’ work.
On a rule she tries to live by
I try to live by the rule “create something new every day.” The “something new” doesn’t always have to be a complete painting or work. Sometimes I create a to-do list, sketch a plan for a show, write an artist statement, or take a photo. I think the best thing any artist can do is keep their creativity flowing.
On what inspires her
I am inspired by color found in nature, artists who have come before me and those who are working today. Rembrandt, Caravaggio, O’Keeffe, Minter. I am inspired by music, Nicki Minaj as an artist and role model for her power and self confidence. I have been so lucky to have a few very impactful teachers and mentors in college whose voices are constantly in my head as a force for inspiration and motivation. The process of making art inspires me, how there can be an energy transferred from the artist to a tangible surface that can then mean something different to each person who looks at it.
On a woman who inspires her
I recently went to see Georgia O’Keeffes “Visions of Hawaii” exhibit at the Botanical Gardens and I found the entire experience overwhelming. Seeing her paintings in one room transported me to the places she had visited. I get emotional thinking that what painting is for me, is exactly what it was for her. A portal she used to communicate and share the beauty you see that you cannot put into words.
On the best piece of advice she ever received
Art is so subjective. A painting that could move one person to tears, could warrant nothing more than a glance from another. It is very personal and just like in life, you can’t please everyone… so don’t try to! Be okay with the fact that some people may love your work and others may hate it. In college, I had someone tell me that my paintings would be more interesting if they were slashed and in a dumpster. But I’ve come to learn that if you’re confident enough in what you do, one person's opinion won’t throw you off.
On the worst piece of advice she ever received
The worst piece of advice I’ve ever received was that having a career as an artist is realistically never going to happen, so you may as well do something else.
On the biggest challenge women face today
I think one of the biggest challenges women face today is self-doubt. Half the battle of being an artist is selling yourself and selling your work. You need to believe in yourself first. The rest will follow.
Her advice to a girl on her way
Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Be loud about what you like, and quiet about what you don’t. Trust the process. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take as many moments as you can to unplug from social media, look up at the sky, and breathe. How lucky are we to even be here?