Today’s Notable Young Professional is Toronto-based visual artist Julie Gladstone, who’s kicking off her latest exhibition tonight at the contemporary Navillus Gallery in Yorkville. We caught up with her to find out what inspires her work and what advice she would share with other artists…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am a visual artist. I’m currently preparing for my new exhibition, “Infinity Pool,” at Navillus Gallery, which runs from May 28th- June 27th in Toronto.
I describe the type of work that I make as neo-pop, romantic abstract landscape painting. I spend most of my time in my studio in Mirvish Village painting, researching, reading about art, applying for grants, on social media and writing about what I do. I gather inspiration and material for my work by exploring “natural” spaces in and around the edges of the urban environment and the man-made objects I discover in these spaces. Wandering, walking and travel are all important parts of my job.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Art has always been my passion and pastime since childhood, but in my early twenties I was travelling a lot and living a fairly nomadic existence. It was while I was living in Mexico that I decided to make a list of my life goals and I realized it was time to make art a priority. As soon as I moved back to Canada I applied to the Fine Arts program at Concordia and was accepted. I think because I started University a little bit older than the average student, I was very motivated and I knew exactly why I was there, a drive that has stayed with me since I graduated. Working for myself, I’ve had to develop good discipline, and having a dedicated studio space is always a priority wherever I am.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I love being in the studio; the physical act of painting and getting into the creative flow. I listen to podcasts like On Being, Radio Lab, Invisibilia and This American Life while I work and 12 hours can pass by and I barely notice.
I’ve learned that the creative process is like alchemy and there are different stages that are more challenging. Almost every time I am starting a new series of paintings, I experience feeling like a complete beginner accompanied by a feeling of terror that I maybe I have forgotten how to paint forever. Of course this is all part of being creative and allows something new to be birthed out of the void. Not having everything planned out ahead of time allows for something new to be discovered and come to life. Being willing to take risks with the work is also important for the same reason. Though it can sometimes feel like I am putting a lot of hard work on the line, with painting you can’t go back to a previously saved draft.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Working in the studio can become all consuming. When I haven’t eaten a meal at home in a week and I get worse than usual at answering the phone and returning phone calls, I know the balance is off.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Living in the country with a large studio in a barn and a vegetable garden, doing artist residencies in different countries and having gallery representation in Toronto, Montreal, New York, and Europe.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Moving and storing massive paintings that don’t sell immediately and that don’t fit in my studio. This comes with the territory of being a painter; the job can involve a lot of heavy lifting. I overcome this issue by lending paintings to friends and businesses. For example, I currently have two 8’x7’ paintings on semi-permanent display at Loft 404 The Ambrosia Hub, which is a trendy event space in the entertainment district run by my friend, Genna Bauder. This is a win-win situation because I don’t have to pay for storage, and the work is seen and enjoyed by many people and potential clients until they find a permanent home.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Painting is its own reward, but when I can make money from my art that is the ultimate reward because it provides the most valuable things, which are time and freedom to make more art.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Last summer I was exhibiting at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in Nathan Phillips Square and I was standing in my booth on the Saturday morning when a marching band started making its way down the aisle. To my surprise, when they arrived at my booth, the band stopped and a man on a megaphone announced me as the winner of the Artscape Award and one of the Best in Show. He handed me an envelope while the band played and mimes in costume danced around me. I was invited to a reception in City Hall that afternoon where I had my photo taken with our infamous former Mayor. The real highlight, though, was the award itself, which was an artist residency at Gibraltar point on Toronto Island followed by a solo show at the Artscape Youngplace Gallery. A lot of the paintings for my upcoming exhibition, “Infinity Pool,” were inspired by my time on Toronto Island.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
My best advice to other young artists is to develop discipline and make working in the studio a priority. A lot of people think that painting or making art is easy and relaxing, and that it’s not really a job. It’s up to the artist to define their workday, to set time boundaries, and not schedule in social visits, phone calls or house work during studio time. Also, don’t try to compare yourself to other artists; develop your own style and make work that you love and that comes from your heart.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
La Palette. Excellent French food, comfortable atmosphere, best Old Fashioneds in town, and Shamez is a great host.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Painting is my favourite pastime, so I’m usually painting anyways. Otherwise, I’m a big reader of fiction, biographies and art history. I do a lot of yoga and bike riding and I enjoy planting my herb garden on the balcony and spending time in nature.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Every summer my boyfriend and I spend a few weeks camping in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, cooking over a fire and whale-watching. Taddousac, which is at the intersection of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence River, is an important feeding ground for a variety of whales and one of the best places to see Blue Whales. The first year we saw a Blue Whale mother and baby. It was one of the best moments of my life.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
All is Full of Love By Bjork, the Official Video version. Best song ever.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
It’s really hard to imagine a life without art. I grew up playing classical piano and guitar and writing songs and pretty much my whole family are folk musicians, so if I wasn’t a painter I would probably be a musician. I’d also love to be a children’s book illustrator.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I’m a supporter of Josh Fox, the director of the documentary Gasland and founder of the Solutions Grassroots tour. He is doing amazing work in the anti-fracking and renewable energy movement. Watching Gasland opened my eyes to the devastating impact that fracking and the natural gas industry have on our water sources. Clean water is a basic life necessity for all of life on the planet and it amazes me that as a society we have lost sight of this fact.
What to you is notable?
The brave innovators and thinkers who are working towards creating transformative models for a sustainable way of life on earth; my friend, the writer and social innovator Vanessa Reid with her studio of the extraordinary and Living Wholeness Institute; my uncle, Michael Ben-Eli, and his organization, Sustainability Laboratory.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone. And Intuition.