Interview with contemporary artist Julie Zarate

Julie Zarate is a contemporary artist from Houston, Texas.  Primarily self-taught, each piece is a lesson in progress for the artist.  Many of her pieces represent a fusion of classical styles with a pop twist.  What results is something familiar and approachable.  Experimentation is key with this type of work, often using a variety of media, including acrylic, oil, gold leaf, pigment, paper and at times, assemblage and found objects.  She enjoys her time at her studio and with family.
Hello dear Julie, please, tell us a little about you - how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
For as long as I can remember, art has been a calling for me.   When I was just four years old, my father read to me from the book, “1,001 Arabian Nights“.  When he wasn’t reading to me, I pored over the intricate plates within, the swirls and lines captured my imagination and I was drawing before I could write my name.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
Being self taught, I find it’s easy to be influenced and moved by what I see around me.  My most early influences were Leonardo Da Vinci and Patrick Nagel.  Two completely opposite artists but their approach to the figure and composition fascinated me.  I used to copy their works in the pages of my notebooks.  To this day, I find their influence creep into my own work. 

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
Typically, once I get off work, I head to the studio to tackle what I’ve worked on the evening before.  I normally have more than one painting in the works at any given moment.  As of late, I’ve been working primarily in acrylics, so there are usually two or three in rotation.  If I am working in oil, it’s more like four or five.  I work in layers, so much of the in between time is waiting for those layers to dry (oil) before I can begin work on it again.  I am a night owl by nature, so I don’t get home until midnight. Before I had the studio, I could paint until two in the morning, but I wasn’t as disciplined ... there are too many distractions at home.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I took a couple of mandatory art classes in high school but never really considered that I could make art my career.  So when I attended college, I was more practical in my approach to studies and went a different route.  I never stopped painting or drawing, it was just a part of me.  As I grew older and more developed, I garnered a following of collectors, submitted work to various galleries and  shows both locally and nationwide.  I even managed to take some night classes at a local art school (the Glassell), but continued my studies on my own through experimentation and networking.  I suppose there would be a benefit to having obtained a degree of some sort in art, and I guess I took the long way around, paying my dues with every step, but I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world.  They have made me who I am as an artist today, good or bad, and I know that the road ahead is a mystery.  If anything, I do regret that I had to learn the very basics of painting in a trial and error manner and would have loved to have had a more basic foundation in drawing.
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism? How would you describe your pop surreal style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
This is such an energetic and fascinating type of art, and I’m forever blown away at the works my contemporaries produce.  What thrills me most is the fusion ... whether through themes, technique or narratives.  Having the background that I have through self study and the influences in my past, I think taking those pieces and fusing them into something new is what excites me the most.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
Creating is a form of escape to me.  It is my soul therapy.  I have never felt so at ease and calm as when I sit in front of my easel, or being lost in the slinky sinewy lines of my pen.  Being a “creative“ to me means being as close to divine as one can get ... to create something from nothing ... that is a very powerful feeling.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I’ve been trying to go bigger with my work, but my attention span is so limited, I tend to get bored with a piece if it’s too large.  My work tends to have a lot of details, so it can be time consuming.  Working on a smaller scale helps maintain the ratio of boredom.  I don’t typically sketch out the idea in a book beforehand, just straight to the panel or canvas.  I tend to have a very basic idea but as the colors go on, the painting begins to take on a life of its own, a composition of its own, with added details here and there until it feels “complete“.  I enjoy painting in both oil and acrylic and can easily switch between the two as the approach is fairly the same (working in layers), but acrylics feed my need to get as much out of my system as I possibly can.  I work in fluid acrylics, in much the same way I work in oil.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I’ve always been curious to try airbrushing.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
I share a studio with another artist here in Houston, Naz Kaya Erdal.  She is a wonderful abstract artist and the hours we keep ensure that we’re not on top of one another when we work.  It’s a beautiful 300 sq foot space that we both share in a converted warehouse just southeast of downtown.  I could not have been more fortunate to have found her and this space.  There is a large corrugated aluminum sliding door on our studio and it’s not very soundproof.  Once I was there late at night when another artist had a function going on and their guests were wandering the hallways.  A couple stood outside my door and analyzed one of my paintings.  I was both amused and offended.  The strangest thing I have in my studio at the moment is a coyote skull.  It’s sure to end up as a model for an upcoming painting. The only thing I regret about the studio is not being able to work on any assemblages. Considering how I normally work in this medium, it would not be fair to my studio mate. (It’s REALLY messy).
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
The toughest challenges I have had to face is self-doubt.  That could be true about anything in life, not just art. I am my biggest critic and realized long ago that to just continue to do what I do, to push myself to bigger heights, will forever be my goal.  It’s not so much the end product, but the journey that excites me.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
Someone once told me that portraiture was dead.  I’ve only known portraiture and figurative works in my whole career.  It would seem that not only is NOT dead, but it’s taken on steam in the pop-surrealist world.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I don’t care for the amount of competition there is ... especially here in Houston.  Artists shouldn’t have to compete, especially if you’re doing something original.  The hardest thing I find is competing with yourself. I’m the only one I have a desire to one-up, to be better than the last painting I created.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
I would like to one day do this full-time, but seeing as how I strive to make my work affordable, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
Don‘t give up.  And never ever EVER do it for the money.  Do it because you love to do it.  Because you HAVE to do it.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.  Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.“  - Robert Hughes
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I enjoy watching movies, mostly documentaries, and spending time with my husband, son and pets.
Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I’m excited to be showing on Olvera Street with one of my contemporary art heroes again, George Yepes.  I’m also thrilled to be invited back to show with some major art players for Tura Satana Productions.  I’ve had a few people twisting my arm about curating another “Director’s Cut“ show, and I’m giving it some thought for 2015.
Thank you dear Julie, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)
By contributor Linda. September 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.