In addition to her career as a freelance illustrator, Julia is a songwriter and musical comedian.
Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?
I am a person with a LOT of creative interests. I am a freelance illustrator who sings and writes musical comedy. It took me a while to find my way and narrow my focus because I love so many things.
Initially the dream was to move to New York City and audition for musicals because I loved to sing. I had a talent for drawing, but growing up I just didn’t take it very seriously. I went to college in Texas and got a BFA Musical Theatre, then moved to New York. Not too long after I moved to New York, I realized musical theater wasn’t really the path I wanted. It had just been a part of my identity for so long that I couldn’t imagine not pursuing it. So now — obviously — I’m using my BFA Musical Theatre to be an illustrator. Life is funny.
At the end of the day, I realized my real passion is storytelling, whether the medium is music or art. I realized the comedy songs I enjoyed writing so much were really just stories. The illustration is storytelling. It’s all connected.
How did you discover the Hudson Valley?
I was living in Harlem, and woke up one morning and thought, “I really need to be in nature.” I decided to go take a hike on Mt. Beacon. I didn’t realize how much I took nature for granted. I felt like I was in a Disney movie. There were animals everywhere — and they WEREN’T roaches, rats, or pigeons. Three months later I ended up impulsively renting a studio apartment in Beacon and loved it.
Walk us through a typical day.
No day or month is the same, but my days look like this right now:
- Wake up around 6:30ish (If I don’t hit the snooze 5 times). Myself or my fiancé (“fiancé” is a new development. Still not used to it. We call each other “Beyoncé’s”. I’m sure we are the first ones to think of it.) will make sure all the humans and pets in the house get fed, then my Beyoncé leaves the house and I go downstairs to my studio to work.
- When I do illustrations, I take a break for 10 minutes every 2 hours so my eyes don’t shrivel up. I try not to check Facebook/social media at all during these breaks. Keyword is “try.” I saw a video of a guy jogging while his two macaw parrots were flying in front of him ON LEASHES. That derailed my focus for sure.
- I eat lunch and then go to the gym in the early afternoon. I notice I have a dip in mental energy in the afternoon and it’s better for me to do something that’s productive, but not creative.
- When I come home and take a shower, I let my pet bird (pineapple conure) Pebbles sit on the shower hose because he loves the water and sings his heart out. It’s adorable and definitely puts me in a great mood.
- After that, I either run errands or do more work until later when my soon-to-be-step-daughter gets off the bus. I make her a snack while she tells me about school. She eventually runs off to play with any one of her 15,789 toys. She is absolutely delightful.
- I will go downstairs and work until dinnertime. I eat, and do MORE work if I need to. If not, I try to interact with my Beyoncé.
I’m extremely grateful for my lifestyle and the people in my life.
Do you have a go-to coffee or beer order, and from where?
Allagash from Draught Industries in Beacon. Greg (the owner) makes fun of me because I always browse like I’m going to order something new, but I inevitably just circle back and get an Allagash.
Where do you do your best creative work?
At home, alone with great music or a podcast. I have my little “L”-shaped workspace studio set up with everything I need. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a god-awful true crime podcast and doing adorable children’s illustrations at the same time, which cracks me up. I guess everyone needs variety in their life.
However, most of my ideas come outside of the studio. For me, there seems to be something about being in motion — driving in the car, running, etc. Something about motion gets my mind in a creative place. I guess I get my ideas outside of the house, then go be alone in my studio space to put them together.
How has the Hudson Valley influenced or impacted your creative work?
I noticed a pretty significant shift in my creativity when I moved from New York City to the Hudson Valley. When I started shifting away from my initial goal of pursuing musical theater and thought about what I really enjoy, it didn’t make sense for me to live there anymore. I was spending so much time making ends meet that I didn’t have the time or energy to be creative. I had to reassess what I wanted, and in order to do that I had to distinguish between two kinds of creative passions:
- The first kind is a talent for authentically and passionately interpreting someone else’s work. (ie, a singer in a musical didn’t write the songs, but she is responsible for bringing the character to life in her unique way.)
- The second kind-the kind I realized I loved more, was making the actual work. I wanted to write the songs, or write the stories. I loved making things, and wasn’t necessarily attached to me being the person that ultimately performs or delivers the material.
Long story short, I had to course correct. I wanted to make the original work, and the idea of being in a quiet place with so much natural beauty really appealed to me. New York City is a very exciting place to be, but it’s oversaturated with artists. It is inspiring to walk around and soak up all the art and creativity that’s EVERYWHERE, but I also think those influences can drown out your own creative voice.
The city is where you live when you have a rock solid sense of who you are creatively — not to discover who you are and what you want to make. Just my opinion.
What’s surprised you most about living and working in the Hudson Valley?
I was surprised that it was such an easy transition, and surprised with the amount of opportunity that exists up here.
Are you part of any local groups or communities you’d like to mention?
I know this is extremely obvious for most author illustrators, but join SCBWI (the Society of Book Writers and Children’s Illustrators). I don’t know why I waited so long to join. I’ve only been a member for a short time and it’s been a fabulous resource for me, and the people are very friendly. I’m annoyed I didn’t get involved sooner.
Anything you want to plug or promote?
Can I do two things?
The Rick Z Show podcast — OK, so first of all the host, Rick, is hysterical. He talked to me about how women often think he is staring at them and being a creep, but he is legally blind. That is so funny to me I can hardly stand it. Anyway, it’s a great local music podcast about songwriters in the Hudson Valley. I recently recorded an episode and played some of the new comedy material I wrote. Also, check out the episode with Joey Eppard from the band 3.
Another thing — I won’t elaborate on this, but if you want a really funny gag gift adult/children’s book, go to this link!