Featured Artist Interview

Julie Schuster

Julie Schuster, American Frame’s August 2015 Featured Artist sets a wonderful example for artists of all kinds. The lesson? Life as an artist is a journey and it’s important to be patient and steadily pursue one’s passion and vision. The individual alone only knows what’s inside that ultimately translates as creative expression. Like many, she was never encouraged to pursue art and raised a family before deciding to take the plunge claiming “It is my time and this is what I chose to do with that time”. Fascinated by faces, her winning piece Peaceful is a soft, elegant portrait of a beautiful baby which I’m sure touched the hearts of her audience. It did mine. Read on to get to know Julie.

Laura Jajko (LJ): When did you start producing your art?
Julie Schuster (JS):I was creative from the beginning, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t creating something or wanting to create something.

LJ: Was your family supportive or did you have to rebel to become an artist?
JS: Well my father wouldn’t let me take art classes in high school cause he thought it was a waste of time and no one in the family said much about my art, only friends. I really kept the art on the backburner for years till my kids grew up. At that point I figured it was time for me to do what I always desired to do, and had the free time to do it now. I went back to college to finish a degree in art and have come up against just about everyone saying that it is a waste of a degree. Maybe so but this is what I like doing, this is something I waited most of my life to do. It is my time and this is what I chose to do with that time.

LJ: Are you a degreed artist?
JS: Only 3 more classes till my Associates in Art.

LJ: What kind of studio space do you occupy?
JS: I create in my home studio, in a spare room containing all my supplies and a place to create. It is common that pencil and paper are with me at all times just in case a drawing opportunity comes up.

I have been venturing into acrylic painting, I have primarily worked in pencil and pen and ink which is my favorite. I would like to become a more accomplished painter, and hope to continue to devote more time to my craft.
Julie Schuster
I joke that I am never finished, there is always something I can keep messing with, but sometimes that backfires. So I do the best I can, then display it on the other side of the room and look at it a couple of days then give it one last adjustment and call it a day.
Julie Schuster

LJ: Are you a full time artist or do you support yourself in a different manner?
JS: For a couple of years I did support myself as a full time artist but in 2007 the economy took a turn. Since that time I have been working and going to school for Art.

LJ: How would you describe your artistic process?
JS: It would depend on what I am working on, with a commission for a portrait I examine the pictures looking for distinguishing features, squinting my eyes to see what features pop out. The whole idea is to get the feeling of the subject. The eyes are the first to be drawn and the rest comes together once the eyes are right. With other subject matter I lightly sketch the subject and just keep building on it, in the beginning most pieces don’t look so great but after working on them for a while they begin to come together.

LJ: Are there any common, underlying themes?
JS: Yes, I love doing faces, people, dogs, cats, elephants, you name it. Once in a while I will do just everyday items, but there is always attention to the smallest details, my work is very detail oriented no matter the subject.

LJ: What or who has influenced or inspires your work?
JS: The Renaissance Artists have always been my favorite, my inspiration, and what I aspire to be able to create. I also am attracted to faces, I like the shadows, details, the capturing of a person’s personality. For me realism is where it’s at, to be able to recreate what I see accurately is very satisfying.

LJ: How do you keep a fresh perspective? How do you work through creative blocks?
JS: I will turn my work upside down to get a different view, sometimes I see things I didn’t notice before. Since I do a lot of commissions I suppose I don’t run into a lot of creative blocks since it is determined for me what I am creating. When I want to create something outside of a commission I look through art sites and run ideas through my mind in bed before going to sleep, this seems to be the time my mind is the most clear after the noise of the day has quieted down.

LJ: How do you know when you are finished with a certain piece or series? How do you know when it’s time to move on?
JS: I joke that I am never finished, there is always something I can keep messing with, but sometimes that backfires. So I do the best I can, then display it on the other side of the room and look at it a couple of days then give it one last adjustment and call it a day.

LJ: What does a typical day in your life look like?
JS: Get up Monday through Friday at 6:30 a.m and get ready and go to work, Saturday morning get up and go help take care of my father and keep him company for a few hours. The rest of my time is school work, housework, the work I do for the local charity I am a board member of, and trying to squeeze in some time for my art. Once a month I show at a local gallery, but I would be untruthful if I didn’t admit I wish it could be reversed most days, but that’s life. School should be done in a few months and I should have more time for my artistic pursuits.

LJ: What is your biggest accomplishment in your field so far?
JS: Probably the piece I did with teens with disabilities that was shown in the community gallery at the Toledo Museum of Art. Another high point was taking first place in the Professional division in my first Art show. I am proud of being on the Dean’s list every semester at UT and the encouragement from my art professors.

LJ: How do you see your art evolving?
JS: I have been venturing into acrylic painting, I have primarily worked in pencil and pen and ink which is my favorite. I would like to become a more accomplished painter, and hope to continue to devote more time to my craft. This year I have gone out of my comfort zone more, this is something I am excited about, I am experimenting with abstract and subjects other than portraits, my style is getting looser, I am braver willing to take more risks.

LJ: How do you decide what price to charge for your work?
JS: Just watching the pricing of other artists and seeing what price keeps things selling. I look at other artists with the same experience that are enjoying pretty good success and looking at online art work. I take into account how much time a piece requires, ex: A house or a dog takes a lot more time than a portrait of a person, what cost I have wrapped up in supplies and if I am matting a piece and framing or just selling the piece alone.

LJ: Any framing tips you’d like to share?
JS: I keep my frames simple unless a customer requests a specific frame. I choose to do fatter borders on my mats, I feel it gives a more dramatic effect, it also makes for a larger piece which always looks better when dealing with portraits. Use quality materials and in the beginning get some help.