Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part I - Interview with Julie Podstolski - ET!11 Best of Show

Interview with international member and EXPY/Best of Show winner in the ET! 11 exhibition, Julie Podstolski (Australia). Julie has shared a wonderful view into her art, education, materials and life. It will be presented in two parts. Today's post, Part I, is about her art inspiration and her education. Enjoy! 

Cindy Haase, CPSA, 
Marketing Director

Julie, tell us about your concept of the geisha art and Japan. I believe I've read you traveled there. For pleasure, business? What about the culture and daily life makes you want to capture it in your art?

Matthew, my husband, forced my hand. He expected me to accompany him on a business trip to Japan in 2003. I was extremely resistant, especially as it was right when the world was in the grip of fear about SARS. However I was persuaded to go. Once I got there it took me a very short time for curiosity and wonder to overcome fear. Since that first trip I have been to Japan many times including several by myself. I am flying over next week. It will be my 16th trip.

On that first trip in 2003, after business was over, our group was taken to Kyoto to be introduced to some Japanese culture and history. We were walking in Gion on our final evening. Out of the darkness appeared two figures - a maiko (apprentice geisha) and her client. I could not believe my eyes and whipped out my camera. I took a couple of snaps which were the source of the first two "geisha" drawings. After that I read every book I could find on the subject of geisha. My appetite was insatiable. I couldn't wait to return to Japan after that first sighting.

I adore mystery and what could be more closed and mysterious than the world of geisha. On one hand I wanted to know as much as I could, but on the other I never wanted to lose that sense of secrecy which is so delicious. I still feel like this.

I love the drama of the costume and the elegance of the women. While the women wear the costume of geisha, they are custodians of several centuries of tradition. They actually become living, breathing works of art. "Gei" means art. They study and work extremely hard to perfect their music and dance.

I feel an affinity with these women. We are all artists together. Those of them who know my art appreciate it very much, just as I appreciate their art.

Finally, their numbers get smaller as the years go by. Even though young girls are drawn to the world of geisha, they usually only become part of this world for a few years and return to modern Japan. Geisha are an endangered species. I want to capture and highlight them while I can - and do so with the greatest respect.

"Rare View"
Colored Pencil
360 x 520 mm
Julie Podstolski (Australia) 2013

What is your background as an artist? How long have you been working as an artist, using colored pencil, do you work in other media?

As a child one of my main activities was drawing. I was fortunate in that we had an art stream at high school. I was able to choose that stream so from 13 to 18 art was one of my major subjects at school. I learned a great many sound principles from my wonderful art teacher, Jan Colosimo. We still write to one another 38 years later.

I was determined to study fine arts at university. My art teacher had to persuade my parents that art was a worthy subject to pursue at tertiary level. (My father had not been allowed to study art when he was a young man although his art teacher had appealed to my grandfather to let him.) In my case, I was allowed to choose art at university with the idea that I would go on to be a secondary school art teacher.

From 1978 to 1980 I studied fine arts (majoring in painting) at University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Even during those years I experimented with coloured pencils and Neocolor wax pastels. Mostly, however, I used oil paints. I graduated in 1980 with of Diploma of Fine Arts.

I learned so much about art both at school and at art school. To be honest, I wouldn't be the artist I am today without having attended art school. I think the main reason is that we students were so often taken out of our comfort zones and challenged to think outside our personal squares. At the time I loved it and hated it. In the years since I have never regretted for a second those three formative years at School of Fine Arts. I didn't pass with flying colours. I tended to be a B student - but I got through - that's the main thing. Abstract expressionism was "in" at that time. My laborious realism didn't go down too well. In the end I got into abstract expressionism as well. Maybe that helped me to pass. It certainly helped me to appreciate the universe of art styles!

I mostly definitely didn't want to teach. Two weeks or so after starting at Teachers Training College, I dropped out. I quickly got a job in the University Bookshop and saved up to come to Australia with my future husband.

I consistently painted in oils until 1994 - as consistently as one could while being mother and housewife.  

"Here Comes the Night"
Colored Pencil
360 x 520 mm
Julie Podstolski (Australia) 2013

To be continued in Part II on February 12...

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