Working with clients and designers alike is always a lot of fun for me. The collaborations usually push me in unexpected directions which produces wonderful work. When I discovered InteriorCrowd, with their power to connect you with a network of interior designers who will work with you in-person on any type of home design project, I knew I needed to connect with them! Claire Andreas and I had a chance to chat recently. Below is what I shared with them. Check out the full article on their site.
Connecticut-based artist Julia Contacessi focuses her abstract work mainly on texture and color. The soft and etherial qualities of her work add a light and atmospheric touch to any space. We took some time with Julia to find out what inspires her, how she goes about her process, and what to look forward to in her future work!
How would you describe your style of artwork?
My work is definitely inspired by the abstract expressionistic work of artists like Helen Frankenthaler, but also I take queues from current design trends and materials. I love working on large-scale paintings where I have the room for sweeping and fluid movement as a means to apply paint and to explore texture.
Did you always know you wanted to be a painter?
No, not at all. I was always — even as a child — drawn to design and creating through all sorts of mediums, but it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I really focused solely on painting.
What themes do you pursue in your work?
In both my landscape and abstract work the coast (ocean, sand, sea, waves, water, etc) is a constant theme. I love the fluidity and sense of calm that comes from the sea, while at the same time there is energy and movement. There is a lot to play with. I also am fascinated with the beauty of contrasting elements. The coast is a great example where the fluidity of water collides with the rough gritty texture of sand. I try to mimic that through metallic mixing into very fluid acrylics.
Additional inspiration comes from the beauty and details of our surroundings. Color and the nuance of light play a huge role. I can obsess over color palettes, which I often plan in advance of any paint hitting the canvas, just trying to capture those subtleties.
When creating custom pieces, what do you take into consideration before beginning? (Anything in particular about the homeowner, the space that the piece will go in, etc?)
When working on a commission I usually see the space where we’re planning for the piece to live. I like to get a sense of the person and home. What are they looking for and maybe why they decided a commission was right for them. The next step is to determine the size. If I’m not in person, I’ll work from photos and render in different canvas size options to determine what is best for the homeowner. Below is an example and you can see more here. Next we discuss color, and this can be done through swatch and fabric samples. Usually as we discuss color I’ll ask what of my past works is the commissioner is most drawn to, as this will help me to determine my approach to composition. All of that detail gives me a pretty good road map to start. I like to research a ton in advance and then let myself go when it’s time to paint.
What are your favorite mediums to work with?
Recently, my go-to paints are high flow acrylics. I also use molding paste to build up texture.
Do you switch up your medium depending on the space you’ve been commissioned for?
Although my process may vary depending on the type of work — for landscapes I use a large paddle brush and for some abstracts I don’t use a brush at all — I don’t usually change up the mediums.
Who are some of your favorite (maybe lesser-known) artists you look to for inspiration? What about non-art influences? Food, places, music that inspire you?
I love Patricia Larsen’s work. Her work with plaster blows my mind. Fanny Nushka Moreaux is also wonderful. The emotion is travels through her work. Helen Frankenthaler is another favorite. Her belief that there is “no formula” and the artist should “let the picture lead you where it must go,” are principles that I embrace. If I have to pick ONE favorite it would be my very first inspiration — my mother. She is an artist, designer and teacher and encouraged my creativity in all forms & mediums.
If you could purchase any painting, what would it be?
What a wonderful question! Ok, I have to pick something I could never get because that makes this even more fun. It would have to be Phenomena Kwan Yin by Paul Jenkins.
What do you listen to while you work?
I actually love silence while I work. I can’t handle too much going on. I try to let my mind wonder and not think, but instead work from instinct and the quiet helps.
Do you have a favorite piece of your own? If so, what’s the story behind it?
I do, but if you ask me this question later I will give you a different answer. Art is so very emotional. And right now, at this minute, (maybe because the weather is getting to feel more like spring over here in Connecticut) my favorite is “Mid-Summer Night No. 1”.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I am! I’m getting super close to launching a new collection. The work is comprised of thoughtful palettes coming together through instinctual compositions. You can really have fun… mix ‘em, stack ‘em and add a little color to your LIFE. STYLE. ART. Here’s a peak…