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Six of the Best, Part 12

Part 12 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10, Part 11). Today's artist is Julia Schwartz, who is a practising psychoanalyst residing in California, and (but) also a maker of abstract paintings of a remarkable, instinctive shape-making and sense of touch.


ice XXV after the visit, 2011, oil on canvas 20x20 inches

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Julia Schwartz: I paint with oil, mostly on canvas, although linen is a new luxury that may become more of a necessity. It makes the work different: when the surface is primed, the paint goes on easily and the paintings have been delicate and sensual; unprimed or roughly primed linen took the paint in a different direction, and I followed it. I use oil because it has begun to feel like home, like a part of me—not that I am master of it, but that we are extensions of each other in a way. It still can surprise and delight me, though. I love that.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Julia Schwartz: I work on several paintings at a time, currently several small works on linen. A recent studio visit inspired me to go back to larger canvases and a different series. This is typical of me: I am monogamous in relationships but fickle with surfaces, I move from one to the other quite easily! The studio visit was to select work for a group show in July. The other work is for two shows in August and September.

bride, 2012 oil on linen, 14x11 inches

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Julia Schwartz: I am always surprised by paint and painting. I love what it does, what I can do, what I can't do. I feel relieved, surprised, humbled, exasperated. In 2011, after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, my work changed pretty dramatically: I stopped painting figures and started painting islands, and shapes which became abstracted. After my show The Hollow Sea in 2011 the figure came back a bit but in a much different way. That was a surprise.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Julia Schwartz: I work in water color and gouache on paper and book pages and tiny canvases when I travel. Occasionally I'll take photographs. I think if I had more time I could explore other arenas, but oil painting is it for me right now.

I read a lot and that works into my painting, lines from books, poetry. Music and contact with the world (good and bad) also feed the work.

girl with red hair and blue dress, 2012 oil on linen 14x11 inches

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Julia Schwartz: When I was in kindergarten, I made a painting of a hand painting a duck. This remains memorable because my teacher, who was engaged to a pediatrician, took that painting to his office and then never returned it. So at five I experienced my first ever exhibition! When I was in seventh grade (non-US readers: twelve years old), however, a very inspiring teacher James Bassler used my contour drawing of a classmate as the cover of the Back to School night program and did give me credit. So, at twelve, I had my first work in print with a credit.  Both of these things were memorable and meaningful to me.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Julia Schwartz: I started life as an artist and then took a long hiatus while pursuing another career. I get a great deal of satisfaction from the work I do as a psychoanalyst, but once I started painting, it became clear that there was no turning back. It became essential. I feel more alive. If I'm kept out of the studio or away from painting for too many days, I get out of sorts, disconnected from myself. So maybe the answer is that I'm a better person/analyst/human when I'm an artist than when I'm not.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

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