We recently had the opportunity to interview Los Angeles-based illustrator and makeup artist, Julia Hill, and learned about her path to becoming a successful textile designer. From the beginnings of her career in makeup and fashion to illustrating for major brands such as Free People, LSpace and Lucky Brand, we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Julia and her tips and tricks for those looking to pursue textile design. Check out our chat summarized below:
What led you to become a textile designer?
I started my path to becoming a textile designer first as an illustrator. I studied illustration at ArtCenter College of Design where I really got a chance to learn strong fundamentals and expertise in drawing and design. Towards the end of my studies there, a couple of companies that I had previous relationships with approached me to see if I was interested in doing some package and textile designs. From there on, I launched this path into my role as a textile designer.
What roles (creative or not) led you to where you currently are?
Before and during my time at ArtCenter I had been a makeup artist and had jobs in makeup and fashion. My makeup artist experience led me to where I am today by connecting me with companies that offered me work which later evolved into textile design. I think the jobs in the fashion industry subconsciously led me to have a love and appreciation for that entire world and has really shaped me as an artist. Before going to school, I didn’t really understand all the ways I could combine art and fashion together. It was during my time at school that I got to experiment and got the chance to see the opportunities within art and design in the fashion and lifestyle markets.
Artist-wise, who are your biggest inspirations?
When it comes to artists, it’s so hard for me to narrow down just a few because so many have shaped me in so many different ways. I think one artist I have always loved and has always inspired me is Jenny Saville. I love her use of the figure, the movement, gestures and mark making. Helen Frankenthaler is also an artist I admire. Her use of abstraction through color and shape is captivating and gives off a beautiful presence and emotion. Kerry James Marshall has also been a huge inspiration to me. His use of paint, texture and symbolism to depict his vision is just so beautiful, powerful and moving. He discusses culture and stereotypes in his work and delivers such a powerful and captivating message. It’s truly moving just to be near his work. And if I could cut it off with only one more, I really do love El Anatsui’s work. His use of recycled materials to create larger-than-life tapestries and sculptures is awe-inspiring and creates an extremely thought-provoking discussion of our footprint on the environment.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
Going to museums, enjoying nature and maintaining a healthy exercise routine have been really great creativity boosts for me. Going to museums is key for getting inspired again when I feel like I’m in a creative rut. Spending time in nature is something that I’ve grown up doing and it helps me release any anxiety or stress I may be experiencing. Lastly, exercising has been a great push for me to keep my mind and body prepared for the day.
Do your designs come easily or do you ever struggle with your ideas? What obstacles (if any) do you experience when you are creating?
It really depends on the project. Sometimes a design can come to me extremely quickly and organically, only taking about an hour or two to create and finish. Other designs can take days to build due to constant editing, revising, critiquing and re-designing. Obstacles during the more difficult times can be anything from a bad layout, the color choices, the application of line or paint, digital interference and sometimes just the elements used in the design. Those are also the times when I try to get outside to refresh and reset my mind.
Can you see your finished product before you start?
I think it depends on the project, but sometimes I can! If the inspiration for a design gets my creativity flowing in the right way, I can visualize some great concepts that I end up executing. I like to experiment a lot though, and so I’ll usually explore further. I normally find pushing the idea further is a great way of discovering new designs I may not have tried with just my initial vision.
How do you know when a project is finished and needs no additional work?
That’s a tricky question! It can be difficult to tell when something is complete, especially artwork. I think for me it’s more of a feeling. You get to a point where you can look at the piece, access it as a whole, and you can see that it probably doesn’t need any extra elements to make it a good design.
What is it like to design for brands such as Free People and Lucky Brand?
Designing for brands like Lucky Brand and Free People is awesome! For the most part, the projects are approached first with a concept or vision. The brand will have a color story, mood board or inspirations for patterns, and an overall tone for the collection. That’s where I step in and we get to create some fun prints. I usually deliver several sketches to build the idea for a final image and from those we land on our final design. It’s a fun and thorough curation process that is highly detailed and meticulous, but also equally exciting and rewarding.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field?
Practice, practice and then practice some more! Becoming a textile designer can be tough when you have to come up with a multitude of designs from just a single concept. I believe the road to success is through mistakes and experimentation.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
So much. Happiness, fulfillment, conversation, joy, emotion and so many other beautiful things that you can derive from art. I am currently working on a few projects that I am really excited about and I’m looking forward to accomplishing all that I can with those. I hope as an artist that I continue to change, grow and mature with my work and continue to accomplish and deliver continuous positive engagement with it.
Have you ever come across people wearing your designs?
I actually have not yet! I hope to soon though, and with the number of products coming out in the next year I know my chances will be a lot higher so I’m excited for that day to come.
Do you wear your own designs?
All the time! It’s fun to be able to create something, have it go to production (in whatever way that may be) and then be able to add it into my daily life! I love it.