Well-known for her intricate, colorful hand painted glassware, Kara Julian is exploring a new artistic direction, the results of which can be seen at Full of Beans café at the artist’s first solo exhibition. Julian speaks with Weekender about her career and why she felt ready to tackle a new artistic genre.
While at college studying accounting, Kara Julian had something of an epiphany when visiting her grand aunt.
“I picked up a hand-painted cookie jar that my aunt had that was over 40 years old and couldn’t help noticing the individual paint strokes that had gone into creating this thing of beauty,” she says.
From that moment on, Julian says, she knew this was something she wanted to explore further.
“I had always had an interest in drawing in pencil and charcoals, but up until that point I had never even held a paintbrush, as I felt quite intimidated by the whole painting process,” she explains. “This jar really made me curious about functional art.”
To teach herself not only the art of painting on glass, but also painting in general, Julian says, she bought a good many books on the subject.
“I knew in my heart it was something I should study because my coffee table was littered with art books while my accounting books were put away in my bag!”
Julian went on to change her major. However, she returned home to work in the financial services industry, resolving to fulfill her artistic passion in the evenings. After a stint working at Pure Art creating painted glassware, such as wine goblets and cake platters, as well as creating unique pieces for birthdays, weddings and corporate events, she knew this was something she wanted to pursue as fully as possible. But it was only a year ago that Julian made the decision to work full time on her art business, Kara’s Glass Garden, to give it the time and energy she knew she needed to devote to the business.
A few years ago, Julian says, she began “dabbling” in painting on canvas. Her first big commission was to create a mural for a client. Originally, the mural was to be painted directly on a wall, but they changed their mind before painting was due to start and Julian found herself working instead on a 12-foot by 7-foot canvas.
“It was a learning experience!” she says. “It took me 24 hours in total to complete, so I had to learn patience as my glass painting can be accomplished in far shorter time.”
Encouraged on by family and friends, particularly her father who is an established painter in Miami, Julian began to expand her repertoire by offering “Sip and Paint” classes for those who want to learn how to paint on canvas in just a few hours, in a casual setting while sipping a glass of wine.
“They’ve been a huge hit. I get a good deal of corporate clients who love to relax and unwind via painting,” she says. “At the end of the session they get to take home a decent painting that they have created, even if they couldn’t even draw a straight line when they first walked in.”
Julian says her dad is delighted that she has now moved into painting on canvas.
“My dad is an oil painter and he is really looking forward to showing me how to paint in oils, particularly as I love to blend and find this quite frustrating sometimes working in acrylics. which dry very quickly. My dad swears that once I start in oils I will never look back!”
Following on from this success, Julian says she was more “shoved” than pushed into looking at holding her own art exhibition.
“Around the end of March this year I had been speaking with Frederico, who is the chef/manager at Full of Beans café, a great venue for artists looking to put on a show,” she says. “He said he was booked up until 2015 but would bear me in mind if a cancellation occurred. I went ahead and booked a show for January and almost two days later he asked me if I’d like to do a show at the end of April through to the beginning of June.
“It meant a great deal of work in getting sufficient pieces together for a show, as I’d only had one piece ready at the time, but after pulling a few all-nighters, I think it all came together really well.”
Julian’s current show, “On the Bright Side,” was named for her colorful depiction of flowers and seascapes, as well as the fact that she had recently suffered a bout of illness (from which she now feels recovered) that has taught her to be more positive and appreciative.
In addition to trawling through books and magazines for ideas, Julian says she is fascinated by the beauty of the natural world, and so uses her other artistic passion – that of photography – to gain inspiration for her artwork.
“I like to take photos all the time, so my exhibition has work based on photos I took of the elusive Cayman bluebells, hibiscus (of which there aren’t many these days) and the ocean. I love the ocean and our beautiful beaches; I always want to be in it, on it or by it, and I particularly love Cayman catboats, so I decided to include them in my artwork,” she says.
Taking the idea of painting on canvas a step further, Julian has included paintings on wood as part of her exhibition, with cutouts that follow the natural line of the painting, whether that’s the billowing curve of a sail or the delicate petals or leaves of a flower. It’s a technique that creates a more textural effect that draws the viewer into the painting and catches the eye straight away.
“If the wood has natural distress marks, that’s even better. I like to work with it and incorporate that into the overall piece,” she says.
This is evident in the sails of her painting “At the Office” which depicts catboats in a blustery day at sea, the marks in the wood following the natural lines of the sails.
“For me, ‘On the Bright Side’ showcases that we have so much to be thankful for,” Julian adds. “My exhibition is about appreciating life, wherever it takes you.”
The exhibition runs through June 2 at Full of Beans, Passadora Place.