A&E: Blending Paint & Cultures

Artists are familiar with duality. They see the same things we all see. Yet, their eyes are automatically morphing the image into a unique color or concept.

Factor in what it would mean to be an artist living with a dual-cultural identity and you better understand Julie Robertson.

Robertson was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and an American father. They came to the United States when she was six, moving to Oklahoma at the age of eight.

Art was a constant in Robertson’s life. “I’ve always been interested in art. Ever since I could hold a pencil, I was always drawing something,” she said.

For a long time, American culture dominated Robertson’s life. “I didn’t really think about the Japanese culture that much growing up in America,” she said.

Then, as she got older, Robertson was drawn back to her roots. “During college, I started going back to Japan every summer to spend time with my grandma and I really started loving it more,” she explains.

It was only a matter of time before where she came from and who she was as an Oklahoma artist fused together.

These days, Robertson paints under the name JUURI, which is the Japanese word for ‘Julie’. Her work immediately calls to mind the splendor and color of a place a world away from Oklahoma, while still managing to connect to the American viewer.

“It’s kind of interesting because I’m kind of a mixture of both cultures and I see both sides in me. I think you can see that in my art,” Robertson said. Her media is a mixture as well. She uses a combination of acrylic, watercolors and colored pencils, to create her captivating characters.

To get ideas for her paintings, Robertson watches Japanese films and reads Japanese magazines. “I just get inspiration from all of those things for beautiful subjects and beautiful ideas,” she explains.

Echoing this idea of fusion, even time seems to mix together in her work. With her affinity for the past spurred by Japanese antiquity, her work is both very modern and beautifully classic.

“I like the Japanese culture because they have really ancient history that we don’t have in the United States,” said Robertson. “I love the intricacy of the traditional clothing and the attention to detail and focus on beauty.”

Robertson said the response she has gotten from Oklahomans about her international style has been positive. Her work caught the attention of Edmond residents when it was shown at a local bank last fall.

“It’s a little bit unusual, the Japanese style, in Oklahoma,” she said. “It’s not unusual in California, but in Oklahoma it’s a bit of a novelty and people respond to that.”

With each piece, Robertson starts by making a sketch and then shifting to watercolor. If she likes the piece, she will continue. The entire process usually takes around three days. “I can tell if it’s not going to work if it’s taking a long time,” Robertson said, adding that she is picky about the paintings she likes and decides to complete.

Robertson credits her education with helping mold her technique. She majored in Graphic Design at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. “It’s just a little school but they have some of the best teachers,” she said.

Her advice to anyone wanting to expand their career as an artist is to get involved in some type of class. “If you love it, you should totally do it or you’re not going to be happy in anything else,” she said.

Robertson is currently busy creating a new collection of paintings for an upcoming show in the Plaza District in May. “I’m supposed to have 15 new pieces for the show, so I’m going to have to work hard,” she said.

For more information on upcoming art shows, or to view her work, visit www.juuriart.com.

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