Artist of the Week: Julia Linsteadt

Above: Artist Julia Linsteadt.  (HANNAH HATCH / Martinez Tribune)
Above: Artist Julia Linsteadt. (HANNAH HATCH / Martinez Tribune)

Martinez Tribune

I met with Julia Linsteadt last Friday, Feb. 5. A busy mother of her two- and 6-year-old children, she still finds time to create meaningful art and teach art classes. Julia is a positive heart-warming person, full of creativity and insight.

Give an overall explanation of why your art is unique?
I do paper cutting art.

I think you are constantly redefining your talents. Everyone is born with this amazing potential to do anything, I mean you are a human. You can actually do anything; you can’t do everything. I feel like as you age, you get more and more time to reinvent yourself. So, this is a reinvention of myself because I would have never called myself an artist two years ago.

I decided to do a paper cut everyday and was trying to figure out how you create a structure to that, so that you keep motivated. I base my art on being positive and leaving the day with a good intention. At the time I started, I was dealing with a lot of life transitions and figuring out “Who am I?” and “What is this all about?” and not exactly happy with what I was doing or how I was pursuing my creative life. I felt like that part was really drained and that maybe this would help.

There is actually a lot of writing that goes along with each one of my cut-outs on my blog ( It would start out as a written piece which I would create and would pull the intention out – then I would make a piece with it. A lot of creative expression first starts with words. Typically, before I make anything I have to write about it. This particular type of writing I never really gave a structure; each one could be an excerpt from a journal. It feels very personal, raw and vulnerable.

oranges-rgbI think this is a single pursuit of creativity and it is amazing what can happen. All of my cutouts I can make in 20 minutes, yet they each have a lot of thought into them. It doesn’t take eons of time to make something that’s worthwhile and meaningful.

Tell me about your background.
I have always made art – that has always been something I have done, but I do not have a degree in visual art at all. I always thought there was somewhat of a barrier … when you become an adult you are not “allowed” to do this if you did not get a specific educational background.

I went to school and got a theater degree; I did that for a while, but then I would always come back to art.

In theatre, I would love working with the movement and dance companies because they would do interactive types of sets where you end up with a lot of silhouette images.

So, I started to really study silhouettes and shadow work. I have always been intrigued by that.

I also have an English degree. I have always been a writer. I come from writers and have grown up living with writers. It is kind of part of the childhood I had. My mom was very crafty, she is a “closet artist” and has a masters degree in art. Whether or not she intended on teaching me this antiquated art knowledge I have, the literacy of art was incorporated into my life at a very young age. We would play this trivia game with little masterpieces, where you had to tell the difference between a “Renoir” and a “Monet,” which I still can do to this day.

eggs-rgbHow and when did you discover your talents?
My life continued, I got married and had kids and you get kind of bogged down in all of that, especially as a woman. It becomes like that (a mother), is what you are supposed to be doing. After a while you are like, “Wait a minute, I am so much more complex! I don’t just carry around a diaper bag, I’ve got other things I want to do and other thoughts I want to share.”

Because I am a parent, I have to organize my time so compactly and fit creativity into these “pockets” of time. I only did it for about five minutes a day when I first got back into it. I do not have a lot of time to “dream” of an idea. I decided to start doing what I did as a kid, which was to just “play” and see what would happen. For about two years I was painting, drawing, doing pencil work. I went out one weekend and my husband encouraged me to spend more time on my art.

I went outside near where we planted all of these wildflowers. The poppies had started blooming. I thought they were beautiful, so I sat there and I drew them out, liking the simplicity of the drawing I made. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. For some reason there was “oddly” an X-Acto knife near me when I went back inside to sit at my desk. I wondered what it would be like if I cut this drawing out, so I stuck the pencil drawing onto some black paper, I cut it out and I really liked it. It reminded me of all of the silhouettes I used to do and work with when I was part of the set and lighting department.

I have always liked the idea of taking really complex images and breaking them down into these bare-bone images so that people who are viewing it have to fill in what is missing. Like a shadow, you are not entirely sure what you see. Our brains fill it in, and every person sees something different. I find that to be an interesting intellectual pursuit.

What projects are you currently working on?
Last year, 2015, was my 365 project or “The Cutting Edge.” I realized during that project that my favorite medium was paper. Every day I made a 5×5 cut out.

My new project, “Doppler,” is a really large scale. They are not done yet but will be a series of six large pieces. I do not tend to work large but I have to constantly come up with ways to challenge myself, otherwise I get really bored. These new cut-out works are abstract and are based on weather patterns. I was reading and had been following the global climate change conference held earlier in the fall and had this moment where I wondered what a storm actually looks like. You see it on a Doppler radar but what does it actually look like? I started looking into it and found shapes that are really cool and are all silhouettes.

Who/what is an influence on your work? What inspires you?
I was in Girl Scouts my whole life. As a senior Girl Scout, I did a project for my Gold Award with the National Audubon Society. It was my first real introduction to how humans directly impact the natural ecosystems.

I spent my young 20s living in the woods working as a camp director, living outside all summer. Theres something that happens to you when you live outside for a course of months. You start to be able to know exactly where you are at all times. It’s really strange; I am getting goosebumps talking about it. You can look at the sky and know where constellations are, you know where you are at night, you can tell when the weather is going to shift, you know when it will rain, you know when the fog is coming in, you can tell the time no matter where you are.

When I was living outside and communing with nature, I all of a sudden could see the impact of nature on me. You realize that you are extremely connected no matter what you do. If I am feeling lost or uncertain of what to do next, I can go outside and answers happen. This is reflected in my art.

When I first started I did not really know that paper cutting was already a thing.

I researched who else was out there and found Nikki McClure, a famous paper cut artist. She is amazing and is also very nature centered. I feel like her inspiration is similar to mine where just daily interactions and how you choose to interact with them is really important.

Tell me about the art class you teach.
In addition to doing this I teach art at ARTU4iA, for toddlers and preschoolers. I have always made things with my children, and to see how impactful it was for them to watch me create everyday, I realized I could give that to other people who may not be comfortable doing it for their own children. We always have a project we are working on but I call it “process art.” I give you all of the materials and the outline of what to do, but because they are so little I want them to just play and experience the materials. I work with their adult who comes with them, to put it all together and have that bonding experience. Especially for children, they learn a lot doing stuff on their own, but if their adult is not comfortable giving them paint or crayons or markers – which a lot of people aren’t because of the mess – I can provide them a space to do so. I don’t care if you spill on the floor, because we learn how to clean it up. My hope is that parents will learn and find more opportunities to start doing art at home. There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, and I think the only way out of it is through creativity.

(Check out Instagram: @julialinsteadt, or for more info on her art classes.)

Do you have any shows or events scheduled that you will be participating in?
My work will be displayed at Citrus Salon for Artcelerator’s monthly ArtBeat event held this Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in downtown Martinez.

I have two pieces in Benicia right now, which is part of the “The Art of a Community” event. The community open house reception is also on the 20th of February. I will be very busy that day! It is a family day held from 1-4 p.m.; there will be lots of activities for kids.

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