Following last Friday's interview with my artist mother, Juliette McCullough please find below the 2nd part of the interview which I think is even more fascinating than last week! Having grown up with my mothers artwork all my life and heard so many accounts of her life as a young artist, I thought I'd learned it all but in taking time to further delve into her work and life as an artist it has given me so much more which is so very inspiring indeed!
I would encourage you to check out Juliette McCullough's website (listed below) and also follow her regular Instagram updates. She will inspire you guaranteed!
Here is part 2 of the interview. Enjoy:
Franceska: After finishing your studies, were you able to set up an art practice? What were your challenges at that time as a newly qualified artist?
Juliette: It was so very challenging to find myself facing only myself without any controlling incoming influences. It was terrifying, especially because I wanted to paint human beings, but had no models. That was when I first started pulling images out of my boots so to speak.
Because I had worked so much from life I was really surprised to find that I could create from memory which opened up so many possibilities. Suddenly moving (painting or drawing) across an empty surface became a journey in which the image came through me, in spite of me. It was, and still, when I am lucky, continues to be like dreaming while awake (a lot like the ‘Active Imagination’ practiced by Jungians. I had to submit to what the image wanted, and so each attempt became a sort of dialogue, a real push/pull between me and the surface. While the process itself was a deep experience, the resulting outcomes never satisfied me at that time. I don’t think I had any real identity until I faced and came through that difficult lonely struggle.
It was all intensified because I changed countries at the same time, so I left behind everything and everyone who knew me, everyone whom I could relate to artistically. I became an unrecognizable stranger in a new land, and a foreign culture. This was before the internet and everything that connects us globally today.
I read a lot, and looked to artists I admired for some inkling of how I could develop. I remember coming to the shocking realization that artists in previous generations had had a mythology to live by, even Picasso was born into a time when I think ‘myth’ and an imaginal world was still alive. I found myself struggling to give form to my most nonverbal ideas in the dead years of the end of the 20th century. I was hit by our collective loss of meaning through our reduction of ‘myth’ to mere fairy tale insignificance. Nietzsche’s idea of ‘the death of god’ seemed right on to me. It was only then that I was able to come to the conclusion that a ‘death’ would precede a ‘birth’, that the death of an old order was in fact the beginning of a new one! So, as a young artist I decided that my only hope was to follow my own nose and my own instincts in spite of the fashions of the day; to find my own personal mythology.
This was before I came upon the works of Carl Jung and his idea of ‘archetypes’. I have been learning from him and his ideas for many years now, and the journey still helps me understand my personal struggles in relation to the collective, and it all relates to my artistic journey.
Franceska: How does your art practice now differ from your early years after your education?
Juliette: I haven’t had time to practice properly since I was in art school. Working to keep a roof over my head (especially as an immigrant).
This is why young artists today go for ‘fame’ when they are at the beginning of their journeys, because they hope to make enough money to buy the time to be able to practice their craft uninterrupted. I have had to learn to carve time out of my life to get in the studio, and it does affect my output, and my rhythms of working.
Having said that, I now have a confidence and better awareness when I do get concentrated time to work.
Franceska: What artists had the biggest influence on you as an artist?
Juliette: So many really, but some that come to mind immediately are Rembrandt, Picasso and Willem de Kooning
Franceska: What is the best studio space you’ve ever had and how did you use the space?
Juliette: The one I have now - but then any space I have used has always been the best! I like to stretch my canvases straight on the wall. I like to be able to bash away on a solid surface so that I can push and pull the paint and scrape off too. Then, if an image ever gets to the state that it is ready to go out in the world, I do have the pain of having to stretch it after it’s painted. I have often enjoyed painting on the floor too. I found it necessary to get away from the typical canvas on the easel situation.
Franceska: As an artist, have you ever felt the need to react to the political climate? How did you react and how was it received?
Juliette: Yes, of course, how can I not be affected by what is going on around me! But, I have never considered myself a political painter. Mostly, those images will come out so strong that I don’t attempt to show them, or doubt that I would find a suitable venue for them. However, I started a series of images in 2016 which became my way of handling the stress of the political situation we were living through, and I was delighted when I got to show one of them in the inaugural exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Political Art in Washington DC just opened by Charles Krause. https://www.politicsartus.org/
Franceska: How did you manage to raise a family and maintain your art practice? How did you keep your focus?
Juliette: With difficulty, but I consider painting as a way of living, rather than separate from living.
Every experience I have in my life informs my images as it grows my consciousness. Nothing has been easy, but as long as there is a burning need to make images, somehow they will come out.
Franceska: If you could go back and give advice to yourself when you were just beginning your art education, what would you say?
Juliette: Trust my instincts.
Franceska: How do you arrange your palette? Can you describe how your palette has changed throughout the years?
Juliette: I think the changes have been small. I used to use a very limited palette using only primaries and a white, and that was a great discipline because I had to really learn to mix. Maurice de Sausmarez who ran the Byam Shaw School taught me how to sensitize my eyes to colour nuance, based on the studies of Johannes Itten and Hans Hoffman at the Bauhaus. I owe everything to Maurice’s intense education in experiencing colour.
I added to my palette very slowly and methodically - I remember the exciting day I bought my first tube of cobalt violet! Then learning about the incredible differences between cobalt and ultramarine blue, and cerulean - they are such very different visual energies, and after years of practice my brush (or whatever tool I use) knows exactly where to find the energies I need on the palette.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years?
Juliette: Now I just love yellows, paint as much of my house yellow as I can, but that doesn’t mean that this is going to have a huge effect on my painting
Franceska: How do you feel about how artists now have to exist in a world of constant online imagery? If you could change anything about how we as artists get our work out there, what would it be?
Juliette: Having felt totally isolated in my studio for years, I actually find that the online world can connect me to other painters in a way that has never happened before ! I love to see the work of young and not so young artists in Europe and Asia etc.
Seeing the real thing is always far more exciting and revealing, but I will take the world of digital imagery over the poverty of abject isolation, which is often the lot of the pioneering spirits who cannot afford to live in any of the major cities.
Even then, so much that is showcased in our cities is more about the response to ‘art as commodity’ which is dominated by a false market driven by the collections of millionaires. I believe this has very little to do with the real creative folk who are speaking with authentic voices and possibly really affecting our world. If we can only manage connection on line, at least we have that!
Franceska: Thank you so much for taking the time these last two weeks to answer my questions and letting me dig even further into your life as an artist! I found myself relating to everything and smiling a lot especially at your love of yellows (being that I helped paint your kitchen yellow a few years ago!) I know that other artists of all ages will find inspiration in these interviews!
To learn more about the work of Juliette McCullough please go to her website:
To follow Juliette McCullough on Instagram please go to: @Juliette_McCullough
To follow Juliette McCullough on Facebook please go to: @PainterOnTheEdgeOfMystery
If you have any questions for Juliette McCullough please do comment on this post and we both will try to answer the best way possible.
*If you really enjoy these very inspiring artist interviews then please do follow this blog for artist interviews every Friday at 9am UK time.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.