Dallas, Texas / United States
Art Mums United is proud to introduce Julie Flandorfer who is a multidisciplinary visual artist with a background in painting and graphic design. Julie is a mother of two. She currently works at a public library as a graphic designer who also gets to teach art classes to the public.
Julie, you've worked in the corporate world as an illustrator and production artist. You took the leap and became a freelancer later on. Can you tell us a little more about yourself (brief bio/history/backstory/journey into art)?
I went to college to study painting and received my Bachelor's degree. One particular professor encouraged me to take graphic design classes along with my fine art studies. I'm so glad he suggested this! It's very hard to work as a fine artist immediately right out of school, make any money (hello, bills to pay) with no experience or connections in the field yet. Plus, this was way before the internet and social media. I was able to find work right away as a technical illustrator in the telecom industry. I know this sounds boring, and it was!
I moved to another corporate job which wasn't much better. It provided income but was not satisfying my creative needs. However, I do not regret working at either of those corporate jobs. I learned so much about the business world, how to meet deadlines, present designs and ideas at meetings, deal with vendors and most importantly, how to invoice clients. This set me up with the proper business tools to be able to freelance on my own, which I did for several decades. I currently work at a public library as a graphic designer who also gets to teach art classes to the public. I love it! My two kids are mostly grown and this gives me time to concentrate on my own art.
What was the main motivation behind your decision to leave the corporate world? How long did the transition take for you to become a full-time freelance artist?
I felt I had to be true to myself and start my freelance business in order to be more creative. Both corporate jobs were creative to an extent but very restrictive. Corporate standards and guidelines had to be met with every job. As I said, I learned so much at both these jobs. I wouldn't trade working at either for the world. At first, my freelance clients were basically the corporations I had worked for and just left. That lasted for about one year until I started to make more contacts and met people in the advertising industry. Then I worked on-site and in my own studio for various advertising agencies for about 15 years, mixed in with some of my own clients. This was great because I worked on so many different types of jobs. Flexibility is key when freelancing! I did everything from restaurant menus, to direct mail, logos, illustrations, a children's clothing line (logo, postcards, illustrations screen-printed on fabric and packaging) and layout of several books. The transition to getting my own clients and finding full-time freelance took about a year.
You have experienced a rough period of time in your life when you were diagnosed with breast cancer. Your art helped you to stay positive throughout the treatment. What did you learn about yourself and your art practice during that time?
I really never thought I'd have breast cancer since it did not run in my family. That was a total shock! Coming to terms with that diagnosis was not easy of course. But you just have to go through the motions of what doctors recommend, doing some research on your own too. (Thank you Google!) It also really helped to reach out to total strangers I met online in Facebook groups. I have created art in some form since I was about seven years old. I was one of those art kids, always creating. But I never, until last year and dealing with breast cancer, realized just how much therapeutic the practice was for me. It's amazing how during a trying time, the ideas just start flying forward into your mind, almost slamming out onto the paper or canvas! Or whatever your medium. My advice is to just create, no matter what. Who cares about the outcome! If nothing else, it gives your mind a rest from thinking about the doctor appointments, symptoms and pain.
What is the main focus in your art practice right now? Where does your inspiration come from?
I have been experimenting for the past few years with many different kinds of media and styles. (I'm still trying to find myself!) My dream, and hopefully soon to be a reality, is to teach online art classes and workshops. I also want to create a body of work that includes larger pieces and sculpture.
You have included your children into your art world since they were little. What was it like? Were they participating even as they grew older?
I absolutely loved including my kids in my art classes. They even helped me prepare the classes and materials. I feel this experience paid off for both of them. In high school, my daughter was accepted into a special art program and stayed in that for six years. Now in college, she is studying fashion design. My son also focused on game design and animation in high school. He is studying computer programming in college, which he claims to be creative. I have always tried to encourage their creative endeavors. Plus, them seeing me spend my life as a working artist (even though in different forms) has hopefully shown them that it can be done, making a living in the arts.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past and how do you feel about it now?
When my kids were younger, I didn't really try to do much art of my own. I was doing my WORK art (illustration, production, design) for clients. That was OK. I was keeping my finger-in-the-pie, so to speak. It paid off later, when they were older, about middle school age. Then I had more free time to create art for myself. It does happen even though it may seem like you'll never have the time!
What is the message behind your art?
I want to create art that is not completely abstract but has realistic, recognizable elements but abstracted in some way. I want my art to help people see ordinary objects in different ways. Recently I have been focusing on women's issues, especially breast cancer.
What does your art do for you?
Art is totally therapy for me! I have an uncontrollable urge to create all the time. My mind is going almost nonstop thinking of ideas. Granted, they're not all good ideas! I believe this keeps me young at heart, and always willing to learn and experiment.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting etc.)?
My kids are both in college right now and even though that means they are mostly adulting on their own, because of the pandemic, their college lives and schedules are not the norms. I still worry regularly about them.
As far as my near future career plans, I hope to keep my full-time job in marketing for a public library. This job is very rewarding as it allows me to be somewhat creative with my work and to teach art and craft workshops to the public.
For my personal art practice, I hope to work on a bigger scale, experiment more with video and motion art and to record online art classes to offer for free and then eventually as a second, retirement income.
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
Hang in there! You'll have more time for your art before you know it. In the meantime, create as often as you can with your kids. I cherish those memories. Try to find a way to keep working, even just for a little, even if it's simply painting a little once a week and posting to Instagram. To develop your style, make a list of all the things you love, the things you are most passionate about. Try combining two or three of these things into your art, even if they don't seem to go together naturally. It will be uniquely you!