Julia Elmore - the abstract nature painter helping others create

PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 July 2020

Julia Elmore -  Leonora's Tale

Julia Elmore - Leonora's Tale


Painter and supporter of artists, Barnet’s Julia Elmore is a creative force

Julia Elmore - Island LifeJulia Elmore - Island Life

Julia Elmore’s hands are an endlessly shifting spectacle, interpreting every enthusiastic observation she makes on art and on life. Whether her early notion of going into fashion design, a love of woodland or adorning the windows of her home with paintings to brighten the gloom of lockdown, each topic is accompanied by her animated hands. And why not? They are not only one of this artist’s tools of the trade but play another important role too. 
‘As a child I was always doodling in class. What I came to realise as an adult was that is how I concentrate, when my hands are occupied. Even chopping vegetables is quite meditative, a way of calming myself.’ 
I can’t imagine Julia anything other than calm. And as well as a knack of taking things in her stride, laughter also comes easily to the 48-year-old. Her career has not taken a traditional route, but enjoyment and positivity have remained a constant factor.
Fondly recalling her BA course in ceramics, we return to a central theme. ‘Ceramics is very tactile and at uni I did hand building rather than throwing. I loved kneading clay and coiling pots. But within my first term a tutor told me there’s no living to be made out of ceramics, which threw me a bit. 
Julia’s salvation turned out to be Raw Vision, a magazine devoted to the work of untrained and unschooled artists around the world, that she discovered in the university library and which had a long-lasting influence. 
‘I’ve always been interested in people on the fringes. When I left Middlesex I helped out at the mag, on a voluntary basis, one day a week. Eventually I was offered a job and stayed there for 17 years, working my way up to senior editor.’ 
Work and family (Julia has two sons, Tom and Max) didn’t prevent her pursuing her own art. She dabbled in collage and printing, appreciating the constraints of materials while exploring freedom within those constraints, until focussing on the nature-inspired acrylic paintings which now dominate her portfolio. Based at her kitchen table (there’s a long-term plan to convert the garden shed of her Barnet home), Julia mixes paint with her hands as well as brushes, first coating plywood panels with gesso before adding up to half a dozen layers of colour then concentrating on leaves and foliage. She can be working on three paintings at any one time.
As well as her own satisfaction from painting, this artist has an altruistic side, too. For the past decade Julia has run Exploring Collections for Outside In, an independent charity working with artists who feel they are excluded from the mainstream art world. 
‘We go into museums or galleries and I support artists researching works, then respond creatively to their discoveries and further their own creative process.’ 
She is also the founder of Creative Community, an online artists’ support group. ‘This is a small group of people wanting to build a creative practice which fits in with their lives and responsibilities,’ she explains. ‘We have a weekly check-in and little challenges such as five minute drawings. It’s a way of connecting and sharing your work in a safe environment. Art is about connection – with nature, people – that’s the most important thing for me.’
Nature, luckily, is not far from Julia’s doorstep. With Oak Hill Park just five minutes away, and Trent Park and Hadley Wood also accessible, Julia appreciates this area on the southern border of Herts which has been home for the past 20 years and where she benefits from easy access to London galleries. 
What is she planning next? ‘I’d love to paint bigger. I love movement, so working bigger would be more physical. I like the idea of being able to do more sweeping strokes.’ 
As someone who, when ‘feeling stuck,’ breaks for a few minutes of dancing, Julia Elmore’s practical mindset is as refreshing as her paintings. And with one final hand gesture, she sums up her art, her inspiration and herself. 
‘Like music, art is being able to convey in some way things you can’t necessarily find words for. When I’m walking in woods I feel so calm and at one with nature without any day-to-day stresses. It’s a similar feeling when I’m immersed in painting. I love the process, being able to express myself. Satisfaction is looking
at a finished piece and knowing that it expresses what I can’t find words for.’

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