Meet the Artists: Julie Schumer & James Koskinas
In this Meet the Artist post we will be showcasing two talented artists: Julie Schumer & James Koskinas of 1228 Parkway Art Space. The two work side by side creating their own unique pieces, but when placed together they form a cohesive and beautiful connection.
Q: Who are you and what do you do?
Julie: I am a painter working with acrylics and many different kinds of drawing tools, such as graphites, pastels, paint sticks, and water-soluble crayons. I paint medium-large format contemplative abstracts that are heavily layered, exploring disappearing lines and shapes.
James: I am also a painter working in acrylics, yet I paint expressionist faces and seated figures along with horses, usually with riders present. My work is loose and abstract, with a slightly primitive quality.
Q: What is your background?
Julie: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I started painting around the age of 5 in after-school classes. I continued through my mid-teens, working in oils and creating still life and landscapes. My work was drippy and messy early on, sort of a hint of what would come much later. My mother took me to many museums growing up and gave me many art books and encouragement until the time came for me to choose a career. My parents convinced me that it was possible financially to be a successful artist and steered me on a practical path. I wound up getting a B.A. in English at UCLA, then I earned my law degree from Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles and was an appellate lawyer for many years writing pages and pages of briefs. The only art I did during this time was in my garage with my two sons who enjoyed painting and other creative projects.
Once the boys were in high school I felt the longing to paint and James showed up at just the right time, giving me the push and encouragement to pick up a brush again. From then on I was hooked and started taking workshops and classes. I was able to continue working as a lawyer part-time on a very flexible basis and still have time to develop myself as an artist.
James: I was born in Indiana and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona at a very young age. When I was 10 years old my family moved to the Bay Area, settling in Danville, a suburb in the East Bay. I was creative as a child. I loved painting, drawing, and making puppets. My mother provided me with many art books, trips to museums, and allowed me to paint on the back wall of our house. I had a Tom Sawyer-type childhood, roaming freely through the neighborhood. I attended specialized art classes during high school at California College of Arts and Crafts and took various college-level art courses after returning home from Vietnam. I worked in construction for many years but continued to do my art along the way, often painting pieces of sheetrock. I am, for the most part, a self-taught artist.
I met Julie while working on a remodel project in her home and could tell she was a painter longing to paint. During the project, I brought her a piece of wood, brushes, and acrylic paint and told her to see what she could do. She hasn’t stopped painting since.
Q: How do you work?
Julie: I am an intuitive painter who works without a plan. At most, I might come up with a palette before I start and layout the necessary ingredients, but that is subject to change along the way. My current body of work is way less colorful and chaotic than it used to be. Right now, I am intrigued by depth and mystery and going with what comes out of my own interior landscape. I alternate many layers of marks with drawing tools and acrylic paint most often mixed with matte medium to create a more transparent feeling. Usually, but not always, I start with a layer of marks to sort of activate the canvas on paper. I don’t paint sitting down, my work is too big for that. Unlike James, I need a little bit of time after going to the studio to get started. I need to make friends with it again, so I usually do something like sweeping the floor, wash the dishes, or go into our loft area and stare at the work we have on our walls to gather inspiration.
James: I usually get an idea in my head before I get to the studio. I go in and just start without a lot of time, pondering what I am going to do. I just want to get paint on the canvas and push it around. My ideas may change as the painting progresses, but I follow the paint the entire time. I paint on my feet, moving around, never sitting down. My paintings are painted and repainted many times. I like a lot of underpainting and texture, some of which show through in the final version of the piece. For the past year, because of COVID, I have been in a phase of heavy experimentation.
Q: What art do you most identify with?
Julie: For me, it’s the 50s abstract expressionists, although my work has recently quieted down in color compared to most of those painters. The looseness, freshness, and boldness of that era have a major appeal to me.
James: For me, it’s German expressionism, starting with the Blau Rider movement because it was gritty, experimental, and appeals to my emotional sensibilities.
Q: What has been your favorite experience so far as an artist?
Julie & James: For both of us, the best thing has been that we are able to paint side by side with our soul mate in our comfortable art studio. Each of us constantly offers critiques (sometimes not too nicely!) and encouragement along with helpful suggestions. When one of us is stuck, the other helps out. We also both love presenting our work at art fairs and openings in person and have greatly missed being able to do that this past year.
Q: Who inspires you?
Julie & James: We inspire each other. Both of us are very self-inspired and self-motivated in general as people. We find inspiration simply by walking into our great studio, having our materials at hand, and being able to work with them whenever we want. We are both very grateful to be able to do this after many years of juggling work and our careers as artists. We also find inspiration in our various painting heroes. During the past year, we have made it a practice to watch a log of documentaries on Netflix or Amazon about artists’ lives and careers and have found inspiration in those stories as well.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
Julie & James: To just show up and do the work. Follow your intuition and not the marketplace. If you paint authentically rather than by what you think will sell, the authentic work will find an audience.
Q: When you are not working where can we find you?
Julie & James: In non-COVID times, we both like to sit and visit with people in local coffee shops, walk with friends along the trails in Santa Fe, go to the gym, and spend time with family and friends.
Q: How has your career as an artist shifted during the past year?
Julie: Experimenting and being incredibly productive, more so than before. I retired from the law in September 2019 and my plan was to offer live workshops and private classes in the studio. We were also going to host our own shows there until we decided what to do about local gallery representation. COVID upended all those plans, which were already in motion. Instead, I very quickly decided that I had to create online workshops since who knew when we would be able to do them in person again. So I went into action and took an online course on how to create an online course. I adapted my in-person curriculum into an online format and James filmed me teaching the courses which were launched last summer. I also had planned to teach a live abstract painting workshop in our Santa Fe studio this past summer with an artist friend of mine in Atlanta, Cat Tesla, so Cat and I turned that course into an online course. We created a business class for artists, which we launched at the beginning of this year. So for me, the last year was spent figuring out the whole online workshop process and enacting it. My painting was actually secondary to getting the online workshop business going, which has so many moving parts and has been incredibly time-consuming. It’s been a huge education on so many levels and kept me busy constantly. Going forward I am expecting that the online courses may take up less of my time that I can then devote to marketing our work more.
James: Just before COVID hit, our main dealer on Canyon Road retired, much to our shock. For us, this was like a death in the family, and we have both had to deal with this loss, which is far greater than just an economic loss. Both of us had been with that gallery for many years and it was an end to a certain way of life for us. We haven’t yet figured out an alternative. Instead, I have dedicated myself to experimentation and have greatly increased my productivity since most of my time, due to COVID limitations, has been spent in the studio.