“I TRY TO WORK ON SOMETHING, HOWEVER SMALL OR STUPID, EVERY DAY”

Insta-illustrator and J. Crew womenswear designer Julie Houts talks us through her creative process.

By Grace Jennings-Edquist

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Illustrations: Julie Houts via Instagram/ @jooleeloren

On finding inspiration when she’s having a creative block:

Sometimes it’s best to just take a break. I don’t often make anything I feel good about if I don’t have an idea that feels organic.

Occasionally I’ll revisit favorite books from artists I like and see if there’s something technical that is exciting that I could build on. The way a hand looks, a certain color combination, etc. Or I’ll pick up whatever magazine or book is nearest and read for a little bit; sometimes there will just be a combination of words that will spark something.

On learning to set the right price for her work as an freelance illustrator:

When I first started out, I had no idea how to price things.  I just sort of had a general feeling based on my emotions about the piece, and I’d just throw out a number I was comfortable with.  Or, I’d take on a job without knowing how much the client would actually expect in terms of revisions, etc. I’d get myself into these impossible situations where I’d be doing ten rounds of edits on a single drawing for which I had quoted an absurdly low rate.  I’d get so resentful, and it made the work such a drag to do.

I’ve learned so much in the past year by talking with friends who work in the art world, by working more, selling more.  It has been a process.  I’m still learning a lot through working with clients.  Mostly about being very candid about money and process up front so everyone is clear about what’s expected in the project.

On advice for any aspiring artists:

I don’t know… Try to work on something, however small or stupid every day? It seems like a sure fire way to improve.

On how her mood affects her work:

It drives it completely. I don’t feel like making much if I’m in a really pleasant easy mood. I’d much rather just be enjoying it, not trying to translate it into a drawing. It’s pretty much only when something is giving me anxiety or anger, or recently, rage, that I feel compelled to draw something.

A lot of things just come from confusion, as well. Working through something I read or see or notice around me that I don’t understand or that keeps bothering me.

On the relationship between feminism and fashion:

They’re both really broad terms and mean a lot of different things to different people. One person’s interpretation of the word feminism, I’ve learned, can be radically different from someone else’s.  Same goes for fashion.  But for me personally, yes, the two are linked. Both in my career, and in terms of what I put on my body and the choices I make as a consumer. It feels like a dialogue at times, if that makes any sense.

Find Julie’s Instagram here and website here.