Studio Visit / Julie Houts

4 years ago by

I probably get too excited for my own good when I see Julie has posted a new comedic illustration on her Instagram, @jooleeloren. Her searing and insightful commentary of that state of womanhood is both universal and personal. It only makes sense her first book be titled, Literally Me, as one can’t think of much else when scrolling through her feed. We stopped her studio to see where all the comedic genius happens.


What does a typical day in your studio look like? Is there such a thing as a “typical” day for you?

Not really, it varies a lot based on deadlines and whether or not I’m feeling motivated or inspired.

Most days I wake up around 8:30 or so and have a coffee and read the news, answer any pending emails, read whatever else and then dive in to actual work, whether its personal or for someone. Some days I’ll have work I need to do for a client and I’ll work steadily for a whole day stopping only to let the dog out or make some lunch. I’ve gone through periods where I work 8am-4am to finish a project. Other days I’ll spend just an hour or two working on a drawing for myself and then I’ll lose interest and go do something else.

I sell prints through my website and also through Art Space. I fill the orders myself, so some days I’ll have to fill orders for a couple hours. Some days I’ll have a call or a meeting that will dictate how the day goes and when the work needs to get done.

The only real rule is that I have to draw something every day. It’s not a hard rule to keep — I really enjoy it.

Julie Houts Atelier Dore

Atelier Dore Julie Houts

What is the process of creating one of your illustrations?
I’ll come up with an idea. Usually the words before the drawing. Sometimes that takes a bit of writing to nail down the language. Then I’ll just start doodling different layouts or figures to determine how it’s all going to be laid out. I usually do one or two sketchier drawings to figure things out before I put a clean piece of paper on top of the more finished sketch and then trace it out to make the final illustration.

Recently I’ve been working really hard at getting better at working digitally, so I’ve been challenging myself to scan in the pencil drawing and work on filling it in Photoshop and adding text using a Wacom tablet instead of by hand. It’s much harder than I anticipated, but I’m slowly slowly slowly getting better and faster.

Julie Houts Atelier Dore

Do you swear by specific brands for your art supplies or do you spread the love all over? What’s your approach (if any) to organizing them?
I’m a bit particular about my supplies. I used to love working on color printer computer paper because of its slickness. I realized eventually the chemicals in the markers I use were reacting with the chemicals in the paper and over time the drawings kept getting these yellow rings all over them. So I stopped that paper and now use Bristol paper for most final drawings. Its finish is slick like the computer paper and generally it takes the marker well.

I use a 2B or HB pencil, preferably Staedtler Lumograph pencils. If I’m doing a larger sketch, I’ll use something softer like a 6B.

For markers I use AD or Copic or Prismacolor. I think they’re all xylene-based, which means they smell incredibly toxic, which I love, because I’m one of those gasoline/rubber cement huffing- type of people, and also feel a high brain cell count is deeply overrated. I bought a lot of organizational supplies when I first went freelance with the intention of being extremely organized and professional. I grouped them all by color. That lasted about a month and now its just heaps of markers in general color areas but also not at all. I’m really messy when I work. About once every two weeks I have to take an hour to just get my studio space back to 0. It’s not even only art mess. There will be like fifteen half empty water glasses, paper coffee cups, bowls of crusted yogurt from breakfast a week ago, coffee mugs…its truly disgusting.

If I have to do anything with pens, I’ll use Microns in all the widths, but I find .05, .03, .01, .005 most useful. I love a white Gelly Roll pen. They’re useful for detailing.

If I’m working in gouache, I use Winsor & Newton. I’m not that picky about my brushes because I don’t know enough to be picky.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Are there specific things you keep in your studio for inspiration?
I draw inspiration from things I read or conversations I’ve had with friends. Most often I’m just trying to process information and I do that by boiling all the information down into one illustration.

Julie Houts Atelier Dore

Julie Houts Atelier Dore

Julie Houts Atelier Dore

You recently published a book, Literally Me, that is a mix of satirical essays and illustrations and I gleefully devoured it in one sitting. Did you approach writing the essays differently than your illustrations? Where there separate challenges?

When I first signed the book deal, I didn’t anticipate doing any writing. My editor Lauren suggested doing essays. I was initially really resistant. I just didn’t think I would be capable of doing it. I kept putting them off for months and finally just got to a place where I had to write them. They came much more easily than I thought they would.

When I make a drawing, I get an idea, and then sit down and work on it until its finished. It could take twenty minutes or several hours. And once it’s done, its basically done. I don’t revisit it. The essays were the same. I would come up with an idea and sit down and just write until it was finished and send it to Lauren. I didn’t really revisit them once I sent them to her. At the time, I felt like the bar was so low for me as a writer, there was no sense in torturing myself. In hindsight, I think that naivety was a blessing in terms of meeting my deadlines. There was no time for me to second guess my instincts.

Your favorite thing to do to procrastinate?
For whatever reason, I really hate taking the print orders to the mailbox. So if I’m putting that off, I’ll take a Sharpie and draw hearts all over the mailers for the orders. Sometimes there are fifty or more orders, and drawing the hearts will take a full hour. Its truly a massive and worthless waste of time.

Another favorite is convincing myself that watching television is a form of research to inform drawings, so I’ll watch four hours of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to the point where I’m drooling and my eye is twitching, and convince myself that I’ve learned something invaluable about the human condition.

Looking at furniture I can’t afford on 1stdibs is always good. Sending TheRealReal links to friends like, “I feel like I have a leopard coat, but this one does something different….” “Is this going to be weird in person?” “Can’t tell what the back is doing but is this cute maybe?”

Studio Visit / Julie Houts


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