Periodic Article Spotlighting Emergent Neurodivergent Creatives of All Types
Interview: February 27, 2017
By Cassandra Nelson
When I met Julie Bovee at Corey Huff’s The Abundant Artist Business Conference in Portland last summer, I was instantly put at ease as we chatted. She was kind, open, friendly and had a spark of joy about her disposition that helped calm my bit of anxiety. Something I was especially grateful for after one of my usual late entrances. This time it was getting lost within a detour and then loudly stumbling into the small, intimate conference 15 minutes late during the keynote address. The speaker had stopped his talk to welcome me and invite me to sit in the front row (torturous!).
It was obvious that we were all there to learn how to best sell our artwork, but there was a portion of us introverts there and we were working harder than ever to just speak to one another about ourselves. As I looked around for someone to break the ice with on the first break, I was immediately drawn to Julie and her warm smile. She told me about her work, much the way it’s described on her website- as “intuitive expressionist paintings and painterly illustrations” (terms she created) using acrylics and multi-media featuring subjects like flowers, fairies and cats. Very cool, I thought. But when she told me about how she had been looking at the intersection of art and healing and the power of healing with flowers, I was immediately enthralled. I graciously accepted her card, knowing full well that I would be mercilessly hunting her down in the future.
After scouring her website, meeting for coffee and interviewing her, I can safely say that I am obsessed about Julie’s process and her work. She truly works from a place of healing, play, joy and rediscovery. Standing in her home studio, I could feel the vibrations of creativity buzzing, as she showed me her workspace, past work and works in progress. I was especially happy to see that she displays some pieces of artwork that she made as a child. I later learned that rediscovering the seeds from her childhood play an important part in guiding and creating her work.
I interviewed Julie in her bright, sun-drenched living room, an open space with lots of her vibrant artwork, many plants and many cats. Okay, only two came to visit me while I sat with her, but she has four cats and one husband who keep her company. Instead of the traditional coffee table, a large 7-foot plant took center stage of the room. I immediately felt at home. I also felt honored that she shared with me, telling me that a short time ago, she would have said no to being interviewed. But that she was taking baby steps to saying yes more. Saying yes, and cleaning out the old rooms that one slowly shuts down over time, is one of my favorite things she wrote about in her blog articles. I believe many of us are pushing through this process- going back to rediscover the parts of us we locked up and left behind, releasing a sense of freedom and joy back into our lives.
Nestled onto her comfy grey, chenille couch, we went through my questions one by one. With each answer, I came to a deeper understanding about what drives Julie, what her intentions are and how she finally gave in to becoming the long lost artist she had left behind as a child. I realized by the end of our exchange, how much the world needs Julie and her art right now. And the endless possibilities in the positive power her work pours out to us.
Cass: Your website opens up to the tagline “Exploring the Jungles of Art and Life”. It greets you with stunning, whimsical flowers. The melding of color with detailed outlines and patterns is almost mesmerizing or meditative. From the get go, you have me feeling relaxed, happy and calm just opening up to your homepage. What is your hope and intention with the creation of your artwork?
Julie: Most of us start our lives, as children with a sense that life that is magical and fun. We feel that anything is possible. As we get older, life happens, the magic and fun gets sapped out of us and leads us away from our happy, innocent state. We become stressed, anxious, fearful, and our natural state of pure joy in life is obscured- but never gone! My hope and intention with my art is to help the viewer to rediscover that youthful state of joy and happiness and to feel some bit of ease in their current situation.
Cass: Where does it come from, or what experiences, challenges or inspirations have led you to want to approach your artwork from this perspective?
Julie: I think that if I’m not purposefully guarding against outside influences, I’m really easily lead off of my course. I’ve always been susceptible to the opinions of others and as a child throughout my childhood, I easily moved away from who I really am. I don’t think this is unusual. I think it happens to everyone to some extent. I forgot about so many things that were important to me, and it was only in recent years that I started to recognize this and began to reclaim the unique person that I am. My hope is that other people who are at the point in their lives where they’re open to reconnecting with who they really are, some of those people might discover my art, begin their own process of self discovery and regain some of the simple, natural happiness and joy in their lives.
Cass: What do you feel drives you to create as an artist?
Julie: I’ve always loved arts and crafts. My earliest memories of creating art are of my mom teaching my sister and I how to draw. She used to draw houses and fashion models for us and I loved that so much. I thought she was the very best artist in all of the world. Beyond that experience, I’ve felt a deep driving force to paint paintings for as long as I can remember. That was somewhat confusing for me because I see artists who paint from a place of angst, and that seems really compelling, like that what’s people expect of artists, but I don’t feel that angst-driven art feeling at all. So from that respect, I’ve always felt a little like maybe I’m not a real artist because I don’t have any angst to express. For a long time, that actually discouraged me and interfered with my drive to create, but I think I’ve come to terms with that now and given myself permission to be a different kind of artist- one who values love and compassion and healing of angst.
Cass: What artists, influencers, or teachers brought you back to creating artwork?
Julie: Amazon.com suggested a book called “Brave Intuitive Painting” by Flora Bowley. I just had to have it right away. It pointed me to her website where I found her paintings and her online art course that was coming up. She was teaching her second ever online art class. I was terrified but signed up anyway. I was self-taught otherwise and this would be my first art class. Because I didn’t have to go to a class with other people in it, only my husband watching me, I felt like I could do it. Up until that point in time, most of what I had painted was from photo references. I had started out with oil paints as a kid, then tried watercolor and gouache, but didn’t feel very proficient at all with any of those mediums. Flora’s course was teaching acrylics and for some reason I had it in my head that maybe I would like acrylics and be better at them compared to the other mediums, and so that was part of the reason that I signed up. Prior to that, I had only been painting using photographs. I am not a skilled photographer and prefer not to use other people’s photos because of copyright issues. Flora was offering brave, intuitive painting- something I didn’t know if I could do or not! It was way out of my comfort zone. I think I was just so miserable at the time, that it didn’t matter that it was totally out of my comfort zone. I was too numb from stress and anxiety that the additional anxiety of the art class wasn’t enough to paralyze me. The class ended up being transformational for me. First of all, she started us right off on HUGE canvases, 4 foot by 4 foot. That was very jarring and disconcerting for people who’ve only ever painted small, precise little paintings. Next we were to lay the canvases on the ground and splash paint and water all over them wildly. On it went… By the end of the course, I felt like somewhat of a failure, but my eyes were opened to new, never before imagined possibilities and there was no turning back.
Cass: You mentioned that you were in business marketing and a software engineer before becoming an artist. Do you find that your previous careers and studies provided anything beneficial to your development as an artist?
Julie: Yes, and I think my whole life is wrapped up into my art. They’ve all contributed to my learning what is important to me. And the computer skills- the computer skills have really been helpful.
Cass: Your work has bold, rich color, layers of textured patterns that seem to ebb and flow all over the canvases. Especially, in the Wildlife Series where the colors reach out and grab you. You can’t look away as the viewer! With Citrus Tree Summons the Honey Bee, I am first drawn in by the color and composition. Both elements feel very balanced, strong and yet playful at the same time. The dots encasing the flowers and stems, again feels almost meditative. I found it amazing that bees actually came into your yard and moved into the bin under your orange tree after you painted this. Do you feel like you are naturally intuitive? And that intuition helps guides your work or in decision making in your everyday life?
Julie: (giggling) It was crazy! I didn’t know if I somehow summoned the bees and they felt welcomed to come or if that was me being intuitive that they were going to come. I think I am an intuitive person. I think everyone is naturally intuitive, but most of us lose the ability to pick up on the subtle signals in our lives. I’ve become a lot more able to pick up on intuitive signs in the last few years. I think it’s mainly because I’ve been doing a lot more meditating and journaling and paying attention to my dreams.
Cass: Where do you go in your head when you paint? i.e. the thoughts, feelings and emotions that you have as you create your work?
Julie: Some of the time I start out with an idea, but many of the paintings I love the most, just materialized on the paper or canvas as I went along. I usually have no plan really. I start out making layers of colors and textures. Some layers don’t look all that good and especially in the beginning when I started doing layers in Flora Bowley’s class. I really thought some of the layers were downright ugly. But, when I really get absorbed into a painting, I just follow my intuitive urges and curiosity. Mostly, I am enjoying the colors and I just like to experiment. I wonder “what will happen if I do this…” and then debate it as I go, asking myself “what could go wrong?”
Cass: I love the playful spirit and feeling of wonderment in the Fairies Series. Where did the inspiration for your Fairies Series come from?
Julie: When I was a small child, I loved to play outside all alone. I would find a spot, usually near a tree or tree stump, where there would be moss and interesting little plants and maybe a toadstool and I could sit there for hours. I’d find little sticks and push them through the middle of flowers to make fairies wearing flower dresses. Then, I’d create a little world for those fairies, building homes out of bark and stone and moss. Sometimes I would find a toad and try to convince it to want to live in my little world, but of course they all hopped away. I’ve never forgotten that magical time and it draws me to fairies. They’re magical protectors of our environment and I want to honor them and bring them out into view. Plus, I just really have fun dreaming up what their outfits might look like and especially enjoy doing tutus.
Cass: The sunflower series is really special as I feel like there is a lot of positive power exuding from the images in the paintings. Sunflower Fierce (pictured below) comes to mind with the female head as the flower, surrounded in bright radiant petals, her eyes strong, wise and all knowing. She’s wearing a crown, made from homework from your childhood, as if to declare her confidence and rule in her own life. A butterfly rests on her neck as if to say, nature honors you in your deep wisdom and rule in your own destiny. It’s exquisite. What was your goal in the images you portray in this series? What is YOUR favorite and why?
Julie: I chose August as the month for the sunflower celebration because it is astrologically the month of Leo and I’m a Leo and because of the strong solar plexus energy of Leo and the sunflower. I felt that they were meant to be together. I really made working on all of those sunflower images as sort of a meditation on that. At the same time, the presidential election was percolating away and there was a lot of discussion about diversity and that’s one of the main things that drew me to California in the first place. I love the diversity here! I love the LGBTQ community. I love all of the ethnic diversity. Everyone I meet here offers me an opportunity to think about things from a different perspective. My favorite of the series is “Flower Fairy has Sunflowers for All” (pictured with Julie in the top image) because out of all of the paintings, for me, she best expresses the loving acceptance of all of us, regardless of our appearance and opinions.
Cass: You mentioned to me that you are an empath. How does the strengths and benefits associated with this trait contribute to your work as an artist?
Julie: I had no idea I was an empath (also called Highly Sensitive Person) until just a few years ago after reading a book by Dr. Judith Orloff. That book was a huge blessing because it gave me permission to be the way I am and stop apologizing about it. It gave me tools for how to deal with people and situations better. I even wrote to her to thank her for writing that book. It was the first time I ever wrote to an author, and she wrote back! I think learning that I’m an empath helped with self-acceptance, and that helped me to open up to more self-acceptance of the artist inside of me that wanted to come out. I started to realize that it really is okay to just be who I really am. I found that I can be nicer to myself, and then that comes out in my art.
Cass: Do you feel that being an empath has benefits in your everyday life? What has been challenging for you in having this trait and what tools have you found to help you through those challenging times?
Julie: I am much more in touch with my intuition now. I have found that the tools that help me are to plan ahead with social situations, making sure that I have a nice quiet place to go to afterwards, letting myself say no to some social things sometimes, and getting out in nature. That has been really helpful.
Cass: Your blog gives us a peak into your other passions- gardening, creating flower essence waters, reading and the exploring the healing power of flowers. I wanted to go out and buy some sunflowers after reading about them on your blog. You talk about the science of smiling. That even fake smiling can actually boost endorphins, your immune system and serotonin while lowering blood pressure. You mention using sunflowers as a personal trainer for your mood. What drew you to showcase the healing power of flowers in your writing and artwork?
Julie: I’ve always been drawn to flowers. When I was a young child, around the time of creating the little fairy villages, I was also out picking flowers and soaking them in water. Sometimes I picked the flower with stems, but also loved to pick just the flowers and infuse them into the water. I especially loved a yellow rose bush in our backyard. It was really fragrant. My mom called it a weed and eventually had it cut down and I was devastated. Since then, I’ve come to understand why she thought it was a weed. There are native roses that grow all across this country. We have them here in California. Native plants that are not coming from a store are often thought of as weeds. I completely disagree with that and am an avid supporter of growing California native plants in landscapes. Back to the native roses- they are gorgeous and so fragrant and the rose hips were used as food for the native peoples, and also are food for wildlife. They are the most magical of plants in my opinion. If you’re in the Bay Area, you can go and admire them for yourself at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Alviso, California. As a child, I had no idea that flowers have unique vibrations and that they can be used to enhance our own vibrations to encourage healing, similar to the use of crystals. I’ve slowly kind of fallen into learning more about flowers and their properties. I was certified in Reiki Level 2 in September 2016, and so I’m also very curious to explore the possibilities of infusing Reiki energy into my flower healing paintings.
Cass: What are the current projects and pieces you have going?
Julie: I want to continue creating flowers and fairies and offering healing information about flowers. I’ve been contemplating a new series about empowering women that I named “Female Warrior Flower Power”. That has come from my thinking about the challenges women have faced throughout the ages, still face even now and our resilience and strength. I want to celebrate that, and of course, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to offer up some flower healing information. And cats. More big cats!
Contact Julie Bovee at