Canada on canvas: the art of Julia Veenstra
ABOVE: Ontario artist Julia Veenstra in her Hamilton studio.
Since childhood, Julia Veenstra has been an artist to watch. Her mother would often be told about her daughter’s artistic talent.
Veenstra took her calling and attended Sheridan College in Oakville where she studied illustration. She found her niche as a painter through a journey of experimenting along with the help of people’s response to her work.
“Once I discovered my signature style, galleries started discovering it too,” Veenstra says. Her work is carried in eight galleries in southern Ontario.
The work of Veenstra has a particular look and feel which she describes as “lively impressionism.”
“I paint all the positive shapes, the foregrounds, first. Then, as I colour block, I consider the negative spaces, the background. I don’t paint from the back forward, I paint from the forward back. That creates a lot of energy around the positive shapes. It makes them look alive or moving.”
It is this definitive style that makes Veenstra’s work recognizable. The way in which she paints echoes a strong Canadian influence. Veenstra says, “I find my work very Canadian in that I’m definitely influenced by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, artists alive and past in Canada.” Veenstra say that, “Canadians have been raised with those artists so when they relate to my work, it is quite an honour. That people can recognize my work is really quite humbling as well. That there’s a part of me that meets a need in others is really quite fulfilling.”
This ambitious artist is looking to take her work to newer and ever greater heights by expanding across the country. She hopes to have a gallery in the major cities of every province. Veenstra has five children, all living in different places across the country and says that “to have a gallery in the same place as all of my children would mean that they would actually see my work regularly.”
She is excited that her work and recognition in Canada is growing. “It’s incredible to be in eight local galleries in Southern Ontario but I haven’t even scratched the surface of Canada wide and that’s kind of where I want to go.”
Veenstra also runs a fair-trade project called Wild Hope with artisans from Africa. When she lived in Africa, Veenstra started designing beaded ornaments and the women in the project would make the ornaments. Wild Hope began with eight women and has since grown to over 170 women. The ornaments are imported to Canada and are now sold in 11 stores. This is another project Veenstra is looking to expand.
If that was not enough, Veenstra is renovating and restoring old buildings with her husband. Her studio in Hamilton is one of their latest renovations.
Veenstra also encourages others to find creative outlets. She offers workshops and hopes to grow this teaching and coaching practice.
Between her own studio, the galleries that carry her work, Wild Hope and the renovations, Veenstra is undeniably an artist to watch. Her work is uniquely Canadian and her aspirations for continual growth speak to her determined attitude.