Each of Julie Schronk’s whimsical folk art paintings feels like a big-hearted welcome, a friendly invitation to step right into the scene to join all the fun.
Fancy an old fashioned church picnic, quilt show or yard sale? Maybe you’d prefer a lazy afternoon at your favorite fishing hole, a stroll down main street, or a quick bite at the local diner. Julie’s cheery, engaging slices of old-timey Americana, rendered in vibrant colors and bustling with activity, brim with just the kind of quirky details that beg a closer look.
Originally from Dallas, Julie now lives in Hillsboro, Texas, where she paints traditional, Black, Bayou and bohemian folk art. She calls herself a memory and storyteller painter who kindles memories of bygone days and inspires people to imagine their own stories in her pictures.
Julie’s now in her 16th year of creating and selling her acrylic originals, which have been shipped to almost every state in the union and to countries such as France, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand.
I love the warmth and convivial vitality in Julie’s pieces, which are like mini cultural history lessons with their depictions of cotton gins, juke joints, country stores, Amish barns, farmyards, and city skylines.
I’m so happy to welcome Julie to Alphabet Soup today to tell us more about her joyous paintings and a bit about her children’s books. I know you’ll enjoy stepping back in time and hearing how this talented artist works.
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MEET JULIE SCHRONK
Name of shop or business: Just Folks (Because my paintings are about just folks, farming, going to church, frequenting old country stores, etc. It seemed to fit nicely).
Year established: 2000
Items you make: One of a kind original folk art paintings
Studio Location: Hillsboro, Texas
Three words that best describe your art: Nostalgia, Memories, History
Self taught or formal training? Completely self taught
Tools of the Trade: Acrylic paints, brushes, canvases. The most essential tool I use each day I paint is a Cotman 222 liner brush. I use it for all my tiny details. The brushes last a long, long time.
Inspirations and influences: the Great Mattie Lou O’Kelley, who was a self taught folk artist, Grandma Moses, Clementine Hunter (Black folk artist)
Three significant milestones in your career: College degree, deciding to teach myself how to paint folk art, and having my paintings auctioned in the prestigious Slotin Folk Art Auction (by invitation only)
Food that inspires your best work: Fruit, old recipes like Grandma made . . . banana pudding, pies, cobblers
What is your earliest memory of being creative? What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?
Junior High School when the school was putting on a Christmas Pageant and they needed a huge painting of Santa and his sleigh, and the teacher asked me to create it (I was so honored that they believed I was that talented).
Third grade we made papier-mâché planets as a school project; it was so fun.
How and when did you develop a passion for American folk art/primitive painting?
In 2000 when I began selling cat paintings on Ebay, then realizing my real passion was for folk art, then I stumbled across the great folk art of Theresa Prokop on Ebay, began studying her work and the work of others. I love primitive painting because it tells a rich cultural story with lots of memories.
Most of your paintings are populated with lots of happy, busy people working, eating, and playing together in rural settings. Do you come from a big family?
No, I grew up an only child in Dallas, Texas, but had many relatives who would sit around and tell tall stories about farm life and politics and my mother told me stories about playing with Black children on the farm when she grew up there in Holland, Texas.
What kinds of life experiences have informed your creative vision?
Loving nostalgia, old signs, taking photos of old barns, and traveling.
Are there any particular references you’ve found to be especially helpful for creating your scenes of nostalgic Americana, or do most of the details (buildings, clothing, interior objects, signage, etc.) come from your imagination?
I sometimes take photos of old barns, towns, buildings, houses, but most of my paintings come from “Memories” and my rich imagination as a writer. I sometimes look at a blank canvas and see a painting just begging to be painted.
Sometimes movies inspire me of old towns, places, like “Bonnie and Clyde,” which was filmed here very near where we live (the old Dallas Highway), is still here in Hillsboro.
How long does it typically take you to complete a painting? What is your favorite part of the process?
A 12×16 in an afternoon session
A 16×20 2 afternoon sessions
Putting in all the tiny little details of the buildings, the people, etc.
Which type of paintings are the most popular with your buyers? Any plans to sell prints in addition to originals?
Quilt paintings, snow paintings, and Black folk art, which they love.
We have looked into it, but it is too expensive, but I would love to offer prints someday.
Since your folk art paintings tell wonderful stories, it’s no surprise to hear you’re also a writer who’s published several e-books. Could you please tell us more about them?
I tried to become a children’s book writer for years, wrote many children’s books and had lots of agents and editors, including Arthur Levine, who published Harry Potter.
I turned my best children’s books into Kindle books some years back; they are very funny and I did a whole series of humorous books based on classic horror stories, the titles of which are The Werewoof (based on The Werewolf), Catula (based on Dracula), The Bantam of the Opera (based on The Phantom of the Opera), and Dr. Frankenswine (based on Frankenstein).
Who are some of your literary heroes? What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Roald Dahl, whom I learned much from, Neil Gaiman, who wrote The Graveyard Book, Anne Rice (have read all her books and all the books about her, once visited her famous St. Elizabeth’s Church in New Orleans where her personal library is).
My favorite children’s books: BFG, Matilda, The Twits, Esio Trot, Lemony Snicket series
Describe your studio or workspace. How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity?
It’s just a large desk in the corner of my bedroom, surrounded by my favorite paintings of Frida Kahlo, the Virgin of Guadalupe, images I am crazy about.
If I listen to music as I paint I like to hear Don Mclean – “American Pie” and “Vincent,” and Joni Mitchell’s Blue album to inspire me, also Simon & Garfunkel, especially “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Billy Joel and Elton John.
What’s the most interesting piece of commissioned work you’ve done so far?
I did a church picnic scene for a lady who grew up in Kentucky; it was an old wooden church and she wanted herself pictured in the painting along with the Preacher saying the blessing at the table (16×20). I also did a painting for the famous folk art gallery Around Back at Rocky’s for their big anniversary celebration – they took the painting and had t-shirts and postcards made from the painting (I was so honored).
Do you have a dream job?
Becoming a successful full-time writer, which was my dream for years and years.
Any new projects you’re especially excited about?
A new 16×20 painting I am finishing depicting the sinking of the Titanic, very whimsical.
How can we purchase your work?
It’s posted each week to Ebay at auction, I list all new paintings to Facebook each week, I have a shop on Etsy (the Gypsy Peddler) with my paintings on it, though I haven’t done much with the shop. Ebay mostly is how you can purchase my paintings. I also have a website for my art: http://www.juliesfolkart.com.
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♥ Julie Schronk Online ♥
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* All images copyright © 2016 Julie Schronk. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.