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East Vancouver Artist and Mom Julie Morstad: Art, Kids and Inspiration

Written by Heather Maxwell Hall.

Julie Morstad is an award-winning illustrator and fine artist known for her surreal, whimsical work. She’s one of my favourite local artists and the children’s books she’s illustrated are among my son’s favourites, including When You Were Small and Where You Came From. Julie’s work is shown in galleries and she’s animated music videos with her brother (like this amazing one they did for Neko Case). She lives in East Vancouver with her family.

I asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be an artist and mother of three.

How would you describe what you do?

I draw. I illustrate and write children’s books, do editorial illustration and show in galleries. I also sell prints of my drawings through my site. I can sometimes be found at Emily Carr teaching a class in the Illustration Program.

How many kids do you have and how do you manage the balance between being an artist and a mom?

I have three kids: Jake is 15, Henry is five and Ida is three.

I have a rad husband who is super supportive in general and makes it possible for me to get stuff done. He is also an artist and teaches high school art.

My brother (another artist) and I trade childcare hours with our daughters while my sons are in school. It’s complicated, busy and chaotic most days around here but in a good, functional and (mostly) fun way! I work from a studio in my house so that means I can fit things in here and there. I do usually feel like I’m behind in everything, though.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

I have always been inspired by the illustrations in children’s books. Some of my favorites are Mary Blair, Gyo Fujikawa, Alice and Martin Provensen, Barbara Cooney, Tove Jannson, Bruno Munari, and of course, Maurice Sendak. My daughter is named after his character, Ida, in Outside Over There.

Also, right now I’m really into textiles from the Bauhaus, mid-20th century Eastern European graphic art and animation, and folk art. I’m inspired by the very remote chance that I might someday have time to design textiles and weave tapestries. I need a clone.

Do you find that having a family has changed your work as an artist (or its focus) in any way? 

I have actually had a child for pretty much my whole adult life as I had my first child at 20, so that’s a tough question. There has definitely never been much time to slack. It makes one pretty determined to make a go of things. I suppose my younger kids renewed my interests in the possibilities of children’s books.

What are some of your favourite kid-friendly things to do in Vancouver?

Collage Collage, bike rides to Third Beach and Spanish Banks, Trout Lake.

What’s next for you?

I have a book coming out this month called When I was Small. It’s the third book in a series by author Sara O’Leary. I will also have three more books coming out in the next year.

To discover more of Vancouver artist Julie Morstad’s incredible work, and maybe pick up a few prints, check out her website at www.juliemorstad.com.

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