Julia Pott is, for me, one of the best young illustrators in the country. Her widely copied work is totally idiosyncratic and imaginative. I originally write this article for Amelia’s Magazine but it seems to have got lost in the ether somewhere. Oh well. Here it is for TIMBER…
Have you ever had one of those days where your anxiety about your relationship status just bubbles uncontrollably to the surface? Where you can’t help but blurt out in front of your lover WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME? Well, if you are a somewhat needy pug, and your beloved is a steely eyed cat, the answer may just be, ‘I’m busy’. A deliciously mean retort, I think you’ll agree. Julia Pott is the creator of scenes such as this, and her increasingly illustrious illustration career means that we will almost certainly be seeing more of the same. Graduating from Kingston University with a degree in Illustration and Animation, she is currently studying for an MA in Animation at the RCA in London. Julia works diligently across the full illustrative spectrum. She makes prints, bags, cushions and short films, as well as creating animated graphics for the likes of The Decemberists, Bat For Lashes, and the TV adverts for Channel 4’s ‘Skins’. Her work takes on a dreamy quality akin to taking a hazy trip through the sex-dream sequence in Anchorman spliced with the best nostalgic bits of the greatest holiday you ever had.
TIMBER: Have you always been someone who draws or makes things? What were you like as a kid?
Julia Pott: “When I was two, I told people I wanted to be a balloon, but then I upgraded (or downgraded some might say) to wanting to be a cartoonist. So yes, I was always drawing from a young age. My mom always encouraged us when we had bad dreams to draw them out as little cartoon strips to trivialise our fear. We also used to write a children’s story together every night before bed. It was so epic – about an underwater scuba diving detective trying to steal the mermaids back from King Neptune. I would draw the pictures to go with the story in the morning. I have no idea where they are now but I’d love to see them again. She was so great. I’ve never really thought hard about it but I guess she was the main reason I felt so encouraged to pursue art. I also loved Tony Hart and spent the better part of my youth making greetings cards for my friends and family based on his work with greetings inside like “Honey is sweet, but not as sweet as you”, ha! In terms of what I was like as a kid… I recently discovered all these tapes that my parents used to send back to my Grandma in the States of my sister and I playing together and I have to admit I was quite a brat. I used to yell ‘JULIA!’ really loudly when I felt people weren’t paying enough attention to me. I also used to pull out my hair and eat it!”
Ha ha . . . One of the reasons I think I am so drawn to your work is the excellent use of mountains in your drawings. I just love mountains! What is it about that sort of vista that attracts you so much?
“I just really love landscapes and big rolling hills and mountains. I suppose living in a city I crave that kind of open space and I love putting my characters in these beautiful scenes. I went on holiday with my family to New England as a kid and the whole trip was just climbing up mountains and swimming in lakes and I think it was probably the best trip I’ve ever been on, I absolutely love that atmosphere.”
Yeah, New England is really beautiful. My Step-mum & Step-brother/sister live in Boston so I know that part of the world well. I can see how that ‘wilderness’ aspect has influenced you greatly – you should go to Canada! Where else would you love to visit in terms of inspiration?
“Oh I love Canada! I fell in love with Vancouver when I was there. I also love Japan, I’d love to go back there and take inspiration from the countryside. I find European landscapes really beautiful with their tiny little houses and massive forests, they’re a great source of drawing material. I have this massive book called ‘Above Europe’ and I absolutely love it, it’s genius – everything is so tiny and delicate. I went travelling straight out of Uni but I was so worn out from drawing and animating I didn’t really do any work during that time. I’d love to go on another trip with the purpose of finding really great locations to draw. I’d love to go on the Trans Siberian Railway. That’s a big ambition, maybe one day!”
Absolutely agree about European landscapes – places like rural Germany and Sweden are so great for that picture-perfect teeny house in big place thing. So… I hear you are off to NYC soon? I believe your mom lives there? Would you like to stay permanently? I’d move there in a second…
“My mom lives over here with me as my dad is very, very English, but all of our family is in NYC and Boston. I feel very at home there and I’ve always had a weird feeling of homesickness growing up in the UK, like this is not where I belong. I’m definitely planning on making a permanent move to the States. I’ll be moving to NYC initially, but I imagine when I hit middle age I’d love to move with my (hopefully very handsome) husband and awesome dog out to New England to live in a big wooden house with a roaring fire place.”
And animals – why do you draw animals and not so many people? I’m not complaining; I prefer animals, quite frankly. Certain animals seem to crop up a lot in your work: bears; dogs; cats . . . any reason for this? Do they have the best faces or what?
“I think I got into the habit of it when I was in my final year at Kingston. Before I made ‘My First Crush’ (Julia’s fantastic first animated short) I never drew animals and I did it to make a change, and now it’s so much a part of my work I can’t remember a time I didn’t draw them. I have a new short film coming out in a week and it features a man called Howard, because I was really starting to miss drawing and animating people. I think the reason I started leaning more towards animals is because they instantly inject so much more humour into a piece of work, and I also just loved drawing them. Ha, yes, bears and dogs and cats have great faces, so much expression! I bought this book called ‘Bear Portraits’ from the Natural History Museum and it’s absolute gold for comical bear expressions.”
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects…
“I have a few which are a bit under wraps. I just designed some t-shirts for a big clothing company in the states and I’m so excited to see how those turn out. I’m going over to New York in June for 3 months to pursue a few things and I’m so excited. I’m planning to move there when I graduate from the Royal College of Art next summer. The RCA really comes first at the moment and I’ll start working on my final film in October. I’m really excited to immerse myself in that because I know after that there will be rare opportunities to work solely on my own short films.”
How would you like to see your career progressing? Any mega dream jobs you’d like to get?
“There’s so much I want to do. I’ve always had a big craving to do title sequences for movies, I’d absolutely love that job. An animated TV series would also be ACE, definitely a future dream of mine. I think the short-term goal is to be getting consistently interesting projects that I can develop my own personal style on. I’ve been really lucky with projects like The Decemberists visuals and Bat for Lashes because I was given such creative freedom, it would be great to just keep going in that direction.”
Lastly, let’s do a bit of plugging. Where can people find your work? Buy it? Watch it? Love it?
“Nothing wrong with some harmless plugging! I have a website which is having a bit of a make over at the moment at www.juliapott.com, and my Etsy shop is http://www.etsy.com/shop/Juliapott. My work is sold worldwide in little shops but I’ll also have some limited edition prints available at I Dress Myself and also at The Working Proof Gallery in the next few months. I suppose YouTube is the best source to watch my animations and that is: http://www.youtube.com/user/juliapot (although you might be better off looking at my ‘favourites’ section…a lot of ridiculous cats and smiling dogs).”
I would suggest watching ‘Howard’ and ‘My First Crush’. . . oh my! Beautiful.
Julia Pott, I am a little bit in love with your work. I’m in love with the mountains, the lakes, the wolves, the bears, the castles and the houses. One day I’m going to live in one of your drawings.