Welcome to Charity!
Julia Ashby Smyth
The beautiful Isle of Man has been my home for over 40 years. I live in a little house at the edge of Glen Elfin, surrounded by trees, perched on the slopes on North Barrule, and spend an irrational amount of time with the cats, watching birdies outside the window when I should be working.
My biggest influences, growing up, were probably Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, the Grahame-Johstone sisters, Harry Clark, Archibald Knox, Alan Lee, plus a plethora fantasy and comic book artists & illustrators. Their love of intricate detail weaving it’s way into my own work. The product of being an only child, happiest when left with a stack of books, a pile of paper and a bunch of drawing implements. Some things never change.
Light years ago I gained a BA Hons. Degree in Multi Disciplinary Design (Graphics and Illustration) and have been a freelance illustrator & commercial artist since 1989 (yes that IS a long time). I have produced all manner of work for all manner of clients large and small, on Island and much, much further afield.
Being freelance, jobs are varied – from intricate technical historical reconstruction drawings for Manx National Heritage (extremely interesting), to the inside of a nasal cavity (not quite so interesting); caricatures of ex-gangster bosses (scary) and brides (even scarier), book illustrations, cartoons, postage stamp design for the Isle of Man Post Office, logo, label and packaging design, tattoos, and lots and lots of hairy beasties from Manx folklore. Presently, I have the pleasure of creating the branding and label design for the Fynoderee Distillery; and am also curator of the Hodgson Loom Gallery at Laxey Woollen Mills, Isle of Man.
I have exhibited in solo and joint shows on the Isle of Man, won the Singer & Friedlander Art Competition, Public Vote five times; the 4under40 Business award; the Italian Steampunk Festival 2017 Character illustration award and European packaging design awards with Okells Ales designs; alongside international digital gallery awards. I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent the Isle of Man in the EuroCelt Art Exhibition at the 2019 Lorient Interceltique Festival, France. ‘Elemental’ was my most recent collaborative exhibition, delving deeply into all things Celtic, ancient and elemental, examples of which can be seen on my website.
Currently, I am, amongst a pile of commissioned projects, working towards a joint exhibition called ‘Deeper’, showing in the Hodgson Loom Gallery October 2021.
My favourite medium has to be graphite, it’s just the best for getting from imagination to paper without the brain getting in the way. When left to my own devices, I love to create characters and beings from my imagination, often inspired by ancient myth and fantasy; sometimes using with media that isn’t necessarily supposed to end up on paper, like nail varnish to achieve a certain colour, but generally using a mixture of pencils & pens, charcoal pencils, felt tips, coloured pencils, watercolour and whatever else is to hand. I also find I work particularly well with chocolate.
I have three erstwhile feline studio assistants – who generally hog the fire and sit on the chocolate and test the effect of gravity on various drawing implements.
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