ARTIST PROFILE: Julia Veenstra

As summer approaches, artist Julia Veenstra is imagining a sun-laden oasis. “This time of the year, you start dreaming about going away and being able to lay out somewhere,” she says.

That's the inspiration for her latest creation. “I just finished it and I'm in love with it,” she says. “It's Solo Pine, on an island in Muskoka!”

Solo Pine, a boldly coloured, large format, acrylic painting is one of 14 on exhibit when Force of Nature, Veenstra's solo exhibit opens Thursday May 14 and runs until Saturday, June 13 at Paula White Diamond Art Gallery and Design Studio, 187 King Street South, unit 103, in the Bauer Marketplace, Uptown Waterloo. Other featured work includes: Sunset, White, I Want to Dance and Grand Vert, all in the three feet by five feet range. 

Veenstra, a media landscape artist, known for her strong use of colour, paints her canvases red first and then builds on that going from dark to light, reflecting her impressionist representational style.

On Mother's Day weekend, Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10, Veenstra's art will be displayed at the 6th annual West Hamilton Artists Tour of 26 local and regional artists in 13 studio locations.

Veenstra's paintings appear on television shows like Saving Hope and Lost Girl, and her clients include designer Candice Olson and entrepreneur Brett Wilson.

When a couple bought a Muskoka image that Veenstra painted in January, they made sure the artwork would suit their space, by projecting the large image on the wall before purchasing it. “That was clever! That's why I blogged about it,” she says. 

Veenstra is also the creator of Wild Hope, an artisan project in Kenya. When she and her family lived in Africa for five years, she helped start a micro-industry project with a woman and her family. They found eight artisan beaders and Veenstra designed a line of beaded glass ornaments. Through workshops, the women learned to create the product and over the years Veenstra  is involved in creating new crafts that she imports every year. “We tag them here and I wholesale them locally to 14 small shops. I'm always looking for more shops,” she says. 

Veenstra has received many awards for her work including Cabbagetown Art Festival's The Special Award, Hamilton Spectator Readers' Choice Award for Best Local Artist and The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair's Poster Competition Winner 2013 for her colourful cow image that graced its poster.

“I really enjoy painting cows and I tend to paint cows when I am building a more serious body of work, when I feel like I've forgotten how to paint and I don't know what to do, I get out my photos of cows,” she explains. “I've always been told you should do a book, so in partnership with my daughter ““ she is writing a children's storybook and I am illustrating it with cows.”

Julia works out of her recently renovated Hamilton studio on 167 James Street North. The building is 110 years old, with 12-foot ceilings, large windows and a beautiful garden where her students enjoy lunch in the summer when they attend workshops. “My son-in-law renovated my design studio, he and my husband, restore old homes,” she says.  
 “We just bought a 70-year-old home that we are in the process of gutting and restoring with neighbours who are designers. I get to throw my two cents in between painting and colour palette with design features, which I love!”
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