Interview with contemporary Scottish Artist Julie Arbuckle

Julie is a contemporary Scottish Artist, primarily inspired by areas in the Scottish Highlands and last seen up Goat Fell on Arran with her camera and paints! Born and bred in Glasgow, Julie has been drawing and painting Scottish scenes since childhood, developing her artistic relationship with the land. “The Deer Fence” (pictured) is one of her latest, and personally speaking, most inspiring works. If it doesn’t make you want to visit Scotland’s mountains and hills, I’m not sure what will…

Art Pistol (AP): What’s the first thing you can remember painting?
  I was given an easel for my third birthday and I can remember covering big pieces of paper with paint, not painting anything in particular, just enjoying the sensation of getting messy with paint. I remember being especially proud of one painting which was mostly black…and being slightly hurt when my mum wouldn’t put it up on the fridge! An early lesson in how to handle rejection of your artwork; obviously now I realise it must have looked a bit freaky.

AP: When did you first realise you were an artist?
Julie:  I’ve never had a moment like that and I doubt I ever will. Drawing and painting has always been such an integral part of what I do day to day that to distinguish myself with a label like ‘artist’ feels weird to me. I realise it’s handy to use it when describing what I do to other people, but to me, ‘being an artist’ is akin to ‘being a human being’, and I don’t dwell on it too much.

AP: How would you describe your art to someone that has never seen it before?
Julie:  I make a mix of work , mostly oil paintings, some of it is quite literal and concentrates on cloudy peaks and dramatic skies, and other work is a little more expressive; taking lots of details from certain areas and combining them to make a cohesive image. I want to share through my work how it feels to walk through hills, spend time in a place and really get to know it.

AP: Is your work on any famous person’s wall?
Julie:  The most high-profile person to have bought my work is conversely a man who kept to the shadows (at least publicly) during his career. Sir Patrick Walker was the Director General of MI5 and MI6 – he bought a couple of my paintings not long after I graduated.

AP: If you had the opportunity to change something in the art industry what would it be?
Julie:  The presumption that art is only “good” if certain people say it is. If you think a piece is good and worthy of acclaim, then it is – but only to you. I wish people were more confident in making their own minds up about art work and not looking at the price tag first to get a measure of how ‘good’ it is.

AP: Do you have any other interests or talents that you’d like to share?
Julie:  I like to pack up my trusty bicycle, Bessie, with a tent and some food and cycle to places I’ve never been before. Once I cycled from Glasgow to Inverness in 2 and a half days. I would love to cycle the North Sea Cycle Route – 5000km running through the UK, Denmark, Germany, Norway…but I would need 2 months free to do it!

AP: Describe yourself in 3 words, one has to be a colour?
Julie:  No! *blows a raspberry*

AP: Tell us your perfect scenario for painting.
Julie:  West Highlands of Scotland, on a day with bright sunshine and showers, with a little breeze to keep the midges away. Miles from the nearest tarmac’ed road and totally ‘in the zone’ where I can get lost in the landscape.

AP: If you weren’t an artist you’d be..?
Julie:  Well, I did rebel against being an artist for a profession for a while and was employed by the police for a few years in when I lived in England. I was a Police Community Support Officer and my beat was a lovely rural area covering 7 pretty villages with duck ponds, thatched cottages and a very low level of crime (although I did once investigate ‘Theft of Hanging Basket (geranium)’ and one lady had her window smashed by a turnip-lobbing youth. Plant-related incidents aside, I did do a lot of work with victims of burglary and anti-social behaviour and watched a lot of CCTV to gather evidence. I also poured a lot of teenager’s bottles of Lambrini and Frosty Jacks’ cider down the drain. Spoilsport, I know!

I did love working for a community, but ultimately I wanted to spend more time doing artwork. If I ever have the time (!) in future, I would love to volunteer as a Special Constable.

AP: Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?
Julie:  Listen to yourself. If you think something’s good, then it probably is. On the flip side, if you thing something’s crap…

AP: And finally, what are you working on just now?
Julie: I don’t really have anything from sketch books I’m happy to show right now, but here is a shot from the summit of Goatfell a couple of weeks ago when I went walking and sketching.


Scottish landscape painting atop Goat Fell!


See Julie’s work on Art Pistol here