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Like An Alchemist


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

Local pastel artist Julia Patterson takes the pure pigment in her hand and like an alchemist, transmutes dusty, dry, opaque pigment into fluid, transparent effects, addressing value and color simultaneously. The results are inspiring, provocative, and sensitively rendered images capturing the viewer’s imagination. 

Growing up in, what she describes as a “very creative home,” in Texarkana, her early life revolved around the church, where she sang in the choir and acted in plays. At home, Julia reflects, “I spent my time moving from one craft project to the next.” Her mother, a singer and actress, also dazzled her daughter with her drawing ability. Julia’s father and his family “captured the light” as professional photographers, and her grandmother, equally talented, created beauty with her sewing, crocheting, and literary skills. But, in spite of all of this, Julia’s first ambition was to be a writer, so that’s where she focused her creative talent throughout her schooling.

Julia graduated from North Texas State University in Communication Studies, all the while continuing her creative projects on the side.  At one point, she tried watercolors and focused on that medium for many years, honing her skills by taking classes and workshops as her scheduled permitted. Julia’s creative “fork in the road” came when she met Cave Creek glass artist Carole Perry who showed Julia her own watercolors from a Paradise Valley Community College class she was attending. This inspired Julia to join the class as well, once again. During this time, Carole also introduced Julia to pastels and the rest is history. Julia fell in love with the “pigment in her hand” and has made a name for herself in the local art world with her inspired studies of doors, windows, local wildlife and landscapes.

Recently, Julia has taken up oil painting with stunning results. She observes her home studio is a little more cramped than she would like with the extra canvases, easels, and materials, but as all dedicated artists she is making it happen. Much like her pastel work, Julia enjoys oils for their “workability.” She is able to focus on shadows and shapes expanding her subject material in a variety of ways. A number of years ago, Julia took her first “plein air” workshop from Maggie Price. The experience of working outside, on location, was a real game changer; Julia realized how much joy the creative process brought her. Two years ago, Julie decided to close down her graphic design business and focus her efforts full time on her fine art career, a choice she has never regretted.

Through Julia’s success she has received scholarships from the Scottsdale Artists School every year for the past four years. This has enabled her to move her skills forward in significant ways with the guidance of other professional artists offering workshops at the school. Julia describes her move into oils as frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. She observes, “It requires my whole being and full attention, truly an inspiring experience.” 

Julie participates in the Camelback Studio Tour and Hidden in the Hills Studio tour each November. Her work can also be seen at the Fountain Hills Artists Gallery and Manos Gallery in Tubac, Arizona. For more information and to view a selection of Julie’s work, visit her Web site at or

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at