|Sacramento Magazine » March 2008 »
Young at Art
By Jessica Goldman | From March 2008
Meet six up-and-coming local artists to keep your eye on.
Julie Madden, painter/drawerIf art imitates life, Julie Madden’s could be from the cosmopolitan school. The 39-year-old “avid drawer” has put pen to paper everywhere from Japan to Germany to Carmel Valley. As a teacher of kids’ art classes and college art history, and a commissioned portrait artist, Madden just can’t seem to sit still. It may come as a surprise that her greatest inspiration comes from “the quiet moments of every day.”
I have hundreds of drawings of my life over the past 17 years—[drawings like] my running shoe while waiting for an eye exam; the view of New York City from my production office of “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”; Kings games here in Sacramento. I’m inspired by the choreography of the body implementing gestures as it interacts with its environment. I force friends and family to pose.
Where do you show?
I really enjoy showing in cafes, restaurnts and non-art-related places of business. Outside of Toyroom Gallery, I’ve had the best traffic and exposure for my artwork at La Trattoria Bohemia restaurant, The Streets of London Pub, and Temple Fine Coffee and Tea.
Why are you an artist?
My earliest memories are of Spain, where my family lived when I was a child. I was exposed to the culture and art [it] had to offer.
Where do you see art in 50 years?
In [that] time, I’ll be dead—and when that happens, hopefully my art will increase in value for all those who own it.
Where can we see your work?
The Toyroom Gallery and Temple Fine Coffee and Tea (1014 10th St., Sacramento).
FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, PICK UP A COPY OF SACRAMENTO MAGAZINE'S MARCH ISSUE.
Article by Don Drysdale, author of Reynolds Remembers: 20 Years with the Sacramento Kings
Raising Recycling to an Art Form
New DOR Employee Julie Madden is a Colorful Character
If you were to paint the story of Julie Madden’s life so far, you’d need a good-sized canvas. Picture this: Before joining the Division of Recycling, Madden taught English in Japan; bicycled across the U.S.; traveled around the world; and worked for Martha Stewart.
Oh, yes: and built an impressive portfolio of drawings and paintings.
Madden joined DOR’s Community Outreach Branch on September 1. A Recycling Specialist II, she’s one of Recycle Rex’s handlers at school assemblies, among other duties. She has been in state service for about four years, with previous stops at the Department of Justice, Employment Development Department, and the Capitol, where she worked for the Secretary of Education.
But that’s just how Madden pays the bills, not what she is. She has worked at a full palette of jobs in order to be able to create. She took a temporary job in New York to be closer to major art galleries. She has traveled extensively, soaking up inspiration.
“I think I focused on painting and drawing mainly because of my travel schedule,” Madden said. “It’s easy to carry a pen and some sketch paper wherever you go. I’ve done so many drawings while sitting waiting for a bus or a plane. I’ve filled up close to 15 sketchbooks. Those are the first things I’d grab if my home caught on fire - I don’t have kids or pets -- because they’re my memories.“
Since getting serious about art in college, Madden reckons she’s drawn several hundred pictures and painted about 100 more. She’s more interested in drawing people than landscapes or objects.
“People move, which makes it more challenging,” she said. “What inspires me is how we move through space and inhabit it. I like small gestures. Probably the hardest painting I did was of a little girl about 2˝ years old. She had perfect skin, just flawless, so there were no features to latch onto. I think our skin, as we age, becomes more interesting. It’s the same with flowers. They’re beautiful, but as they wilt and change, it’s more interesting to me.”
She also is particularly smitten with drawing digits, philosophizing that as much can be learned about a person from studying their hands as their face.
However, her favorite piece …
“I hope this doesn’t sound too …” she said with a laugh, her voice trailing off. “It’s a self-portrait I did just before I finished my undergraduate work. Most of the time when I’m painting, I take a photo and paint from that. For that picture, I did it while looking in a mirror. That’s really good practice for an artist, because you never look the same. When I look at that picture, it reminds me that I was - and still am, I guess - on the cusp of the rest of my life.”
Madden received two undergraduate degrees - in art and art history -- from U.C. Berkeley. While working for the Department of Justice in San Francisco, she was accepted into graduate school at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
“It was kind of a fun place to be as a graduate student - especially an art major,” she said. “It was nice to walk across the campus, go to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for awhile, then go back to school.”
Purely by necessity, Madden’s focus for her art history degree was Japanese art.
“I wanted to concentrate on Northern Europe, especially the Dutch painters, and modern art but I was putting myself through school and those classes conflicted with my work schedule,” she said. “I had no Japanese language skills or anything, but once I got my degree, I decided to go over to Japan. A friend helped me get a job teaching English the first time. I made some money, did my paintings and drawings, came home to drop stuff off, and then went back.”
Madden spent most of her 20s in Japan, moving across the Pacific on three separate occasions. She was in Yokohama and near Nagoya, both large cities, but on one tour found herself in farm country, the only non-native for miles around. She learned Japanese from an elderly gentleman, which would have been embarrassing had she not been oblivious.
“I learned gruff, old-man Japanese,” she said. “I found out later that men and women learn to speak differently, and that there’s sort of a middle variety that works with either gender. But because I’d learned from an older man, I’d say something like, `Feed me!’ instead of `I’d like something to eat.’ I was being rude for a long time, but everyone ignored it because they were happy I was trying so hard to speak Japanese.”
Madden attributes the wanderlust gene to her father’s Air Force career. Madden was born in Honolulu and had lived in Hawaii, Southern California, Spain, and Rhode Island by the time she was 7, when the family settled in Sacramento.
While Madden enjoyed her time in Japan, she decided to move back to the states in 1998. She keeps her Japanese polished by chatting frequently with a chef at a local sushi restaurant.
“When I turned 30, I figured it was time to make a life in the U.S.,” Madden said. “If you’re a foreigner in Japan … it’s hard to explain, but you adapt to a certain degree, then you reach a point where either you’re going to stay there forever or you’ve got to go.”
One of the things that Madden misses most about Japan is that there, the perception was that she was an artist who taught English on the side. In the U.S., it’s generally the other way around. Also, she found that putting together a show was much simpler in Japan than at home.
“Here, you might have to network with a dozen people to get your work shown,” she said.
Still, Madden has had a show, whether at a gallery or restaurant, every year since 1992. And while she hasn’t made a fortune - the Sacramento market doesn’t bear the prices she might command in larger cities - Madden has enjoyed “consistent” success in selling her creations. One painting fetched $3,600 (the gallery that showed it received 50 percent) last year.
“I don’t expect to sell my paintings; that’s not why I do them,” she said. “If someone buys one, it’s a bonus.”
Madden describes her style as “representational,” although she has been known to exaggerate features to make them more interesting (a friend got mad at her for overdoing it on the curves). If you go to her Web site -- www.juliemadden.com -- Madden’s use of vivid colors will be evident.
“When I was an undergraduate, I never used bright colors,” she said. “One of my professors went to his office and got three of the brightest-colored paints he could find. He told me that if I used them in a painting, he’d give them to me. These were very expensive paints. That jump- started my use of colors.”
While Madden has spent countless hours with a pencil or brush in her hands, she’s far from sedentary. In 1997, she spent 35 days riding a bicycle from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla., to raise money for breast cancer research; her mother, aunt and cousin all had been diagnosed with the disease within the span of a month in 1996 (Madden reports that all are doing well).
“I had always wanted to ride cross-country, and I’d actually planned a self-guided trip before I got involved in the fund-raiser,” Madden said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. You just get in a zone where all you have to worry about is pedaling, propelling your body. You don’t have to think about work or paying bills or whatever.”
Madden went on another cross-country journey last spring when a high school friend hooked her up with the company producing the television show “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.” The job lasted only three months, and Madden’s contact with the star was minimal. Still, it was a memorable time and artistically inspirational. In her spare time, such as it was, Madden drew the view of Manhattan from her 13th-floor office (Stewart was on the 9th floor).
“It was a 24-7 job,” Madden said. “I had about a day and a half off the whole time I worked for the show, and I spent one whole day of that walking around Central Park because I missed seeing the outdoors. But I felt I needed to experience New York for the art side of things.”
For those who’ve never seen the show, the contestants are given a series of tasks to perform to prove themselves worthy of being Stewart’s apprentice. Madden helped develop the tasks.
“Our job was to make sure everything played out - that what we asked them to do was doable,” said Madden, who also served as Stewart’s body double for the lighting technicians.
In the eight months between bidding farewell to her TV career and joining DOR, Madden taught art a private elementary school in Sacramento. Teaching was nothing new; she taught undergrads at UNLV and did educational outreach with school children for the Guggenheim Museum-Las Vegas, located in The Venetian Hotel and Casino.
And if Recycle Rex wasn’t the muse for Picasso’s Blue Period or Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy,” working with DOR’s mascot has at least provided some inspiration to Madden.
“If I was sitting behind a desk from 9 to 5 each day, I’d get stagnant pretty quick,” Madden said. “But being out there and interacting with people - not only children, because we’re also trying to teach adults about recycling - helps keep me stimulated and motivated to go on creating.”
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