After a 20 year career in television production, Julie Hickson decided enough was enough and that it was time to devote herself to her art. In 2006, she began to experiment with making stencils to add a distinctive form to her work and using them to explore line and space on canvas. Also called ‘pochoir technique’, stencilling is the oldest form of print making.
Pochoir (pronounced posh-wah) was popular in France during the art nouveau period and was used by Matisse in some of his ‘Jazz’ series, and also later in Australia by well-known early 20th century artist Margaret Preston in some of her later work, such as ‘Rock Lilies’.
Julie starts off by drawing her subject and then converts it to a form that can be cut into a stencil, following a set of rules similar to those used in lino block printing. The drawing must have its own structural integrity so that the stencil stays together when it is cut.
After stencilling, each work on canvas or paper is then hand painted, making it totally unique, and hand numbered as part of a numbered series. Julie says:
“There is something about having an intermediate layer between the canvas and the brush and paint that I love. Watching that stencil peel back is always a revelation.”
Although her subjects range from the beautiful beaches around her home in Sydney’s north to beautiful decorative fruit and the everyday domestic objects that fill our lives, like the small Kitchen Pods shown above, it’s her Botanical Series of Australian plants that will capture the attention of all plant lovers.
Botanical Pods – small 46cm x 46cm, also larger canvasses of varying size, plus combined panels
Each featured flower, leaf or fruit is carefully drawn from life and close-up photographs, so that Julie can include the correct botanical detail of each plant, such as the arrangement of the stamens and petals, or the venation in a leaf. But it’s not just the details that make her paintings special. Julie also manages to capture the essence of these plants so that, despite their stylised representation on canvas or paper, we can recognise their unique, natural growth habit and form.
“I love finding that essence of the plant – seeing how far one can go with reducing down the essential form while still giving you a true impression of it’s uniqueness. People often ask me why there isn’t a rose or a hellebore in my collection – but so far I have focused on Australian plants. I find that their structure and variety is endlessly interesting. And quietly I like the idea of bringing our natives more into the awareness of Australians – people can use a little help with knowing their waratahs from their gymeas, and callistemons from hakes from grevilleas.”
Julie often exhibits, is a part of Sydney’s Pittwater Artists Trail and also regularly sells originals, prints, perpetual calendars and cards at artisan markets like Sydney’s Kirribilli Art & Design market each month. As her original canvasses are not framed and under glass, they are lightweight, easy to hang and the richness of the colours is not diminished. A group of panels hung together is truly eye-catching and means that you can create an unique combination to fit any shape of wall area – narrow and vertical, very wide, or square.
Several magazines have discovered and featured her work, like Australian House and Garden September 2013, which showed her ‘Hakea’ full page saying :
“With this graphic, almost tribal depiction of the Hakea, a favourite Australian native shrub, we found colours that draw this springtime issue together. Deep olives and lime greens and terracotta notes that speak of red earth and raw leather. Ever-fresh, white comes to the fore.”
To see more or to purchase Julie Hickson’s work, visit her pod + pod website, find her at one of Sydney’s many artisan markets, such Kirribilli Art and Design Market on the 2nd Sunday of each month, or visit her studio during open days with the Pittwater Artist’s Trail.
[**Click here to check Julie’s website for any date changes to open studios, and to confirm her market days]