A&E Q&A: Artist finds gold as part of unique style

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The glimmer of the gold-leaf artwork at artist Julie Wheeler’s table caught my eye.

This took place as I walked around the vendor’s displays at the new Cuban Gypsy Parlor’s 1st Friday “Gypsy Market” on Oct. 2.

I met an author there, too, who I will profile next week, too.

Wheeler hails from Cleveland, Ohio, but studied graphic design and painting at Loyola University in New Orleans. She’s been in Summerville for two years now, having relocated from Charlotte.

Mary E. Regan
Mary E. Regan

Regan: You began art as a little girl with a crayon? Did your teachers say you had artistic talent growing up?

Wheeler: When I was young, I could never color inside the lines, both figuratively and literally. I would always go against the grain of any assigned art project. This got a lot of attention when I was in grade school. My projects were featured in the public library of my hometown, and a few pieces were auctioned off at the VA Hospital, which gained recognition.

Regan: What brought you here? You recently visited Savannah, an art city with The Savannah College of Art & Design — Do you think you’ll ever relocate to a city like that?

W: I lived in Charlotte for over four years after graduation, and realized it was not the type of city I had envisioned myself settling down in.

I wanted to be near the beach, in a place rich with culture—a place that had a deep-rooted artistic history.

Charleston was just that. I had been wanting to visit the Holy City for years, and a move was the perfect excuse.

I was instantly galvanized. Charleston has an energy about it that has inspired a lot of my work in the last two years. I have always been drawn to places with these traits, which has instilled in me a love of travel.

While visiting new places will always be a love of mine, I think Charleston has become the place that I will put down roots.

Regan: There is good variety in your creations—paintings, murals, commissioned pieces, gold-leaf on clothing.

It must be so competitive. How do you market & land commissioned work (for office & residential clients)?

W: Finding your voice as an artist can be difficult, but I believe I’ve developed my own unique style. I try to make my work translate into as many different forms of media as possible.

It’s enjoyable for me to not confine myself to the traditional canvas, examples being a restaurant wall, RV, coasters, clothing, etc. The skies the limit if I don’t restrict myself. A lot of my commissioned work is from clients who connect with my art and through word of mouth. I have taken to social media to market my work and started participating in art and vendor shows.

Regan: You work mostly in acrylics. Is it tricky to mix in spray paint & watercolors in the process?

How are things going for you, given COVID-19? (You no longer work at a catering & events job in Mt. Pleasant).

W: Experimenting with different mediums has always been a part of my creative journey.

Of course, there was trial and error with incorporating new paints, but if I just stayed in my comfort zone, my style would not have evolved into what it is today.

As my emotions and experiences change, so does my artwork. I hope people get as much joy from each piece as I do in creating them. COVID-19 has flipped so many lives upside down, including my own. It was this world-changing event that gave the opportunity that I needed to pursue my art full-time. It was a blessing in disguise, and I am flourishing.

R: Do you plan to try to have an art exhibit somewhere at some point?

W: I would love to someday in the future but, for right now, I am happy having people’s businesses and homes be my gallery.

R: Would you ever like to teach art? Do you do any “live” art talks on social media like Facebook?

W: Currently, I’ve been doing art camps for young girls at a tween boutique, Scraps of Magic. I also have paint and sip classes set up at various sites, one of which being the new Cuban Gypsy Pantry in Summerville. I’ve never done a live art talk, but I try to keep everyone up to date with my art through social media.

R: What is next for you?

W: I am constantly asking myself that question. Every time I have a clear plan of what my next step should be, a bigger and better opportunity presents itself. I want to continue making my art accessible to businesses so that their re-openings can be just as beautiful as they should be. I am looking forward to “what is next.”

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