An Interview with Artist Julia Hepburn

Does everyone have a time period in their teenager years where they thought to themselves that they would love to become an artist of some sort like I did? Or maybe that was just me and some sort of odd fantasy I had! Well when I was younger I loved the idea of creating assemblage pieces – fusing history with visually appealing objects… Alas, you might be surprised to know it never quite worked out for me….. But becoming a professional artist did work out for Julia Hepburn, a full time artist who creates dioramas (miniature models). I met Julia years ago through her now husband, Hayden, an old friend of mine. On several different occasions I got to check out her pieces in person and I can tell you right now that no photograph will ever do her work justice. They are breathtaking, incredibly fascinating and truly, you need to see them in person to get the full experience of each piece.

Julia has agreed to doing the Row House Nest interview with us and so, with no further ado, here is what Julia had to say!

Creation Myth

Question. Tell The Row House Nest readers about yourself:

Answer. I am a full time artist based out of Toronto, Canada. I studied fine arts at McMaster University and have been creating dioramas pretty much ever since my last year of school. I’m married to a cheeky man and I have a smelly cat and a skinny dog.

With said skinny dog (as a puppy!), image from here.

Flying Fish from the Cabinet Series

Question. How did you decide to get into becoming an artist professionally?

Answer. From the moment I decided to take Art in University I was constantly being told that it was almost impossible make a living as an artist. So, I had always intended to find a job that was related to the arts but that had a nice steady paycheck. When I finished my BFA I went to college for computer animation about 2 days, but discovered I really hated it. I decided I should probably try to be an artist before I give up on it. For four years I worked part time as a waitress while I became more established in the Toronto art scene and now I have been producing work full time for the past year and a half. It’s true that you can’t love money if you want to do this work, but for me its worth the sacrifice.

And Now You Know

Question. Tell us a little about your favourite project that you have worked on thus far?

Answer. My favorite project so far has been Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. At this event the second floor of the hotel is opened up to visitors and artist’s are given an empty hotel room to use as they wish. It was my first opportunity to create a large, interactive installation that incorporated dioramas.

Julia’s Room 204 at the Come Up To My Room Exhibition, images from this exhibition from the Come Up To My Room gallery here.

Question. What new projects do you have coming up?

Answer. The project I have coming up that I am most excited about is Nuit Blanche. It is an all night art festival that takes place all over the city and brings out hundreds of thousands of people. I will be creating a small forest in the interior of a building in the financial district. People will be able to walk through the forest and explore the dioramas that will be hidden throughout. It’s going to be a huge undertaking but I’m really excited to do something so different.

Question. Where does your inspiration come from? And how would you describe your creative process?

Answer. I love the work of Edward Gorey, and I draw a lot of inspiration from The Brothers Grimm. I like anything that plays with darker subject matter. I also like that such dark stories were intended to be told to children, something that as not commonplace these days.

I Have Kids To Feed

Question .Where would you like to be in ten years?

Answer. I guess I’d like to be doing what I’m doing but with a couple of kids and a few epic adventures under my belt.

He Was A Good Friend. Image from here.

Question. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Answer. A really great dinner with friends and family outside on a summer evening. A little wine, yummy food, some laughs, there’s nothing better.

Julia’s portrait is by Joel Yum.

Question. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Answer. I don’t know if he’s a “historical figure”, but definitely Jim  Henson.

Question. What living person do you admire most?

Answer. David Suzuki. I’m pretty sure he’s actually superman.

I Want To Go Home

Question . What is your greatest extravagance?

Answer. The first time I sold a bunch of pieces I went out and bought a hat for $200 which I still haven’t worn. It’s a beautiful 1920’s style flapper hat but I have no idea where I would ever wear it.

Question. What would you consider your greatest achievement?

Answer. I really think just being able to work as a full time artist is my biggest achievement. I know its not that easy to do and I feel pretty proud about it.

Hollow Bones

Question. What is your most treasured possession?

Answer. A miniature staircase that my mom made for a doll’s house that was never finished. I’ve been obsessed with it since I was little. I keep it on my work desk.

Question. What is it that you most dislike?

Answer. Rude, obnoxious people. I can’t stand being around people who treat others like garbage.

A Sedimentary Life Can Kill You, image from here.

Question. What is your motto?

Answer. There’s nothing like a good jumping rock.

Question. Where would you like to live?

Answer. If I could move all my friends and family with me I’d move to Newfoundland in a second. I love it there, the people are amazing, it’s so beautiful and a little spooky.

Question. The natural talent I’d like to be gifted with.

Answer. The gift of gab


A big THANKS to Julia for being a good sport and letting me ask her lots of annoying questions. Keep your eye on this one, she is going up up up in the Art World!

xo M.

Want to know more about Julia? Head over to her website, here.

Want to buy her artwork or get in touch with her? Email her! julia_hepburn AT hotmail DOT com

You can read another interview with Julia here by Pelime.

Daily Art Fixx is talking about her here.

And some love for her when she was running her Come Up To My Room exhibition.

She has a lovely feature over here too.

More fun chat and pictures with Julia over here.

And she was getting lots of love when she was in the Toronto Outdoor Art Festival a few years ago.