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Julie Morstad, "Wingmind," 2012, mixed media on paper, 50”x 38”.
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Julie Morstad, "Untitled (grey)," 2012, mixed media on paper, 30” x 22.5”.
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Julie Morstad, "Delay," 2012, mixed media on paper, 22.5” x 30”.
By Maureen Latta
Vancouver artist Julie Morstad is so steeped in children’s literature that she named her daughter, Ida, after a character who rescues her sister from goblins in Maurice Sendak’s book, Outside Over There. Morstad shares Sendak’s philosophy that you shouldn’t condescend to children, an attitude that’s helped earn her success as an illustrator since graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2004. Many books she has illustrated have received awards. Last year, she was a finalist for a Governor General’s Literary Award for How To, which she wrote and illustrated. And in 2012, she and writer Sara O’Leary shared the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, a British Columbia book award, for When I Was Small.
Morstad’s gallery drawings exude the same aura as her book illustrations – they’re not exactly macabre, but not soft and fuzzy either. Her whimsical images are characterized by what she calls tenuousness – fine ink lines, gossamer colours, attenuated figures and surreal juxtapositions. “I like the idea of putting seemingly disparate objects together in order to make a new kind of thing visually,” says Morstad, who teaches illustration at Emily Carr University. “I try to use images that explain my own thoughts visually, and maybe my own thoughts tend to be on the darker side.”
There is some crossover between her gallery work and book illustrations, which she sometimes exhibits. But she says her gallery pieces have more inexplicable imagery.
Julie Morstad is represented by Bau-Xi Gallery in Vancouver. Her work is priced at $1,500 to $5,000.