(Or Understanding Abstract Art)

By Mary Roam


mignardAcolorful and outspoken artist has come back, and more of her startlingly vibrant abstract paintings are likely to be seen around the area. Many already hang in homes here.

Julie Elizabeth Mignard says she feels more at home here than in the United States. “I’m healthier and happier here,” she says, “and my art work reflects that.”

Her interest in art began early, on the tray of her highchair, and the medium was pablum. Her parents encouraged her artistic bent. “When I was a young child, my mom put me in Saturday art classes,” she recalls.  This was in Springfield, Missouri where Julie grew up.

“All through grade school I was artsy. I was often chosen to demonstrate drawing at school activities.”  Laughing, she remembers she was not the student picked to do arithmetic problems on the board.

The works she creates now appear to be clear-cut examples of Abstract Expressionism, which she partially defines as “an art technique used by animals, and by very small children before they even draw stick figures; it’s scribbling and smearing.” She says the urge to paint and smear the way she does “is just primal.” It produces in the viewer the inkblot effect. “We see random designs, and our minds want to process them into a picture.”

That’s the effect when people have them in their homes. “They tell me they see different pictures every time they look at them. That’s what makes me enjoy painting them, and it is why people enjoy living with them,” she says.

A book she discovered twelve years ago helped in the development of her style. It was The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

“Basically, it let the repressed artist in me out of the closet, and it taught me about the artist child in me. When I go to put paint on canvas in an abstract way, that’s who’s doing it; the part of me who’s doing it is this little bitty girl. Then when she gets done. I, as an adult, stand back, look at it, and do whatever I need to, to finish it in a manner that’s pleasing to me as an adult artist.”

So the trained artist takes over, skillfully blending into the work the elements of composition, contrast, harmony, depth, rhythm and balance.

“My paintings are never symmetrical, but when people look at them, they often say they like the balance,” she says. “That’s what keeps me doing it, the ongoing pleasure people tell me they get from it. When you first look at it, it may look like a sloppy mess, but then you begin to see multiple pictures appearing,” Julie says.  Creating her paintings consumes the majority of her energy.

Once in a while someone comments their child could have done a similar painting. Her answer: “Anyone can make an Abstract Expressionist painting. The me who paints this is about four years old. But nobody can stay in a four-year-old persona. You have to have the adult artist to add control.”

“What makes you an artist is having the overwhelming urge to create something new and different, day after day. When a person paints a different abstract painting every day for ten years, there has to be some authentic art there,” the painter says. “This is my work, and I give it my whole heart and soul.”

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