Pictoplasma focus: Julia Pott

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Bring me home, please

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Kissed, 2012

Last month, i speed interviewed David O'Reilly as a preview for the Pictoplasma conference that will take place in New York in a few weeks. Pictoplasma, as i might have written about 20 times so far, is one of my favourite events and because i can't fly to NYc next month, i'm using these short interviews as a way to be part of the event. Today it's Julia Pott's turn to answer my questions!

Julia studied animation and illustration at Kingston University then moved to the Royal College of Art for an MA in Animation. But she started piling up the awards and press articles long before she had even graduated. Both her very first short My First Crush and more recent film Belly have received praises and prizes from San Francisco to Amsterdam. She has since received commissions to make illustrations for magazines, music bands, fashion brands, big commercial names... Even for tattoos and tea towels!

Her films and drawings often present human experiences and existential questionings embodied and voiced by animal characters. There's something bitter-sweet and unsettling in seeing cute animals voicing concerns associated with feelings of love, loneliness, passage to adulthood, struggling to find their place into the world.

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Small Magazine, 2009

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Be Brave, 2011. Mural created for Frank Public Art in Austin, Texas

Many of the characters in work are animal species who dress, feel and behave like humans. Their stories are often quite moving, they experience love, regrets, rejection, loss, etc. Do you think that the reason why we empathise so much with these characters is because they look like animals, not humans?

When I initially began designing animals instead of humans it was to make the process more amusing for myself. Whenever I would animate humans I found the subject matter seemed too black and white. The animals became embodiments of our human characteristics in more endearing packages, an easier pill to swallow.

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Walter Album Cover, 2010

You work on both the story and the drawing of your short films. Have you ever dreamt of collaborating with someone for the scenario part of a film? He or she would would come up with the story and you'd just illustrate it?

Absolutely. I was trained at art school to be in control of every aspect - story, design, editing etc. and that feeling of control can be quite addictive. However as soon as you bring in an outside entity you have the chance to make something you would have never thought of on your own. If you can find the right collaborator it makes the process much more enjoyable than sitting alone in your studio with a pencil - it takes some of the weight off your shoulders and makes me, personally, much less critical of the work. My most recent film, 'The Event', commissioned by Random Acts, is based on a poem by Tom Chivers. Having that script to work from was hugely helpful - an important element was already taken care of and I was freed up to play with the atmosphere, the characters and the scenarios within that structure. The upcoming projects I am most excited about are ones that are collaborations with other filmmakers.


Julia Pott, The Event

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How would you feel if you were told that you are not allowed to create and draw animals anymore? Never ever again? Would you still like to be an illustrator?  

Story telling is the part of the process that I find the most rewarding. Having worked in animation for a few years now I am eager to move into live action and see if the feelings I deal with in my animated shorts translate well into this medium. I think I will always still illustrate, even if I was banned from animals for life! Can I still draw pizza?

Do you get to look at the work of artists working in other fields (painting, music, video, etc.) a lot and do you draw inspiration from them? Whose work do you admire?  

I look to animation for inspiration in terms of colour and playfulness in design and movement. However when it comes to inspiration for story I often turn to outside resources. I would say I was most influenced by literature and film. I am a huge fan of the writing of Jon Irving, JD Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut and I often turn to their writing when I begin a project. Woody Allen, Joss Whedon, Wes Anderson and Rob Reiner are filmmakers I greatly admire.

Often at the initial stage of a project I will listen to a particular album or genre of music to get inspiration. At the moment I am very into eerie 50s love songs.

Any advice you could give to young illustrators / students who would like to be as successful as you are?   

I know it's a cliché but it has to be said; never give up. It can be tough going in the first few years and your friends will think you're a weird hermit, but if you can stick it out it can be very rewarding. Also it's always good to go with your gut, don't follow trends or create work for other people. Make what you love and other people will see that in the work.

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Is this your arm? Because then you have some of the coolest tattoos i've ever seen...

Ha no that is not my arm, but I'll tell the person attached to it you said so! It belongs to a friend of mine who commissioned the tattoo from me a few years ago. She has another design of mine on her other arm of a bunch of animals having a knife fight. She's kind of brilliant.

What are you going to present at Pictoplasma? 

At the Berlin Pictoplasma conference this year I was a little nervous and apparently this resulted in me talking very fast. It would be wise to anticipate this from me again. I will be talking through a few projects and how they came about. There is also a pretty good picture of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in there, for the ladies.

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Don't Get Scared Now, 2011


Julia Pott, Belly

Any upcoming project you would like to share with us? 

I'm currently working on a short film for the Miami based collective Borscht, and then I am co-directing my first live action film with LA based director Dustin Bowser. I just finished up an illustration project I'm very excited about but unfortunately I am not allowed to share the details just yet!

Thank you Julia!

Catch up with Julia Pott at Pictoplasma NYC conference on November 2 and 3 at Parsons the new school for design.

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