What’s behind the creative mind: Julie Denis

By Hannah Polinski

Celebrating the arts in Brome-Missisquoi

There’s an irreplaceable magic of the natural world, one that combines the tranquility of being in open-air with the beauty of brilliant colours and uncontrollable phenomena. Artist Julie Denis aims to capture this magic through her abstract paintings inspired by the colours, energies, and feelings she experiences when surrounding herself in nature.

Her recent collection Pursuit of Purpose centers the shifts towards prioritizing our mental well-being that has arisen out of the pandemic, as people began to realize how short life could be. Hues of ice-cold blue and warmer earth tones splash across her canvases, inspired by landscapes that Denis walks through in the forest near her home. For Denis, going into the woods is an opportunity to breathe deep in the fresh air, observing and listening to everything around her as the environment moves to its own pace.

“I want to immortalize [nature] through art because nature is part of us and we must connect with nature, if only for our mental health,” Denis explains.

Bringing the natural world to her Cowansville studio is a process informed by memory, as the artist takes mental pictures of what she sees and tries to recreate it based on the colours that stood out to her. Yet, her creative process begins from the moment she steps foot in nature, absorbing the colour and feelings in the landscapes around her as she internalizes them for later use. Once in the studio, she sometimes works with a specific idea in mind, but other times she sits in front of a blank canvas with a colour palette spread out in front of her, and begins to move spontaneously.

“When there is movement, there is life,” she explains. “I like to begin with marks of pencil everywhere or in specific places on the canvas. It does not matter. What matters is to add movement and suddenly I can see something and finally the painting starts.”

This sort of movement can be taken quite literally as well, as Denis confesses that she loves to dance while painting. The only time she sits down is to check on specific details, and can otherwise be found dancing to pop, house, hip-hop, and more as her creative energies flow from body to canvas.

This movement and fluidity can be compared to the scenes she recreates, inspired by flowing rivers and the wind that whistles through the trees. Being able to surround herself in nature has been important for Denis since she was a young girl, spending summers at her grandparents’ cottage in the Outaouais region.

“I liked being alone by the stream and just listening and watching. I sincerely believe that was the beginning of my adventure as an artist.”

Given that most people live in cities, recreating nature through painting gives Denis the opportunity to bring people closer to the natural world from the comfort of their own homes. Forests, lakes, and mountains have always been places for Denis to process emotion, and by committing them to canvas she allows viewers a new connection to nature that they may miss by living in concrete jungles.

Denis’ art will be part of several group exhibitions and art fairs in the coming months. Exact details will be posted on her Instagram (juliedenisart) and Facebook (Julie Denis Artiste), as well as on her website www.juliedenisartiste.com, where you can learn more about her work.

This project has been made possible by the Community Media Strategic Support Fund offered jointly by the Official Language Minority Community Media Consortium and the Government of Canada.

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