Maria Airey talked to wildlife artist Julie Oriet to find out about her life, work and inspiration
Tell me about your childhood
Growing up in rural Montana, I had a fabulous childhood. We were surrounded by open farmland and ranches, which meant lots of open space and beautiful views. My days were filled with playing in fields and the creek that ran through the front yard. I’ve always loved animals; I even tried to make pets of the neighbours’ livestock. As we grew, we fished, camped and backpacked, enjoying the best that Montana had to offer. Trips to Yellowstone National Park had a huge impact on my future artwork and me.
When did you first start painting?
I always drew a lot when I was young and through the years started painting for small local art festivals. Art became a full time profession for me about 25 years ago.
Why has wildlife been the focus of your art?
I have always had a huge love of animals. As a child, I played with them instead of dolls. My love of Africa started then also, as I loved my little plastic African animals. Always having pets and other animals around made them a natural part of my life; they become part of your heart and soul. From my barn cat, to wildlife I’ve observed around the world – they are all intriguing and beautiful.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
This is the best job to have! Whatever I see and do, those experiences influence my art. I get to relive the places, people and things I have experienced through my paintings and I get to share those experiences with the people who see them.
Is there a painting that you are particularly proud of?
I don’t think I could pick out just one painting. So many of them hold wonderful memories for me. I guess ‘Backpackers Dream’ holds a special place in my heart; it’s of a wilderness lake that my father took me to every summer for about 35 years.
What is your favourite animal to paint?
This is another difficult one… I love them all. Each has it own shapes, colours, textures and character that make them fun to paint. I do love horses, cattle, Cape buffalo, elephant and the challenge of zebra – all those stripes are mind-boggling!
What is your most memorable wildlife encounter?
I have a very memorable wildlife encounter. While camping, when I was in university, I was mauled by a bear. They are incredibly strong and I had some serious injuries; however, it only reinforced my love of the outdoors and was also a reminder that all animals in the wild are just that – wild animals. It is their home we are entering when we go into the bush.
Are you involved in any conservation work and/or African charities?
When I travel, I contribute school supplies for the children of nearby villages and other items that local people may need for their daily life, such as fishing equipment if they are fishermen.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to keep exploring and painting the amazing things out there, continuing to show and sell my work. I am represented by galleries, shows and auctions, as well as my website and private sales. I am truly lucky to be able to be an artist for a living!
To view more of Julie’s art, visit http://julieoriet.com.