Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Wions.
Julie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Born and raised in NJ, I discovered my fondness for the arts early in life. This fondness not only became a passion, but it allowed art to serve as an outlet, a source of accomplishment, and a huge sense of my identity. My first love, visual arts, fortunately earned me multiple awards, such as the NJ Governor’s Award, various publications, and displays at several exhibitions including the Morris and Voorhees Museums. These high school successes helped me to secure a scholarship to the School of Fine Arts at the University of Hartford.
Toward the end of high school, I learned that my father was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progression of his illness led to a pause in my studies at the University. Transferring back home to a local college allowed me to put my main focus on my family. Here I found a variety of channels to express my passion for the arts. I produced privately commissioned works, became an art teacher at the Allegra School of Music and Arts, and launched Creations by Julie LLC as a way to integrate my skills and love of art through the printing and marketing of my illustrations on merchandise. Creations by Julie also caters to my altruistic nature, as a percentage of all profits is donated to the ALS Association.
Over time, I became eager to explore additional mediums and commuted to NYC to pursue a modeling and acting career. Acting has been a tremendous catalyst for personal growth, as well as a much-needed outlet for emotional expression during a challenging time. After several years of living at home, coping with mental health challenges while supporting my father’s condition, I began to feel stagnant. It occurred to me during a visit to Los Angeles that I needed a life change—one that would empower me to reach a higher potential. With my father’s blessing, I drove across the country, venturing through some of the same National Parks he visited 35 years earlier when he was fresh out of college. I arrived in Los Angeles without a place to live, without a community, and without a full-time job.
Upon arriving, I immersed myself in anything creative I could find. Eventually, I built a name in the studios as a costume and portrait model, inspiring character design, storyboarding, and anatomy for the artists at Disney, Dreamworks, Sony, etc. I continued to simultaneously build Creations by Julie and further my acting career, and soon added voice-over to my roster. My exploratory nature eventually led me to other lines of work, the most rewarding of which has been in service of others. I worked several days a week as a residential technician for victims of abuse, trauma, mental illness, and addiction. This job opened up new pathways of interest and self-awareness, allowing me to honor my personal values while engaging in creative problem solving and providing emotional support to others in need.
One month shy of my first year surviving Los Angeles, I received the devastating news that my father had passed away, after living with ALS for 11 years. I found support once again by immersing myself in the arts. My Dad had written about his experiences living with ALS throughout his diagnosis. His journaling evolved into a book about how to live a life of quality, regardless of limitations, which he hoped would serve as a guide for those in need. In his honor, my brother and I decided to finish his dream and publish his work. I designed a website for the book, contributed in the editing and publishing process, created the artwork, and together we brought “More Time to Love,” to life.
I am still in Los Angeles after nine years, embracing my sense of wonder and experiencing all that this city has to offer. My pursuits and artistic endeavors have taught me so much, guiding me through transitions, teaching me how to be more connected with myself, and showing me how to become a stronger advocate to provide greater support for others.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
One holiday season, I contemplated what to give my family. My father suggested I print my artwork on notecards as a gift, and thus, Creations by Julie was born. I loved the idea of mass-producing my originals to reach a broader audience, offering my artwork on a variety of products. Establishing an e-commerce store granted me flexibility for efficient management from any location. While working with children over the years, I was inspired by their whimsical spirit. This led to the conception of my children series, characterized by children dreaming big and being their imaginative and carefree selves. As my business has matured, continuing to donate to a cause near to my heart has been a cherished and indelible fundamental principle.
Modeling and acting have provided a playground for me to connect with others, build my active listening skills, empathize, tell stories, express myself, and test limits. I’ve learned to trust instincts and adapt, explore self-development tools, and build my awareness. These are valuable assets to embrace not just on set, but through everyday life.
My father adored hummingbirds. On the one year anniversary of his passing, a hummingbird flew into the home and allowed me to carry it outside to be set free. A photograph was taken of the hummingbird resting in my hands, which became the cover of my father’s book, “More Time to Love.” This symbolic moment was a catalyst toward our endeavor and acts as a metaphor for his journey. My family and I hope that “More Time to Love” will offer inspiration and guidance to anyone seeking support.
I hope overall that my pursuits share a sense of connection, delight, and inspiration, and that they may encourage individuals to pursue passions that provide joy in their own life.
The sterotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
In my personal opinion, peace of mind is most important. No doubt, life can get stressful when responsibilities and finances get in the way of pursuing our passions and honoring our inner truth. At the same time, building our self-awareness around what nurtures our peace of mind can help us to create an environment that will direct and sustain our focus. I try to designate a little time every day for something that fills my soul, like singing and playing my guitar, laying in the grass at the park with a good book, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or taking my Krav Maga classes. If I’m overwhelmed and can’t seem to fit it in, I hone what I’m feeling, learn to trust, and remind myself I’m doing the best I can. Balance is key, mindset is helpful, and a level of resilience is necessary. These ingredients give me the energy and space to focus on propelling my business forward.
For those in search of a more practical approach, I find it helpful to focus on smart money management by maintaining a spreadsheet and building savings. Even just putting away a small amount each month can start to build a little cushion over time and help relieve some stress during slower months.
I like to challenge myself to think outside the box, as there’s always a way to make things work, even using strategies that go against the norm. I find it important to keep an open mind and to focus on possibilities and the learning of new skills, rather than to allow myself to be intimidated by my perceived limitations. Not only does this approach make life’s challenges much more tolerable, but it keeps me in a productive mindset geared toward solving problems, evolving, and discovering hidden opportunities.
I’m grateful to receive any support or interest involving my endeavors. Sharing my art with others and collaborating on future projects are two great ways to support. On a broader scale, ALS is a devastating disease that impacts so many people and their families. If you know of anyone suffering from ALS, or another terminal illness, referring them to “More Time to Love,” might provide some insight, direction, and perhaps some inspiration. My father dreamed of sharing his story in hopes of helping others live their best life.
For more information on my creative pursuits, please visit the links below.
Kenneth Dolin Photography, 729 Beauty photoshoot by Justin Frost, Solomon Augusteyn and Cheryl Walsh