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Craft Spotlight Series #1: Julie Cross

Julie Cross, Visitor Experience Team Member, Harewood House Trust

Julie is a dynamic figurative, expressionist painter who brings the essence of human existence to life through her vivid depictions of female figures and faces.

Drawing inspiration from Joshua Reynolds’ iconic portrait of Lady Worsley, Julie has crafted a mesmerizing series of her own unique interpretations, reimagining Harewood’s legendary lady with her signature flair.

We’re overwhelmed by Julie’s talent and would like share how her creative journey began – it’s a surprising story!

Lady Worsley sketches by Julie Cross

How I got into painting . . . it’s not got any of that ‘romantic’ discovering a latent talent or anything like that, I’m afraid! As a kid, I was big into horses and reading, so not really arty at all, and nor were my family. As an adult, however, I was once asked at a dinner party what talent/ability I’d love to have, and I said it must be lovely to be able to paint and draw. My good old mum remembered me saying this and for my 40th birthday, she wanted to get something special. I got 10 presents, and I must admit, I was a bit nonplussed when I opened the first and it was just a simple pencil! It went on – a brush, then some watercolour paints etc –  until the 10th and final one which was a voucher for a watercolour workshop retreat! I had absolutely no intention of going, though I was deeply touched by the gesture. However, as a break from my arduous PhD studies whilst bringing up two kids, I ended up taking the course. But my mum had made a mistake and hadn’t got me a beginners’ course. It was straight out into the field with a load of experienced artists, painting from life! Talk about a baptism of fire! Anyway, I was absolutely hooked . . .

I taught myself from books and videos mainly, as well as taking workshops, and before I knew it, I ended up running and chairing a national art society, the Association of Animal Artists! I couldn’t resist my love of painting people and figures, though, so now that’s what I paint, and I moved to the medium of oil paint (much easier to paint skin and make changes with oil paint!).  The human animal is endlessly fascinating to me!

As to what the creative process makes me feel . . . I think I’ve always had a good imagination and I love to try new things, so creativity has always been part of me, just not through the medium of paint. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life without art. I paint and draw every day, and although I do paint things for specific purposes, I love to express my own thoughts and paint for myself.  The feeling you get when ‘lost’ in painting, alone in your studio in that flow state, fully immersed, with a total lack of self consciousness, when the grasp of time just slips away . . . bliss. It’s not always relaxing, of course, which is a common thing people say to you, as the problems you have to solve in painting are many, but it takes you away from your ‘real’ life into a different realm. In that respect, it’s all about the process, not the end product.

Lady Worsley courtesy of Julie Cross

Creativity is boundless – you never ‘use it all up’. Creating one thing stimulates you and leads onto others. Yes, creative work necessarily builds on what has gone before, so in that way there is nothing new under the sun.  But what YOU bring to it makes it unique.  We all have our own individual memories, experiences, doubts, fears, skillsets, and that’s what makes our creations original. You just have to let go and be yourself.  You use your personal image bank and processes, together with your unique stylistic flourishes.

Everyone who works at Harewood could paint or draw, or even trace, Lady Worsley in that pose of Joshua Reynolds, and every single one would be different.  That’s what I love about art. Endless variety and the innate human desire to express oneself and make a mark.

Lady Worsley courtesy of Julie Cross

The original portrait of Lady Worsley, by Joshua Reynolds, can be found in the Cinnamon Drawing Room above Harewood Biennial artist Temitayo Ogunbiyi’s sculpture.

Temitayo Ogunbiyi’s You will find Lagos in the United Kingdom Living is a site-specific sculpture inspired by natural forms and the flight routes between the UK and Lagos in Nigeria, where she lives.

Alluding to stories of transnational relationships and generations of people journeying across lands and seas, the titles of Ogunbiyi’s works are conceived as declarative prayers, each beginning with ‘You will’.

Temitayo Ogunbiyi’s You will find Lagos in the United Kingdom Living, Drew Forsyth

View more of Julie’s work on her website – juliecross.me

Follow Julie on instagram – @juliecrossart