Julie Siracusa was born in the mid 1960’s in a small southern Louisiana town, Morgan City. At an early age she began drawing and creating collage pieces. By the time she was five, her mother enrolled her in her first formal painting class. The teacher told her mother that his class was not a babysitting service. Her mother responded with, “She’s not your average child, give her one class and you can decide if she is mature enough”. One class extended to the full summer session with Siracusa winning several awards for her early paintings.
Siracusa’s mother is an expert seamstress. Her creative influence gave her daughter the tools and support to create whenever she wanted to express herself. She knew she was an artist as long as she can remember. Creative expression is not just a desire, it is her way of life. Siracusa’s father raced hydro plane boats professionally. The family would travel to the gulf coast and throughout Florida for the races. This is where she realized how much she loved water.
In grade school, when a project offered a venue for drawing and sculpting she would participate. One of these first opportunities was a science project. Siracusa chose dinosaurs. She sculpted T-Rex , Triceratops and a Brontosaurus and created a prehistoric landscape for their display. Her backdrop featured large drawings of these magnificent creatures with facts about their characteristics. She would enter every science and social studies fair and most always won best in show.
All of Siracusa’s school age years were busy with activities. From age four to nine she was a member of the local swim team which competed in swim meets throughout the state. When she was nine she began riding and showing quarter horses. Siracusa’s high school offered art class as an elective. She called that her “hour off”. She enjoyed her academic classes , especially mathematics, but art class was her comfort zone. At the end of each school year she would be invited to the awards ceremony thinking it was for the art award. Each year she was surprised by the math award as well. Because of her interests, college brought the study of architecture and fine art at the University of Southwest Louisiana in Lafayette. Siracusa’s time in architecture gave her the tools for problem solving for any project. This training paved the way for her to design and build her home, which is a centrifuge for her creativity. Her advanced skills in fine art allowed her to complete her 100 level courses and be promoted to 400 level courses directly after.
After college, Siracusa worked as a graphic designer. She took on freelance projects and began to build a client base. One of these freelance projects was window design for the local mall. Occupancy was low and the mall wanted the empty spaces to look fresh. Nine storefronts later and a couple all-nighters and the project was a success. Because of this project, the mall manager asked Siracusa to curate an artists’ group in a vacant space. It was called Artists of Acadiana. She organized openings with musicians from the local symphony orchestra and finger food from the food court vendors. Siracusa’s media contacts promoted the events at no charge. During this time, she was a guest on a Saturday morning radio talk show. One of the artists from the group would join her each week and have a little theater- of-the-mind talking about art.
In 1996 she started Siracusa Design and has specialized in branding companies with strong images that anchor them well in the business community. In recent years Siracusa has chosen to dedicate more time to her true passion, fine art, painting spcifically. Now we go back in time to see the inspiration for her current work. After college, her travels expanded from the US coast to Europe and the Caribbean. Most trips were planned on the water. From beaches to chartered boats hopping from island to island. Siracusa has been at home on the water since she was a child at the boat races. Water, as Siracusa’s subject matter, is a natural. Siracusa developed her technique through exploring realism. She had a self-imposed belief that an abstract artist must master realism before embarking on abstraction. Her studies of the great masters of architecture and art led her to drawing and painting details of notable architecture and sculpture along with her original creations. After many works in graphite, oil pastel, mosaic tile, clay and wire sculpture and acrylic on canvas, Siracusa’s true technique and style came to life. All of this study and honing of her skills led her to painting her early love. Water was now on her easel. The colorful reflections, the driven currents and the shear energy of H2O has launched her into great depths of fluid exploration.
When Siracusa is asked about her artistic influence, she prefaces her response with talking about the architects and artists that she admires. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bernini, Le Corbusier, Gaudi and Mario Botta to name a few. That said, she does not have any influences for her technique and style. She is navigating her way into a minimalistic abys of creative originality. Her studio is in her home in Lafayette, Louisiana. The space is adjacent to her bedroom. Literally, Siracusa can see her easel through glass French doors when she goes to bed at night and when she wakes in the morning. This proximity gives ample contemplation for the next move on her canvas. A constant in any of Siracusa’s creative endeavors is music. The moment the music resonates in her studio, the creative juices begin to flow. She enjoys a wide range of music, from modern classical to soul and many genres in between. People that see Siracusa’s art are moved by the fluid nature of her pieces.
Her attention to detail gives the viewer many levels of interest to explore. Everyone can identify with the action of such a basic element, H2O. When Siracusa’s is away from her easel, she can be found doting over her pups, Kira and Tuffy. These two are truly family members. They are both rescues and have big personalities. Kira is all about water. She swims, floats on rafts and chases after anything to do with water. Definitely a match made in heaven. Tuffy came from a difficult start before his rescue. Siracusa and her husband, Ricky Brabner, have lovingly rehabilitated him by gaining his trust so he can be a happy and playful pup. Tuffy is not much on swimming, but he is content with the first step of the pool. Each spring Siracusa’s husband plants their vegetable garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. They are both avid home cooks that love to entertain. They recently added an herb garden, now fresh herbs are just a few steps away on their patio. These ingredients find their way into dishes like gumbo, Italian red sauce from scratch, eggplant casserole, bok choy with seared tuna, Vietnamese soups and the list goes on.
This love for good food and good design inspired Siracusa to create a table top line of products. This started with her gumbo collection and has gone on to a pasta collection, a cocktail collection and countless kitchen towel designs. The line is called French Market Designs. Her creative process begins with identifying the perfect vessels for the 3 “Aqua Marine” sixteen 12” x 12” canvases meal or occasion. Then Siracusa hand draws the graphics and fonts. The drawings are then re- illustrated in her computer graphic software for digital reproduction. It is an involved process, but well worth the results. Creating high quality art that brings joy to people has always been Siracusa’s mission. Kindness to family, friends and anyone she encounters is what you will see when you meet Julie Siracusa. Siracusa is a member of the Acadiana Center for the Arts and has participated in a number of public art projects.
I am drawn to the colorful reflections, the driven currents and the shear energy of water. The action of a moment in time inspires me to capture that awesomeness and translate it onto my canvas. Studying the movement of water and how colors reflect on each nuance is a frequent practice of mine. My pool is an excellent place for experimentation above and below the surface. I can move the water to observe varied currents and reflections. Once a photo is snapped, time stands still. One of the most important elements I’m looking for is contrast. If there is contrast, there is drama and that is what I want in my work. That is what I want to share with the viewer.
When I begin a piece, I sketch the general form of the water’s action. From there I follow its fluid movements to interpret the flow into its most minimal state. This is how I came to my unique technique and style of strong clean lines. Patience and a steady hand take me through the process. I often step back to find the natural flow and let the water tell me where it wants to go. The most exciting challenge I face is the size of my work. Most are larger than me. There is something about a massive canvas that makes me feel at ease, add water and I am home. My step-stool and ladder have become equally as important as the quality of my brushes and paint. People that see my art are moved by the fluid nature of my pieces. The attention I give to detail offers the viewer many levels of interest to explore. Everyone can identify with the action of such a basic element, H2O.
My art journey with water began with painting images of reflections on the water’s surface. As much as I enjoyed painting water, I soon realized that I needed to go below the surface to capture the drama that I was after. Of course, this realization came to me In October of 2016. The temperatures in South Louisiana had dropped low enough that going for a swim was not a very appealing idea.
After I purchased my Nikon underwater camera I went to my local dive shop and rented full dive gear. I absolutely could not wait for late spring to get started. I explained to the folks at the dive shop what I needed the gear for and they recommend a 7 millimeter suit. If you know anything about a dive suit that thick, you will know that it is quite buoyant. So, they outfitted me with a sixteen pound weight belt. Surely that would help me get underwater. Nope! I bobbed like a cork. I’d asked my husband to take photos to document the event. He kept telling me, “You’re doing it wrong!”. I tried all sorts of moves to get my shots. Keep in mind, the suit does not keep water out, it simply keeps you from getting overly cold by allowing your body temperature to warm the water in between you and the suit.
It took quite a lot of experimenting to learn how to create the images that combined water and sky which would archive the drama and contrast I wanted on my canvas. Since that first dive, I’ve taken underwater photos in open waters and pools in Jamaica, Rancho Mirage, Cabo San Lucas and Key West. Next stop, Belize! Once I’ve chosen a photo of a moment in time that has the proper scale and balance, I bring it into Photoshop and crop it to the proportions of its intended canvas. Some photo have enough activity that I could crop out multiple quadrants for future pieces. I then sketch the flow of the image onto my canvas with the vision of translating it into its most minimal state. Each canvas is backed with an archival hard board so the surface does not behave like a trampoline. My technique employs fluid, precise brush work. Vibrant is the best word to describe my palette with light aquas all the way to deep indigo. My brush of choice is only a half of an inch. I’ll go through several of them through the course of covering a 60” x 60” canvas. I usually begin with my lightest color and work my way up to the darkest. Each color can take as many as nine coats to reach the completely opaque finish I want. I absolutely know when a piece is complete. There’s no over or under done work. Some pieces take several months to complete.