Julia Rothman

Julia Rothman

One of the biggest challenges for me throughout the pandemic has been missing my daily trips into the Garment District in NYC from Brooklyn, and seeing the city I love. Luckily Julia Rothman’s illustrations in the New York Times makes me feel like I’m home again. Her personality filled drawings highlight the things I love about the city the most – the everyday people and their extraordinary ordinary lives. Julia’s oeuvre goes way beyond the Times, as she illustrates everything from books, articles and advertising to home goods and even seed packets. Her unique and beautiful style translates to so many mediums, and I am so excited to get to know her a little more, learn how her career evolved and what she dreams for the future.  


 Red Alma Dress




Can you tell us about how you started in illustration and when you knew it was something you wanted to focus on?

I’ve been drawing my whole life. When I was a kid I would draw my favorite cartoon characters and copy illustrations from books. Through high school I would design posters for dance and theater shows. When it was time to choose a college, I only applied to one art school (Rhode Island School of Design) and was thrilled to go there. I picked my major by looking through their catalogue and I chose Illustration because it looked like you could draw a lot. And that was it. I stuck to it.


I’m in complete awe of the scope of your work – books, advertisements, patterns, editorial, personal works, the list goes on! Where did you start your career, and how were you able to expand so much?

I think part of being successful for me has been my ability to diversify. I take on all different kinds of projects. It started with taking whatever I could get. I had a very meaningful internship at a small magazine called CityNY in my junior year of college. I went there every day in the summer. They gave me my very first illustration job drawing a NYC coffee cup for the back page of the magazine. It became a reoccurring job, even after graduating. That got my foot in the door of having published work. But as I continued doing editorial illustration, I got hired to make patterns for brands, so I did that too, to pay bills. Then I just kept doing those two things and anything else anyone would hire me for! 


I discovered your work in the New York Times, and your illustrations immediately captured the spirit, energy and innate humor of why I love the city so much. Did you always know that you wanted to live in NYC? How has living here informed your work?

I grew up in NYC, in the Bronx, on a small island called City Island, that most people have never heard of. My childhood had many Manhattan museum trips and as a teenager I went out dancing at all the clubs. I was only away from NYC for college for four years and then I came back to settle in Brooklyn. I sometimes feel embarrassed that I never tried living anywhere else. I guess there’s still time. Naturally by living here, I am drawing my surroundings. I can’t help but have my work be about my experience. My column (with Shaina Feinberg), Scratch, in the New York Times let me explore that further. Shaina and I have met so many incredible New Yorkers running small businesses and talked to so many people on the streets about money. It’s been glorious – the very best excuse to talk to strangers. It is my favorite.




You also teach at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Does teaching bring something new to your work, or possibly keep your grounded? 

Teaching keeps me young. I like saying that even though it sounds silly, but I feel that way. I really like interacting with people younger than me. I learn so much from them. I like to know what they find interesting. I like teaching them things I know and watching them take ideas and run with them in ways that surprise me. And of course I like to watch them get better over a semester. It is the most satisfying thing. And some of my students remain close friends





Can you tell us about “Women Who Draw” and “Ladies Drawing Night”?

Ladies Drawing Night started as just a fun drawing get-together with fellow artists/illustrators Leah Goren and Rachael Cole. We just sit and talk and draw together. We would do it once a week. We called it Ladies Drawing Night for fun on Instagram. Then other women commented about wishing they could join us. So we decided to make bigger drawing events. They are evenings where women can meet other creative women, drink, draw. It’s been a while since we’ve done an event for obvious reasons. We thought about having a zoom LDN but haven’t arranged it yet. 

Women Who Draw is a directory I co-founded with Wendy MacNaughton in an effort to increase visibility of female identifying illustrators, especially illustrators of color, LBTQ+, and other minority groups of female illustrators. We started the site because we noticed a lack of women illustrators being hired for magazine covers, ad jobs, speaking engagements, etc. Any female illustrator can join and identify however they see fit and art directors or others looking to hire illustrators can peruse the site to find illustrators to hire. I’m proud to say that so so many illustrators have gotten jobs because art directors use the site. It might be the thing I am most proud of creating.


Even with all the work that you do, are there other avenues or outlets you’ve been wanting to try that you haven’t been able to do yet?

Actually, I want to do other things besides work. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. I spend so much time drawing, collaborating on projects, thinking of what to do next, that I worry sometimes that it’s too much. I would like to garden more, hike more, spend more time with friends and family. I am really, really happy with work and enjoy my job so much. But I think I should see if there are other things that bring me as much joy to balance it out a bit!


Red Alma Dress     








These days I’m loving...


Chimes ginger chews. I eat way too many. Can’t stop. 


No bra. Pants with elastic bands. Jumpsuits. 


I thought I Will Destroy You was brilliant like everyone else. 


I started Antkind by Charlie Kaufman and think it’s hilarious and crazy fun. But I am a little worried I will never finish it because it's 720 pages.
Just got Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig and can’t wait to start it. 


I don’t usually wear any makeup. I like Trader Joe’s spray sunscreen!


I love following dancers on Instagram. A few favorites:


“Me time” activity

Watering the plants. Zumba. 

Images shot in New York City by Daniel Cochran