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.
Can you tell us about how you started in illustration and when you knew it was something you wanted to focus on?
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?
You also teach at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Does teaching bring something new to your work, or possibly keep your grounded?
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?
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 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
Images shot in New York City by Daniel Cochran