Julia Swettenham, Addressing Mental Health Through Her Artwork

I think we often lead such a busy lifestyle we forget to sit back and tune in with how we truly feel and my intent with my art is to break that stigma.

Julia Swettenham, founder of the Just Jules Studios art platform, has always had a creative bone in her body.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, her interest in painting and drawing began at a young age, as she would often spend time with her grandmother and re-draw the pictures she saw in magazines. Taking art subjects throughout her school and university years, Julia went on to say: “I have always been a creative child growing up, and throughout my life I was always interested in painting and drawing but I struggled to find a style or art form that truly resonated with me”

The young artist started Just Jules Studios in 2021 with the intention to offer digital drawings and branding as an extra income. However, through this came a plot twist as Julia began to find her art style and started adding her own paintings to the platform.

She went on to say: “Having my own platform to share my art was not something I thought I would ever be brave enough to do. I used to be very shy about my work but when I started creating to help myself deal with some difficult times I realized that people were relating to my art and the emotions I was portraying, I felt an intense desire to be a voice for those who could not yet find their own”

Starting as a simple digital drawings platform, Julia now uses Just Jules Studios to showcase the real, raw emotions that people feel. Her favourite part about being an artist is being able to evoke and depict emotion through her artwork.

“I intend to use my art to start conversations on the hard to face topics of life. My art is to show that it is okay and necessary to feel everything inside of us and to realize that our feelings do not make us weak but powerful in our own, unique way.”

Julia described the most challenging part about starting up Just Jules Studios was the feelings of self-doubt and comparison. She went on to say: “I have had to motivate myself to push through all my own negative thoughts and once I started receiving feedback from clients, these negative thoughts quickly became quieter. There will always be people with their own abilities and talents and this does not make your own talent any less special or valuable”

Describing the start of this journey as a “leap of faith”, Julia hopes to see her art platform grow and would love to see her work up in more markets and exhibitions.

In her free time, Julia enjoys being active in nature, such as hiking and outdoor exercises. She also enjoys embroidery and any other crafts.

About Julia’s First Art Exhibition:

Whilst working as a bartender at one of the art events of the Benoni Art Route, an initiative of artists who produce and exhibit a wide range of artwork, Julia took it upon herself to sign up for one of their art exhibitions to give her art a chance. She described the experience as nerve-wracking but exciting.

She went on to say: “I was nervous for strangers to see my art and ask questions about my work purely because it is not your everyday style.”

Having recently done her second art exhibition, Julia feels her confidence growing and now sees art exhibitions as a reminder of the power that her artwork holds.

Our Favorite Questions

What has been the most challenging thing about your journey as an artist?

“Artist block, something I have not quite experienced properly before until this year, this along with self-discipline to create and stay motivated. I have had to learn to let my mind/body rest when it needs to but to also hold myself accountable to get things done, to actively be more focused on my goals and dreams and to constantly believe in myself and my abilities.”

What inspires you when you’re working on new art pieces? Do you have a main inspiration?

“My work comes from what I feel at the time. I have always been in love with people’s faces, most especially their eyes. I believe there is always a lot of hidden emotion behind our eyes, as well as so much beauty and uniqueness. I also draw a lot of inspiration from butterflies.”

What advice do you have for young women who are aspiring to reach their goals?

“Take the risk and invest in yourself. Surround yourself with good, honest people who have pure intentions towards your dreams, because it is easy to be discouraged and give up when things get tough. Lastly, be kind to yourself. It is difficult to constantly find motivation and stay disciplined but the rewards are worth it and you build such amazing character succeeding in something you are truly passionate about.”

What else would you like our readers to know? “I am part of a movement #livetotell on Minding your Mind, an organization that aims to end the stigma around mental health and start conversations regarding mental health. I think it is important to use our platforms or talents to benefit not only ourselves, but those around us and to help one another feel more loved and valued in this fast paced society.

#LivetoTell Library – Minding Your Mind”.

“I think my work can open up lines of communication on the importance of mental health and I would love opportunities to share my art and the stories behind my pieces, to help people who feel alone and lost find their way. I want my work to not only be a beautiful piece of art, but rather a story of bravery and overcoming dark, difficult times.”

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