Artist’s Studio: Julie Elman

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In our feature, Artist’s Studio, we highlight individuals who are active in the artistic community. This month, we’re featuring publication design instructor and painter Julie Elman of Athens.

What kind of art do you create?

“Since February 2012, I’ve been working on the Fear Project, which is a series of pieces that explores other people’s fears via their words and my visuals.

I teach courses in publication design, and in my classes, I talk a lot about moving beyond the fear of that scary blank page.

The Fear Project sprang from my own fears, one of them being how to manage the creative process. I also watched my design students struggle with their own fears of creating and taking visual risks, and I wondered how to best encourage them to move past creative blocks.

I was deeply inspired by the concept of ‘automated directives,’ where one brings more structure to the chaos of doing creative work (I was introduced to this concept while watching a video presentation by Oregon-based illustrator and educator Kate Bingaman-Burt).

While sitting at my kitchen table one evening, I started the Fear Project. I simply wanted to explore other people’s fears through their words and my visuals. As a former newspaper designer, I felt this compulsion to approach my project in a more journalistic way. I asked people what their fears were, and I either wrote them down, or I used my iPhone to record them describing their fears.

The topics have run the gamut and have included failure, losing a child, centipedes in the shower, the impulse to jump off high places, small holes, escalators, dying alone and needles. Participants in this project have included neighbors, students, colleagues, family members — and as the project has grown, more and more people I do not know have reached out to me with their fears.

The pieces are small: usually about 10×7 inches. I work with pen/ink, gouache and colored pencils, and sometimes add other objects to the pieces to give them more dimension and texture (mixed media).”

Have you had success making art in Athens County?

“I’ve found that the Fear Project has resonated with many people from all walks of life, from all over. Currently, I have a solo show (44 pieces) at the Coburn Art Gallery in Ashland, Ohio (Ashland University). While I make the work in Athens, the work is mainly being published and shown outside of Athens (a couple of pieces were part of a group show at the Dairy Barn this past year, though).”

How can people find out more about your art?

“People can go to, or they can go to the project’s Facebook page. I post Fear pieces weekly at both of these places.”