Today, artist Julia Di Sano is sharing her art and inspiration and is also answering some questions about her life as an artist. Julia is the Owner/Artist behind Ebi Emporium; a Whimsical Fine Art Home Decor, Gifts and Accessories studio based in Vancouver, BC.
Read what Julia has to say in her own words..
Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Where are you from, where are you based now? Do you work from home or have a studio?
Well, I’m Canadian – and I’ve lived in a lot of different places. I grew up in Brampton, Ontario. Then, moved around in Ontario before heading out to Sackville, New Brunswick for my undergrad degree. During university, I live in Japan for a year, doing an exchange in the Osaka area. That’s where I met my now-husband, who was from Vancouver – So, upon completing my 1st university degree, I moved to Vancouver, BC to get my 2nd university degree at UBC (Bachelor of Education, Secondary School English and Japanese Language teaching). I finished that degree, and after trying to pursue a “traditional” teaching job and a few other administrative jobs (with the RCMP), I ultimately decided I needed to return to my roots and make art. So, I started my business, Ebi Emporium, and now I do this full time, working from my home studio in Vancouver.
Have you always been creative? Are you from a creative family?
I’ve always been a very creative person, and have played with pretty much every fine art medium out there. When I attended my fine arts high school, it was very intensive, with practical studio art and art history classes taking up a large percentage of my days. I loved it! But even when I was a small child, I always preferred to be drawing or coloring or painting, rather than playing sports, etc. I just felt at ease, and free to express myself genuinely whenever I had some artistic tool in-hand. My family is much more traditional – not a creative bone in most of their bodies, I think. My grandpa was a painter, though – He passed away when I was 7, but my Mom thinks I got my love of painting and everything artistic from him. 🙂
When did you first start creating? When did you recognize that you would pursue design?
Art has ALWAYS been something I’ve turned to, so I couldn’t even begin to tell you when I first started creating. Probably as soon as I was old enough to hold a crayon. Hehe. But I knew art was more than just a hobby when I was in middle school, and I spent nearly 2 years preparing a special portfolio of works for an auditioned/juried fine arts high school in Ontario. Then, after being accepted, I spent the next 4 years of my life working on creating and learning about the history of art every single day – That only further pushed me toward wanting art to be my career. BUT, being from a traditional Italian family, I was convinced to take a more 9-to-5 job route, and get the typical B.A. university degree. My family wanted me to be a teacher or a manager or anything other than a “Starving Artist” – And I followed their guidance. After completing my 2 university degrees, though, and dabbling in teaching and admin work, I just knew in my heart that my passion was pulling me back to my one true focus – art. And I stopped trying to please other people, and decided to jump in, feet first, to running my own fine art and textile design business. Ebi Emporium was born!
Do you have a formal training or are you self taught?
Well, I’ve been taking drawing and painting classes for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I always wanted to take art classes to learn new techniques, rather than play soccer or do ballet, etc. So, I did. And then, I had the pleasure and honor of being accepted into Mayfield S. S. for my high school years, where a typical high school experience was transformed into an intensive arts program, focusing creative talents and ambitions better than I ever thought possible. I learned so much over those 4 years.
Then, after graduating, I continued to draw and paint on my own, learning new techniques and working with various mediums to see what I was most comfortable with outside of a formal class setting as an adult artist. Over time, I was drawn to a more abstracted style, and found myself working mainly in the vibrant colors I love to see in Nature and all around me in daily life. I’m always trying to learn new tricks and techniques online and from artist friends, even now, though – True learning never stops.
How and where do you find inspiration for your work? Does inspiration come easily to you? Who inspires you?
Inspiration is everywhere. I’ve never really had a hard time finding it – There are so many beautiful things in nature, fashion, popular culture, history, by other artists, online, in magazines, in homes, etc. that I can’t help but find something intriguing almost everywhere I go. The fun and challenging part is turning that inspiration into something entirely my own, and to personalize it in a way that reflects my own style and artistic vision. It happens so often where artists pull directly from other artists and call it their own – But that’s not art. It’s copying. And there’s no point in creating something if it’s not original in some way, bringing something new “to the table”.
I always try to think about what my goals are for each art piece before I get to work, and I use that inspiration from the world around me to fuel me on my journey to uncover the hidden design on my blank canvases. Inspiration is everywhere – but it’s also within. And its important to draw upon both internal and external inspirations to create something truly special.
Would you say that you’re a disciplined artist? Do you set aside time for creating and time for business for example?
I’m very disciplined, in that I work a LOT of hours on my business and always make sure to process orders, meet deadlines, prepare new works for each season and upcoming project, etc. But I don’t dictate when, hour by hour, on a calendar I will create art. My art time needs to feel fluid to me, and I can’t force myself to make art when I’m not feeling it. I find my best works happen when I just let the create “juices” move me into action – I always manage to find a balance between the creation of new art, and all the other aspects that go with running a business. If you work hard and have a passion for it, I truly believe the details will always work themselves out.
Do you have a certain style or is it constantly evolving? What medium do you most like to work with?
I do have a certain style. But, it’s always evolving, too. My work is very recognizable in it’s whimsical, bold brushstrokes and bright, saturated color palettes. But I don’t limit myself to anything or from anything when I work. I find I’m naturally drawn to a certain aesthetic in my own work, so I always have elements of that in every piece. But I mix up the mediums, textural elements, vary my pieces between acrylic and watercolor, and I even play with some digital overlays and editing, too. It’s really organic, and I find each piece calls for something different.
You license some of your work with DiaNoche Designs, how do you like working for them? Did you approach the company yourself or did they find you?
DiaNoche Designs is lovely to work with. It’s great to have a fellow small business, that’s passionate about art and design, working alongside me to offer my work on a wide range of products. I feel that art is moving in so many exciting, new directions in the past 5-6 years, with the help of technology and companies like DiaNoche Designs. It’s a pleasure to be part of that. I can’t remember whether they approached me initially, or vice versa. It’s been quite a while now that we’ve worked together – verging on 4+ years, I think. It’s amazing how the time flies! Here’s to another 20! 🙂
Do you have a project that you’re particularly proud of?
I have a lot of things I’m proud of having accomplished over the years. I think being self-employed requires the celebration of small victories, in addition to the bigger ones. Every day is a new achievement. But I think some of my favorites are the times I have been featured by popular magazines, blogs, on TV, etc. – It’s surreal to see my work in popular media, and I’m still a bit taken when I discover my work included.
I’m also proud to have had my work used by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC for a gala for dignitaries. And this year, in the next month, I will have my work on gift bags in a popular retail chain across the USA for Mother’s Day! So exciting~
Can you share your workflow with us from your inspiration through to the finished piece? Did you develop any products from this?
Unfortunately, I don’t really keep track of that while I work. It’s very fluid and fast-moving when I get started on something, and so I don’t really take progress pics as I go…But basically, it goes like this…I get inspired, I plan a piece in my head, I put on some music (usually Marianna’s Trench or some other similar bands) and start singing karaoke-style out loud to it, and I break out the paints, brushes and canvas and make a mess. It’s fun-filled, energetic, and I spend the entire time standing while I work.
How do you sell your work? Do you have a physical store/outlet or sell online? Do you do commissioned work? Do you have an agent or are you considering working with an agent?
I sell my work in a LOT of ways, through a wide range of formats and venues, both online and offline. I work with local retailers to sell certain products, I have online shops I manage myself (Etsy, etc.), I work with licensing companies for home decor and similar items (such as DiaNoche Designs(, I work with a wide array of POD (print on demand) websites, I also partner with other licensing companies for private projects offline and take commissions for original paintings, when those arise.
I think being a success in the modern art world – at least for me – means diversification and flexibility. I’ve learned a lot over the past handful of years, and will continue doing research and learning new ways to successfully build my brand and reach customers, clients and new manufacturing/licensing/retail partners. And no, I haven’t considered working with an agent. I know my own work and I’m confident in my ability to sell it.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have a vision of where you’ll be next year for example?
Like many things in my life, I have a rough estimate of what I’d like to see happen, but the “plans” are very loose and free. I take new opportunities as they come, leverage what I can with current ones, prune what doesn’t work as well, and look for new chances to grow every time I can. It’s an ebb and flow, and I eagerly await what’s around the corner, this year and in years to come. I just know that doing art full-time, growing my brand and – ultimately- my bottom line, and always maintaining a sense of self, great customer service, and a reputation I can be proud of are things I will continue to work for in my everyday life.
What tools can’t you live without?
- my acrylic and watercolor paints (recently, I am in love with my Dr. PH Martins’ liquid watercolor sets),
- canvases and watercolor paper, brushes,
- and my computer. I think I might die without my computer. Haha. I also require the constant presence and love of my husband and cats. Yes, I know they aren’t “tools”, but I couldn’t do what I do without them in my life 🙂
Where can we find you?
A fantastic insight into Julia’s life as an artist. Please follow Julia through her social media links and if you have any comments then add them below.
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