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Julia Breckenreid’s shapely portraits

We love the work of Toronto-based illustrator Julia Breckenreid, so we thought we’d check in with her and see what’s been going down. Literally. Your illustrations are so rich in colour. Do you see things brighter than most, or do you just like the sharpness that bright colours adds to your work? ‘Thank you, that richness is something I’m always working on. I don’t think I see things brighter than most people, I just love vibrant colour. It makes things lively. I never think my work is bright enough! Someone did mention that I seem to use an enormous amount of yellow, so I’m thinking about cutting it down a bit. But it’s tough, I really like it’. I love your portraits. There seems to be a sense of vulnerability about the works β€” the people seem very real. Do you know them well and you’re plunging their inner depths with your illustrations, or are they strangers who β€” for whatever reason β€” interest you? ‘I don’t know all of the people I do portraits of. However, there are three on my site that happen to be related to me. These three portraits are from a series that my family asked me to do of my grandmother and her six daughters, and are the ones that were rejected! They didn’t like them, they felt they were too bold, too much of something. But I really like them. That’s the way I see those women. People always have a different version in their minds of how they think they look’. In general I love to do portraits of all kinds – it’s a weird connection, a conjuring playful thing, trying to bring to life what I imagine their personalities to be like. I’m doing my best to do more portraits – it’s exciting work and can be frustrating or a bit of a struggle – somehow I enjoy that. I paint and repaint trying to find the person, and eventually they’re looking back at me’.

Julia Breckenreid