Emerging Artists | Julie Petro

Painterly conversations

Julie Petro, Crimson Daydream, oil, 23 x 15.

Julie Petro, Crimson Daydream, oil, 23 x 15.

This story was featured in the May 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Julie Petro remembers her first encounters with art as a youngster growing up in Indiana. Her family owned the Time-Life book series, and Petro relished thumbing through the pages. In fact, the pages displaying Leonardo da Vinci’s art were worn out, she recalls. The appeal of da Vinci’s works, in part, were the narratives suggested. Much later, when she graduated from Arizona State University with a fine-arts degree, Petro says traditional works by living artists didn’t appeal to her. But one day while flipping through a magazine, she eyed a painting by Jeremy Lipking. It was the first time a modern artist’s work moved her. “Thankfully, the world of contemporary realism had just exploded, and there were a lot of insanely talented painters adding their vision to the tapestry,” Petro says.

Her paintings today often reflect her youthful interest in figurative art. In recent years such works have won awards in prestigious exhibitions presented by the American Impressionist Society and the Portrait Society of America. Petro employs the alla prima technique, laying down layer after layer of wet paint directly onto the canvas. Her style is often described as painterly. “To me, being painterly means saying as much as possible with as few strokes as I can manage,” she says.

Julie Petro, All the Promise in the World, oil, 6 x 6.

Julie Petro, All the Promise in the World, oil, 6 x 6.

Petro considers her figurative works a conversation between her and the model, as in CRIMSON DAYDREAM. “I might have a visual goal in mind. But when I start talking with my model, I watch the way she moves and her emotional state,” Petro says. “I capture that, adding my own voice, so the painting becomes deeper, more complex. In this case, I was struck by the model’s quiet mood and the way she seemed a bit melancholy and lost in thought.”

Despite this brief interpretation, Petro’s intent is to keep the mood and narrative ambiguous. In the spirit of artists who inspire her, like painter Alyssa Monks, she prefers to invite viewers to spend time with her visions and draw their own conclusions with the hope that she conveys a humanness, rawness, and vulnerability they can’t turn away from. —Bonnie Gangelhoff

RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO; Deselms Fine Art, Cheyenne, WY; Arts at Denver, Denver, CO.

Featured in the May 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook