SASKATOON — Working as an artist on a per contract basis, Julia Million had a lot of extra time last year. That is when one of her friends suggested she join the seven-month long Artists in Place: The Bunkhouse Project organized by the City of Saskatoon.
She was chosen to be one of the four artists for the program — that ran from Sept. 1, 2020 to April 27 this year — joining fellow visual artist Kas Rea, and theater actors Drew Mantyka and Sammy Ramsay.
Million and Rea had an exhibit of their works on the last Saturday of August at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo. The exhibit was supposed to be held after the program but was delayed due to the pandemic. The province lifted all health restrictions in July.
“The pandemic health restrictions made it hard, so my fellow artists and I couldn’t spend much time together in person. We worked around that though and simply met online often! We also just cleaned a lot more in the space to keep up with sanitization protocol,” Million told SASKTODAY.
Million said that she joined the program in order to beef up her artistic resume and to further explore her creative side.
“I was just starting to take my art seriously and I am so glad I was given the opportunity! I can say it was a great experience. Kathy, the city coordinator, was so helpful and thoughtful. I would recommend this opportunity to any artist in the city.”
“This experience allowed me space and time to experiment, and refine my artistic process. I have now further developed a process in the way I create. This was also my first showing. I now have experience to add to my artistic CV and know more for the next one.”
Kathy Allen is the City’s Arts and Grants Consultant under the Recreation and Community Development Department. Kevin Kitchen is the Community Development Manager.
Million said, despite the pandemic, the program gave her the chance to explore, create and grow.
“During that time, I created over a dozen pieces of work. This opportunity is part of an initiative with the City of Saskatoon to encourage artistic participation in Civic places. My experience was very pleasant, and I would recommend it to any artist in the Saskatoon area.
“When I first started this residency, I was just beginning to create my children's book illustrations. Those were put on hold during this seven-month period where I took inspiration from the Park and Zoo and further refined my artistic craft. During that time, I took many walks to gain a sense of the area, and personalities of the plants or animals.”
Million added that she usually starts her daily walks around the zoo at the meditation gardens, isjust beside the Bunkhouse. This gave her the idea of having the animals inside the zoo as her subject, just like Rea. She added each animal work she created has their own story, which she also plans to write.
“I tried sketching them and painting them and was going to do more with that but then as I walked around the zoo, I started getting more carried away painting the animals. From there I just kept doing the animals. There are so many other amazing projects that could be done with the meditation gardens,” said Million.
“I tend to gain inspiration from the sights, smells, or sounds surrounding me which I then try to translate onto paper. For this collection I started by walking along the gravel path of the zoo to see what immediately captured my attention. In the end I landed on the bison. From there, it simply evolved.”
Million used to live in Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia before coming to Saskatchewan. She also enjoys some quiet time in nature by biking and hiking during her free time.
“I draw inspiration from living elements around me like people, plants, and animals. My most recent work is focused on creating illustrations for children's books.”
She also plans to keep creating using her main medium, watercolour and collage using recycled materials.
“I am selling prints and cards of my bunkhouse pieces, working on illustrating and writing my two kids books this winter, and am working on a new butterfly project similar to this one using watercolour and collage.”