Northern Artist – Adding a Littler Colour
by Laura Storey
Chester artist Julie Littler creates joyful architectural art inspired by places across the north.
Chester-based artist Julie Littler works hard to capture the unique beauty of some of the UK’s most stunning buildings while adding her own colourful twist. Each of her hand-painted original artworks is as joyful as Julie herself and expresses such a wonderful sense of optimism and positivity that you can’t help but smile while looking at them…
Having previously worked for Princess Cruises, Julie spent a lot of time in the Caribbean, something she cites as having a major influence on her art. “I fell in love with the colours of the Caribbean,” she recalls, “everything was just so bright and vivid and cheerful! It didn’t matter how wealthy the people were; they always decorated their homes colourfully. They never failed to make me smile!”
After ending her contract with Princess Cruises, Julie returned home to the north, where the contrast between the vibrant colours of the Caribbean and the miserable grey November skies of England was stark, to say the least. “Experiencing that contrast inspired me to combine the amazing colours of the Caribbean with the stunning architecture we have here,” Julie explains. “Just combining the two made me smile, and so it’s been the basis of my work ever since!”
Born in Chester, Julie grew up surrounded by many stunning and architecturally unique historic buildings, something that has clearly had a major influence on her work. “We’re just really blessed to be surrounded by it all in the north – there’s almost too many beautiful buildings with quirky architecture and strong heritages! And it’s great that so many people are working to look after these buildings, too – groups like the National Trust are breathing real life into these places, it’s lovely to see! Going back, I’ve always been inspired by it – whether it’s heritage buildings or new, more modern places.”
“I hope more than anything, people get a smile from my artwork.”
Earlier this year, Julie brought much of this inspiration to life by curating a colourful collection of paintings depicting the unique architecture of Blackpool. “I think Blackpool has some of the quirkiest architecture around”, she explains, “there’s the tower of course, but also the trams and some really awesome and iconic art deco buildings. Blackpool is a very positive, cheerful, fun place, and I hope I’ve captured that joy in the collection.” The collection is currently available as signed, framed prints and cards in the Visit Blackpool Tourist Information Centre on the promenade.
“I hope more than anything, people get a smile from my artwork. My goal is not just to brighten up walls of offices, houses, and hotels but to also brighten up people’s days!” And this sense of positivity truly shines through in every one of Julie’s paintings – perhaps most notably through the presence of a rainbow in each piece. “Nobody ever looks at a rainbow with misery,” Julie explains, “they’re a beautiful sign of hope, joy, love and optimism – they’re a bit magical, really!”
In late 2021, Julie became the winner of Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday (SBS) award. This huge achievement has enabled Julie to join an exclusive network of businesses across the UK. “Often being a small business owner can be quite isolating – you’re literally on your own!” she explains, “but now it’s great to be part of a community. I’ve met so many people through annual SBS events, and it truly is so wonderful. Theo is genuinely such a supportive, lovely person, too – I can’t speak highly enough of him or SBS. He’s such a huge supporter of small businesses and has set up this immensely friendly and welcoming network that has really benefitted me. Having that support available, both from other small businesses and Theo himself, is so important, and I’m so grateful.”
Currently, Julie works with seven retailers who stock and sell Julie’s artwork in various forms – from prints and placemats to cups and cushions made in the UK, mostly by independent manufacturers in the North West. Julie also works hard to form partnerships in and around her local region, where sales of her signed artwork help to raise funds for schools, hospices, and football clubs. “I particularly enjoyed working with Chester Football Club,” she recalls. “It was lovely to work with the management and fans to create a collage of images of places that are important to them.”
Despite their local influences, Julie’s artwork is enjoyed by many across the globe – with international clients from Australia and New Zealand. People have fond memories of the North West, and when they leave, they want to take a bit of that with them.”
Before focusing on art full-time, Julie worked as a school librarian at Abbey Gate College. Nowadays, she frequently returns to these roots by offering art workshops to schools and community groups across the area. “I think it’s nice to go back to work with young people,” she explains, “they’re ace – and they have so much to offer. They bring so much enthusiasm and positivity, and it’s just wonderful to see.
“My advice to any young or aspiring artists would be always to doodle – and never compare yourself to others! When you get confident with your work, start sharing it, as there are many supportive groups locally or on the internet. All artists are constantly learning, progressing, experimenting, and finding different methods. There are some fabulous communities out there, and I think it’s important never to be afraid to approach them!”
There is no doubt that Julie’s optimism and positivity are perfectly reflected in the vibrant colours and joyful imagery of her artwork. Her continued success is testament to her talents – and Julie’s future, much like her art itself, is certainly looking bright! You can see more of Julie’s art on her website, thelittlerplaces.co.uk, or at @LittlerArt on Twitter.
NorthernLife Nov/Dec 23