By now, Julie Jilek could be considered a founding member of the Fox Cities’ new creative class. The claim would surely cause the Appleton native to blush and protest, but neither make it any less true.
Jilek graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but she spent her childhood growing up in Appleton. She says over the past several years her hometown has experienced a renaissance of sorts.
“I think the level of [art] appreciation has expanded to a lot of different areas,” Jilek says. “We are embracing the fact that you have to actively support artists otherwise they will go away. Seeing Appleton as a kid to what it is now, it feels like a completely different place.”
As much as Appleton has grown, so has Jilek’s body of work. From plein air painting to portraiture, Jilek has dabbled (and excelled) in multiple mediums. Most recently she has been creating mixed-media musician portraits using India ink and charcoal.
She has also been painting murals, an endeavor she sees continuing in the future. One mural Jilek created at 95 Yoga House in Appleton is a depiction of the Hindu deity Ganesha. Another mural she contributed to is an epic day-to-night scene of Batman’s Gotham City at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan, MN.
Jilek sees dabbling in various mediums as a reflection of her personality and creative process.
“I have fits of inspiration where I have to make something and I feel like that’s when I make more important work, when it’s just coming from another place,” she says. “When I’m forcing it I can tell. I’ll have years where I look back on work and can see that whole year I wasn’t really feeling it, but I was just trying to make something.”
What’s refreshing about Jilek’s approach to art is its lack of pretension, barriers and divisions. Her creative philosophy boils down pretty simply: art is for everyone.
While live painting at local events, Jilek often hears bystanders lament their self-diagnosed creative deficiency.
“I want to shake them. Everybody has a creative energy and something inside them,” she says. “If you aren’t taking the time to explore that you are doing a disservice to yourself. Everybody should have some sort of creative outlet that they channel into every day of their life because it opens your mind and makes you a better human. At least that’s my philosophy.”
See artwork by Julie Jilek at Art On the Town on August 17 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the College Avenue Parklet Place next to Copper Rock Coffee Co. Find her on Facebook at Julie Jilek Art or on Instagram @juliejilekart.
Intro image by Nathan Klok Photography.