Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Julie Winegard. I am an associate art director at Columbia University where I am also finishing up my master’s degree in Strategic Communication. I have a special interest in illustration and GIF creation and started a freelance business making them. I grew up in West Virginia and now live in New York City.
Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
When I was little, I would get so excited about seeing dogs that my whole body would tremble. I still smile at every dog I pass on the street to this day. Because of my love for animals, I wanted to be a veterinarian and studied the sciences my first year of college. I quickly realized that I wasn’t cut out for it. I didn’t think I could handle seeing sick animals. I switched into landscape architecture because it was a mix of science and art—I didn’t want to fully give into the arts because I was always told it wasn’t practical. One of the first classes I had to take for my new landscape architecture major was drawing. I fell in love with it and fully switched to art by the next semester. I chose to focus on graphic design and I’m glad I did! Now that I have studied strategic communication, what I want for my career is evolving and I have bigger goals than ever before. The most important thing I have learned is that there’s no reason why I can’t be in the C-suite running things one day. You never know where your career might lead you, so I try to stay open to all kinds of possibilities.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m reading Jennifer Romolini’s book “Weird in a World That’s Not” which talks about figuring out what you want to do for a career (a long long process that maybe never ends?!). A big thing that stuck out to me is transforming what might be, at the time, a negative experience into a positive one. Like when you see your peers achieving and working on projects you envy and it makes you feel a little bad about yourself, it’s actually a great thing! Because that is how you know what you want to do—you want to do what they are doing. Then you can figure out the steps to take to get there and go after it.
What motivates you most?
I want to make the world a more beautiful place through visual communication. When my work resonates, makes the viewer think deeper about a certain issue or topic, or just makes them happy, it motivates me to keep creating.
Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I keep up with the news and current events, and when there is a really special moment, I like to record it by making it into an illustration. It’s almost like a diary for me. I always remember what I was doing, where I was, how I was feeling, and what my life was like at the time. Some days I feel an intense need to create something although there’s nothing on my mind to illustrate. I keep a long list in my notes of interests, cool objects, and people I like for times like that.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Make art for yourself, not anyone else! Your work will be better off for it. Even if others don’t like what you’ve created, it doesn’t matter because you do! And that’s what is most important. Social media metrics can really get you down, but being proud of the art you made will help you care a lot less about how many “likes” it gets.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I always create personal work. I want illustration and animation to be fun still! I never want to make it feel like work, so when I have free time, I make art for me about the things I like.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
You don’t owe anyone anything and ask for what you want! The first part is about not giving anyone your time and energy that you don’t want to. It’s ok to say no to things and you don’t need an elaborate explanation. The second part is about not being afraid to voice your wants and needs. If you don’t ask, you will have no shot at getting what you want. The worst thing that can happen is they say no!
Have you always had confidence in yourself?
No! And I still don’t always! Confidence is fleeting and it doesn’t come without hard work. If I want to be more confident about the art I create, I spend more time working on it. If I want to be more confident about delivering a speech, I practice it over and over. If I want to be more self- confident, I go to the gym more regularly. It also might not be a bad thing to not be confident all the time. It helps keep you humble and down to earth.
What do you love most about yourself?
I love how foolishly fearless I can be! I shoot my shot for opportunities or try to create them on my own. When I know what I want, I go after it and take no prisoners!!!
What is something on your bucket list?
I recently realized that I have never visited many of West Virginia’s coolest places—the small towns, unique sites, and outdoors I never took advantage of while I lived there. My best friend and I are now planning a week-long road trip this fall to experience all the places we missed out on!
Julie Winegard is a designer and art director raised in West Virginia and now living in NYC. She creates illustrations and GIFs about pop culture and current events.