Jules Muck has become a fixture on the local arts scene but her presence on the Westside has as much to do with gas prices as it does the value of art.
An East Coast native, she was traveling cross country when she ran out of gas on Electric Avenue. She adapted to the situation, living in her car as part of a homeless community and painting on sidewalks. She said the exposure served as her first form of marketing and the connections she made formed the foundation of her life here.
“I started painting on the street,” she said. “Thank God I didn’t have a space because I would have never met anybody.”
She said her first true studio space evolved out of a garage space after an early client asked her to paint his motorcycle. The space became a worksite for several artists as Muck said she does some of her best work surrounded by the creative energy and creativity of communal work. However, the process creates a fair amount of noise and she said she eventually had to leave the space.
“I always think I’m being quiet but I’m not,” she said.
Before leaving the first space, she produced 150 paintings in three months and she leveraged that work into a show that brought in enough for her to rent an apartment and begin to live in residence in the area. She said her studio space has moved with the tides of development.
“I’ve just ridden the wave of gentrification,” she said.
Her current space in Venice is a temporary location provided by the Venice Symphony Orchestra and she said she considers participation and partnership with other local arts groups as essential to her work. Muck has said she considers the local community a family and she takes pride in participating in the local arts community. On Thursday, June 19 she will be one of the artists participant in the Venice Art Crawl. Her 202 Horizon Ave. studio will host live body painting as a fundraiser to support the Venice Symphony Orchestra Music Education Programs.
“I think people at the art crawl are trying to have a good time,” she said. “I like to do fun stuff, do something live and be more interactive … This place has taken care of me, there wasn’t a solid place I could call home until I got here.”
Muck honed her craft in New York but held a variety of jobs prior to landing by the beach. She delivered blood, was a phone psychic, sold coats, worked in a bar and did whatever job she had to, but the art was always the goal. “I would be depressed if I didn’t paint,” she said.
Muck is committed to art as her life but she’s also a savvy businesswoman who has chosen to install value in her work. She said artists have to pay rent, need health care and food the same as everyone else, but with a profession that is fundamentally less stable. She has built that value through constant work, both for personal and professional gain.
“I’m always painting, every day,” she said. “No-one would pay me to paint if I wasn’t already painting. To me it’s a freaking miracle that people are paying me a good wage to paint, but I’m going to paint if they arrest me or pay me, whatever.”
She has never regretted becoming a professional artists, but she said the lifestyle has been an sometimes hard road that has required sacrifices to make life work. She said it’s only recently that her work has come into fashion, enabling her to make a living doing what she truly loves. She recently completed a project for a corporate client and while past jobs required her to paint what the client asked, she said she is now being commissioned to paint what she wants and loves.
“There are definitely financial strains of being an artist,” she said. “As a professional graffiti artists, I went and did exactly what I’ve been arrested for. I’ve been doing it for 20 years and it’s definitely flipped. Now I’m offered more money than anything I’ve done before.
While the work has become profitable, she said the money is only valuable as a means of supporting the creation of art, not as an end in itself. She said the artistic process is stronger when artists are given freedom to pursue their muse. In her case, she considers her art as conversation that reflects her environment.
“I feel like it’s a running social commentary on life,” she said. “I spend a lot of time out and about, sitting with people and really gathering the information that I use later.”
Her murals reflect concerns local and national. While one piece comments on drug culture with a collation of famous individuals who have died from drugs, another is a collage of local people that have impact the community at large or her in specific.
“That wall is always ongoing,” she said of the local mural. “So many people are so happy when they see it. It’s nice to put someone on the wall who has affected me.”
Her signature pieces are green faces, painted in an almost radioactive hue. Her signature color evolved out of her time painting street art in New York. She initially worked with a variety of colors but found the green popped from almost any surface or background. She stuck with the color as she developed a style she describes as “monochromatic, photorealism with spray paint” and the results are instantly recognizable.
She is happy and grateful to have steady income but she said the money made from corporate jobs or the sale of her work is just a means to continue funding her own evolution as an artists. She said her work didn’t sell well for a while and she’s found consumers generally latch on to her work on about a 5-10 year delay.
She operates with confidence that the market will catch up to her current style and said her process requires her to move through different periods, even when it means producing work that she knows won’t sell well right away. “I know what I’m doing is what I need to do.”