Studio Visits: Julian Pace
Studio Visits: Julian Pace
Studio Visits: Julian Pace
For Pace, life begins and ends in his Moleskine.

For Julian Pace, life begins and ends in his Moleskine. Snapshots of the world, not necessarily as it is, but how he sees it. A quasi-historical documentation of pop-culture that seeks to present both the beauty and ridiculousness of daily life.

I visited Pace on a sunny January day in Downtown Los Angeles, while half of the United States was covered in snow. Being from Seattle and having spent the past four years in New York City, the artist was quick to note the pros of LA — not just in terms of the weather, but the space in which he can now work in. It’s easy to see that just by looking at the massive portraits of Dennis Rodman and the OG Ronaldo showcased as deified figures on his walls.

“If art speaks of the times, then observing Pace’ work reminds you that times have changed.”

If art speaks of the times, then observing Pace’ work reminds you that times have changed. Where deities and religious figures were once (nearly exclusively) the subjects of art, people will look back on our present age and note that the entertainers, the athletes, the corporate symbolism and the confluence of data will have best defined the age in which we lived in.

Completely self-taught, Pace knew he wanted to be an artist, he just didn’t know how he’d do it. As his parents split when he was young, he and his brothers went back and forth from Seattle to Florence during the summers. Despite not being heavily into sports himself, he found more inspiration in the fervor found in professional clubs and local games, rather than the Renaissance art widespread in the Tuscan capital.

When he moved to NYC in his 20s, he didn’t necessarily have a path but would occasionally continue his interest in sketching after a long night bartending. As the pandemic hit, he knew he wasn’t going to waste any more time. So he would just paint, all day and all night, to the point where he was invited to his first residency by Danny First out in California. His characters feel familiar but are exaggerated in a way that allows these seemingly cherished idols and mundane objects to be seen with new eyes.

HYPEBEAST visited Pace to learn about the development of his style, the merits of showing your work and what happened on September 16, 2018.

“If you don’t share it, what’s the point of even making it?”

Did you know early on that you wanted to make art?

When I was little, I always had a sketchbook with me, but I was not thinking about it in this capacity. Like I stopped forever. In high school, I was actually voted most artistic, but after high school, I stopped doing anything.

I think I started again in like 2015-ish. I just started drawing these [notebooks]. These are really the heart and soul of everything. So I just carry these around with me everywhere and made myself draw every single day. Then I started to make myself post it on Instagram. At first, I’m like, ‘what do people care, dude.’ You feel kind of weird about it, because people are gonna’ think, ‘who does this guy think he is? His drawings are crap.’ Whatever.

But then I said, fuck it, you just got to put it out into the world. And eventually, that led to this.

At the end of the day, you kind of realize, you can be doing the coolest work for you and even for other people, but there will always be haters.

Absolutely. And the more exposure you get, the more haters there’s gonna’ be. I tell people all the time, you just have to put it out. If you don’t share it, what’s the point of even making it? Some people might love it, some people might hate it, some people might not have a reaction at all. It doesn’t matter, you just put it out there into the world.

Before COVID, I was bartending and working a second job. I was busting my ass trying to paint on the side. Once I got laid off from both of these jobs, it was just paint everyday pretty much.

Was this still in New York?

Yeah, I would just wake up, smoke a spliff and paint.

What about Italy?

I went from Seattle to Italy. When I first went to Italy I was 18 and was working as a tour guide. After I did that for five, six years, I was just done with it and wanted to do something else. I never had real plans in my life. I knew I wanted to be back in the US, but I didn’t want to be in Seattle, where I grew up mostly. I had a bunch of friends in New York, so I went there. I had this dream, it wasn’t the reason, but I was like, I’d love to work with Tom Sachs.

So I moved there when I was 26 and it was great, but I was just bartending. I started drawing again when I was in New York, then started painting a couple of years later just because I needed to do more. I was getting too confined in this and needed to get out. I forget who, but someone said that painting is just drawing with more materials.

“All I packed was my skateboard and sketchbook.”

The OG Ronaldo. The kids will never know haha, that’s when he was at Inter just shredding people.

See that’s when I was really about it. Soccer has always been my sport. And those kits are just fire. The ‘90s Umbro.

The Brazil team doesn’t feel the same like it was when we were kids.

Nothing does. It’s weird because maybe you grow up and get older. I see some of these things [kits] and everything becomes so vanilla. Sometimes you see shit, like designers like Virgil Abloh who do different jersey designs and you’re like, ‘oh that’s cool.’ But I don’t know, it just feels like there’s some soul lost in the world.

How was it like growing up in Florence?

I don’t know. When I was there, I get bored of all the Renaissance art. It’s just supersaturated. Obviously, the whole city…and country, is like a museum. I think I had more artistic influence from my aunt from my mom’s side who always encouraged me.

I was in Italy, as my mom tells me this story, and all I packed was my skateboard and sketchbook. That was what I packed for my two-month trip to Italy. I would go and sit and draw the churches and things like that. I don’t know if it’s had an effect, but maybe it does, because I like to explore art historical themes.

And this over here is an early example of perspective. It’s in this church in Florence, so I’m starting to explore those themes a little more to try and touch on my roots I guess. But I kind of do that a lot in my work in general — taking and stealing and making my own remixes.

Art, especially contemporary art, is just a remix of things. Just a sampling.

Everyone has influences. Some are more apparent than others. I oftentimes like to highlight them, rather than hide them. Like this one over here — that’s a very, very famous painting — and I’m just gonna’ take it because I like it. I want to take it and explore it a little bit. It’s my way of studying the painting. [Talking about the Washington painting]

I look at art as a way of observation. I think it’s one of the best ways to observe things because it forces you to focus. I’m painting that La Croix can and it’s like whatever, it’s a fuckin’ La Croix can, but there’s something beautiful about this.

I also got really into drawing sneakers for a long time. I would look at those Balenciaga Triple S’ and I’m like, ‘damn, those things are booty.’ But when you really look at them, these things are cool as fuck. I wouldn’t buy myself a pair…but if someone gave me a pair, I’d wear them. They’re fuckin’ sick just as a sculpture.

“Everything for me comes from drawing.”

Can you talk about the anatomy in your work?

Figures, like this. It was really their shoulders. My friend John was actually the sole purpose of that. He’s a jock-type dude and so I did a drawing with big blown up shoulders — that Shawn Kemp one over there — then I did a Patrick Ewing one for him with big ‘ol shoulders and it made sense and clicked.

From there I just kept doing it.

I started playing with proportions too like hands and just kept pushing it. When I got to LA, I did a residency with Danny First. It was the first time I had ever done anything ‘art-worldy.’ I had this space that was a big garage with a big living space attached to it. So I had a place to stay and create all these big ass paintings that I’ve never pursued before. It was a huge breakthrough to go big, because before in New York, I was in my bedroom.

What materials do you use?

Some of them are from things I’ve been working on for a long time, but everything for me comes from drawing. Ideas really come out spontaneously in the sketchbooks. It could be a totally random thing that sparks my interest; could be from a book that I’m reading or a movie or documentary that really invested me. And I’ll take something from there and just make everyday drawings of life.

It’s interesting, even though sports is not a huge interest, it constantly reappears in your art.

I just think its interesting how massive it and will always be culturally relevant. I played sports growing up, but I never really care that much. But I always liked the uniforms haha. Like look at this horse race — the colors are crazy and the history.

Like Calcio Storico in Florence…

…dude, Calcio Storico is fuckin’ wild man. But this [Palio di Siena] is wilder honestly, because oftentimes after the race, all the neighborhoods will get into fights and the cops will slowly come in. My dad grew up in like this center of Florence. So he would be from the red team, but he doesn’t play that shit at all. He didn’t let us go as kids. He wouldn’t even let us go to Fiorentina games as kids too, because it was too dangerous. And he’s not a sportsperson. When my dad moved back to Italy, my mom got us into sports intentionally. So we can have sports in our lives as three boys.

“It’s all just a reflection of how I see the world.”

When you reflect on your own work, is there a through line or message?

Sometimes, I don’t think for everything. I like a bit of randomness. Sometimes it could be about the ridiculousness of life, but other times it could be the beauty. It’s all just a reflection of how I see the world.

Do you have any upcoming shows?

I have a couple coming up, but I’m never just working for a show. I pressure myself enough as it is. But I do have one coming up in Italy and Mexico, depending on COVID.

Having fully taken advantage of the time given to you during the pandemic to hone in on your craft, what changed for you to fully pursue art?

I didn’t realize anything really, in that time, other than all that I had was time and I wasn’t gonna waste it. I already knew what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how to do it. I have this tattoo with the date, September 16, 2018.

I did these pop-up markets in New York and at the time I wasn’t painting like I am now — I was more so painting on jackets and shirts. During that market event, I sold some things and realized, ‘oh shit, people are into this.’ Seeing likes on Instagram is one thing, but when you see someone’s eyes light up and they pay you for something that you made, I think that’s what really kind of made me realize that I could do something creative, do something I love and make a living off of it.

During the pandemic, I was just paint, paint, paint, paint and the right person saw it. So I got lucky in that way.

There can be such a discouraging learning curve to art…and an expensive one. As someone who once struggled and found your voice, what is your advice for someone coming up?

Everyone has a different experience and mindset, but my only advice is just do it. Not like quite your job and just make art, be realistic. If there’s something you love to do, then do it all the time.

I’m very aware that I got lucky as fuck. But you can’t dwell on shit, if you see an opportunity, take it. For me, it was just that — doing things that I love to do. I was bartending till five in the morning then paint for a couple hours, then sleep. It was crazy.

Things have progressed exponentially in this year-and-a-half, but it all started with my drawings in the Moleskine.

Studio Visits: Julian Pace

Julian Pace is loving life in LA. Barring any major developments with COVID, he has several promising international shows in the new year. In the meantime, stay up to date on all his Moleskine sketches via Instagram.

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