When invited to create an illustration for a 2011 New Year’s card sent out by RISD’s President John Maeda,Julia Rothman 02 IL didn’t hesitate, despite having to juggle a steady spate of freelance commissions and ongoing work through her design firm. She immediately embraced the idea of creating a card that celebrates the Chinese Year of the Rabbit and the characteristics of the rabbit that are particularly apropos for RISD – artistic, creative, intuitive, compassionate.
The prolific illustrator creates whimsical, highly detailed drawings that highlight her delight in everyday objects. Focusing on “ordinary items” appeals to her, she says, because they’re the “things people forget about.” In her hands, shoes, chandeliers, clocks, phones and forks become delightful designs for wallpaper, stationery, toys, linens and tableware. Her illustrations for books, magazines and websites also often focus on everyday objects.
Illustration “was never the thing I was going to do with my life,” Rothman says, but “I always liked to draw since I as far back as I can remember.” It wasn’t until she finally took an art class as a high school senior, and took a friend’s suggestion to apply to RISD, that she began to consider art as a viable option for her future. “I always look back at those [RISD] years as some of the best I’ve ever had,” she says. “Everyone was so talented, and just being among all the creative minds was so inspiring.”
In fact, Rothman found so much inspiration among her peers at RISD that she continues to work withMatt Lamothe 02 FAV andJenny Volvovski 02 GD as partners in the design studioAlso. She lives in Brooklyn and they’re based in Chicago, yet the studio is thriving and the three are practiced at working together via video link. They also recently worked collaborated onThe Exquisite Book, a fun and visually dynamic project featuring the work of 100 artists – including many from RISD.
Rothman’s delight in her subjects is obvious and infectious – it’s what makes her patterns so appealing to publishers, toy manufacturers and editors at newspapers and magazines. Her slightly naughty yet tastefulDirty Toile pattern now adorns a line of beauty products sold by Victoria’s Secret, a playful All Sports design makes for perfect boys’ sheets from Land of Nod, and a variety of her abstract and nature-inspired designs have been used by Hygge& West to make gorgeous wallpapers. Rothman has also created countless illustrations forThe Washington Post, The New York Times, City magazine, Design*Sponge and numerous book covers.
Beyond her prolific output as an illustrator and member of a busy design team, Rothman also writes a popular blog about her favorite books. Book by its Cover features beautiful photographs and descriptions of the publications that interest her most, and gives a strong sense of the reciprocity of inspiration among artists.
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