Featured Artist: Julie Noles - From HR to Pet Portrait Artist

featured artist

Hey fellow artists and art patrons!  I want to introduce our featured artist Julie Noles. (Feel free to watch the video or read through these golden nuggets from a Positive Painter and Painter to Watch!)

All the artwork provided in this article is by Artist Julie Noles.  

I've known Julie for many years now, and to watch her just grow. It is not only the growth that she's experienced with her art but also just the attitude that she has that really makes her the feature artist, A Positive Painter. 

Question: Julie, would you like to give a little history about yourself and kind of how you came into becoming an artist?

Julie: I'm Julie Noles. I currently live in Huntsville, Alabama, and in my previous lives, I've been in corporate America. I was in human resources for many, many years, did some consulting after that, and did also some teaching music, and some violin with the symphony school here in Huntsville. 

After I finished with all of my corporate stuff, I kind of did fun stuff. And so then my friend and I started going to some wine and paint nights and we were painting our animals and we just kind of kept going. My friend actually found Stephanie's class and we started going there, and that really is what blossomed this whole obsession that I have now. 

I didn't paint in oils, but I was always frustrated with things with acrylics until I met Stephanie and she said, ‘you know, I'm going to get you to paint in oil’. So I was like, ‘no, you're not.’ No, I'm going to I like my I like matte acrylics. 

And but then, of course, we did.

We went to her class, her studio time, two or three times. And we were ready to try it. And that was kind of it. It [oils] allowed me to get the expression and get what I wanted out of a painting or to put into it and what I wanted the visual representation to be. And, and so that just like there was no turning back at that point, I was just completely submerged in that and just the way that it made me feel, just like I want to do it more. I want to do it all the time. And so that was kind of how it started that that wasn't like my first foray into art as I look back. 

I never would have considered myself an artist. But now I'm starting to look back and its little steps along the way, I was on that track but didn't even know it.

Question: With that past education and those jobs, how do you think that helped you with your career now?

Julie: So it's really interesting as I look at it now because when I was in my office jobs, I never felt like myself. And so it was always kind of like there was something missing or I didn't know what I wanted to do. It just didn't fit. And but I did it. And I could be good at things. Didn't mean that I liked doing those things. 

But then when I look at saying I'm an artist, it was a little bit easier for me to say to people, ‘I'm an artist.’ Not that I'm the best, I guess maybe it just felt like it. Compared with everything else that I did like, this felt more me. And so, in a way it helped me to see what it was kind of burning in my soul to do. Now, if that makes sense.

Question: Are there any other artists that influence your work today?

Julie: Absolutely. Obviously, you're one of them because I have a direct connection to you. I had access to you at the very beginning. And so there's always that - that goes without saying on here. 

But I found Johanne Mangi early on, and she's a wonderful pet portrait artist as well, and also found Jennifer Gennari. And she is quite a prolific animal painter and professional artist. And then there is also Chris Fornataro, who is a paint coach. I found him on YouTube and he answers questions and he does a lot more traditional art, landscapes and things like that. But I really resonated with the way that he taught and broke things down. And he is fun and it's just easy to take in the concepts that he's talking about. And so kind of between the four, that's my sphere of influence.  

As far as non-living there is, Rosa Bonheur. I learned about her in a painting class and have recently read her kind of biography about her. She was an animal artist when there weren't many and they certainly weren't women. So she's a really fun character from the past to read about and to think about how maybe she kind of paved that way a little bit for women in art.

Question:  You have a part-time HR job and then you've also got a recently retired husband that probably wants a little bit of your time. How do you balance all that? 

Julie: Probably not well. 

Some days are better than others. Some days I'm putting my art first and everything else is going to be second. And so I just come up to my studio and try to put all of the other stuff out of my mind. 

There are other times that I think, ‘Oh, I'll just do a little bit of this and a little bit of that’, and then I'll get up to my studio. And I might not make it to the studio. So I don't have it down to a science. I wish that I did because that would feel easier. And, I definitely don't paint as much as I think about painting. I'm always thinking about it. And I don't always get up to my studio as much as is it is on my brain, because then probably no one would see me - my husband would never see me. 

I try not to beat myself up about any of it. Everything will happen as it needs to. And definitely, if there are deadlines and things like that, then for sure I can prioritize that. If there are commissions that I'm working on and have deadlines with, then it's a little bit easier to just focus on that and let everything else kind of fall to the wayside.

Stephanie: I'm sure that made a lot of people feel better too because it's one of those things we always try and want a little bit of a plan. But you know, life happens and you seem to really kind of go with the flow pretty easy with that.

Julie: Yeah, I would love to have a morning ritual and sometimes I have them, sometimes I don't, I just try to go with the flow. I have had the jobs that I've had and the way I grew up was very regimented. And I don't like that. That's not who I naturally am. And so I also have to try to reprogram that also

It's a lot of giving myself grace for things I do at the end of the day, sometimes so guilty that I haven't painted that day or something like that. And it's I just kind of have to pause and give grace to myself that other things are happening. I got other things done and they will be there when I'm ready for it.

Stephanie: I love the word that you had to reprogram because I think that's something that we're all having to do, especially as solo entrepreneurs and artists. We're taught that you have to be at work or be at school from 8 to 5. But when you get into the freeness of being your own boss and as an artist, you get to control those hours, but you also have to deprogram what society has taught us. Just because you're not at work at eight doesn't make you unproductive.

Julie: Definitely, if there's something that I'm really focused on, as I may just be in it for two and a half hours and then that's all I can do on that day. The brainpower that it takes to focus and then that's it. And, but again, that takes the reprogramming of I didn't sit here for 8 hours and do this…but two and a half hours is what was needed. Any more and I would have gotten sloppy, any less then, I'm kind of quitting before I'm ready. 

It's always deprogramming.

Question: What do you do to develop that network of people that understands where you are?

Julie: Not to sound like a shameless plug for The Positive Painters, but being around other people that were doing the exact same thing, we all came together for a common purpose. We were all painting our different things, but at some point, we all had the same struggles, with whatever, whether it was brushwork or color temperature or the background or just whatever. 

I think just being among other people. We just really establish this group together and with the encouragement of each other. And if I'm having some imposter syndrome creep up, then somebody else is there to tell you how great your painting looks! And, you know, they're not just blowing smoke, but it's that they are telling you specific things that they like about it and it looks good. And so it can kind of snaps you back into like, ‘yes, this is where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.’ 

I don't know that I would be this far along if I had not had a group that we kind of talk about it and are just with each other while we paint. I feel like that has probably helped me grow as an artist. I can go off and try to do it by myself. I can go take a workshop or whatever. But I think this created that consistency and consistency with a group. 

Question: Do you have any other communities that help you network and grow your audience for your pet portraits?

Julie: So I am a part of a women's networking group and it's called WIN. So Women Who Influence and Network. And so that has been helpful. I have been in the past associated with other women's groups and networking groups, and I'll go visit some and that helps. 

The biggest thing, though is really the people that I've done portraits for. They're my network and they're the ones that basically get me more commissions. It's usually from them posting about what I've done for them or something that I've painted for them. It just kind of keeps things going.

Question: So how do you go into those networking events and then come out of those events: are you fueled and excited or do you come back out of them with if I'm tired, I'm going to go paint?

Julie: Well, I always just want to paint. I would rather be painting than in groups of people. But so I actually get energized when I talk to people about my art. 

And so not even just the networking events, but I've done Fido Fest at Bridge Street, and I've done the downtown art stroll and there is truly something about people walking by and seeing your work and talking to you about it or, stopping by and talking to you about their pets and they love to talk about it! And I love to hear about it. So that kind of gets me energized. If I were at a networking event like in a room, not so much. But I think it's where I'm out with my art and talking to people about that part, that kind of energizes me.

Question: Do you have any shows coming up?

Julie: I do not. So Fido Fest is usually in April and I will plan to do that again. I love that one. It's fun. I mean, there are tons of dogs there, so I love that. 

It is time for me to start looking for what to do next as far as that goes. And I haven't gotten there yet.

Stephanie: So is that something you think you're going to do is just start doing a lot of shows or dog shows or?

Julie: Yeah, I don't know about a lot of them, but I would at least I don't want to over-commit.

I’ve got to paint. So I'm not a big over-committer of my time. I hope I didn't just find balance.

I'm trying, but I would like to find ways to display that more. I am going to enter a Trekell’s paint pet portrait contest. So that'll be the first contest that I enter just for the fun of it.

Stephanie: So awesome. Congratulations. I mean, that's a big step to go into a competition.

Julie: It kind of is. And I know it's really big. I know it's really big, but, you know, it's it'll be a good step. And so that that might be something that I want to to do more of because it allows you to get ready for like another step up, another step. I just want to kind of keep increasing kind of the level of what I'm doing.

Question: What are your goals for the art career? What do you see yourself like ten, 20 years type thing?

Julie: I don't know that I look that far. My goals are probably weird, but. I always want to enjoy it. I want to be doing what makes me happy. And as long as I'm doing that, then my goals are being met. 

And so but, if you want to talk about more specific sort of goals, obviously, like just to increase my knowledge. That's kind of the cool thing about this is you're always going to be learning, you're never there and somehow I'm okay with that. It just comes as it as I can process it. And then all of a sudden, you're kind of at the next level or you do something out of your comfort zone and you've kind of like bumped up a little bit. 

I would love for my art to be able to look at it and say, ‘Oh, that's actually Julie Noles’, because I can see people's art online and I know if it's Johanne Mangi, I know if it's Jennifer Gennari, you know? And so, yeah, I wouldn't mind being in those ranks as a major artist, you know. 

But I also will be delicate enough with myself not to burn myself out, trying to attain something like that. Burn out  was something that I really dealt with in my past careers. And part of that is because maybe it wasn't the right fit. We burn out because it's either not the right fit or we aren't taking care of ourselves. We don't have boundaries and things like that. And it was probably like all of the above. But so that I'm just always very keen on that to not overextend to the point where I don't enjoy this because I love it right now. And I can't. It would destroy me if I. Didn't want to do it.

Question: Is there anything that you're working on now that's kind of outside of your normal realm of pets and animals?

Julie: Yes. It's interesting because it was not something that I initiated. It was things that people came to me for. 

I had a friend come to me, a realtor friend, and they had sold a house and they wanted a pencil sketch of the house to give to the person as a gift. And oddly, I had just been studying perspective. I don't know why I. I guess I felt like that was what I should be, you know? 

And then I agree to these things and then I'm like, ‘Oh my God, I'm not qualified to do that. What am I thinking? I've never drawn a house.’ And so, but I was, ‘Yeah, I'll take that on. It sounds like a challenge.’ It's great. I did love it. I loved it. I loved it. 

And so I was like, Well, that's really cool. Maybe that's something I'll get into. And then a couple of weeks ago, a neighbor contacted me and she said, and I've painted her dog. And she said, Hey, you know, we have a neighbor that's moving. 

She was like, ‘I was wondering, I know you paint pets, but could you paint a house?’ 

And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, I can do that.’ And she had a good picture and, and she did want me to put two dogs in it to her dog and their dog. And so I threw myself into that one. There was no kind of a timeline that I was dealing with, not so much her, but I was out of my comfort zone. It was something that I had not done. 

I was into it and just really focusing on it. I worked every single day for seven days on this, which helped my attention span, which I sometimes struggle with. But I felt afterward [wonderful] because I tried to use every concept that I had learned. Basically, once you learn the concepts, you can apply them to anything that you're going to paint. 

That was completely out of my comfort zone. But I would totally do it again. Who knows? That might be a new avenue. I may do animals and houses. 

Stephanie: I'm glad you accepted that kind of gift from the universe of trying something new and the universe basically saying, you're ready. You just need to do it.

Question: You've probably painted at least 100 or so pet portraits: do you still get that little bit of anxiety about, are they going to like it?

Julie: Oh, yeah. And I have that with this house. 

I mean, it's like there are some days I would look at it and be like, I love this. And then there were some days I'm like, ‘Oh my God, but what if they don't like it? They don't. They might not like it.’ I do I worry about it. And, you know, because I do want to please them, too, and I want them to love it. And I want them to feel about it. 

Like everything that I paint, I've put all the emotion into it, especially with my pet stuff because I just feel like I try to connect with the animal.

I have another portrait coming up and I don't think I've painted this many dogs in one, but I have a new commission of four that I'm putting into one.

Stephanie: Wow. What size is that one going to be?

Julie: I'm not sure yet, but they kind of threw out the 20 x 30”.

Stephanie: That's a good size.

Julie: Yeah, we'll see. We'll see. But there's like a big dog and three smaller dogs. And so and it's all two dogs are gone already. And then I'm taking all of the separate photos and putting them into one. So there's always that excitement. But then I start working on it and it's like, ‘Oh, is she going to like this? Is this going to turn out?’

So it's always that some days it's like gung ho, and some days it's like. I am supposed to be doing this.

Stephanie: I think that's normal.

Julie: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, and if you don't like the way you're feeling, you know about it this moment, like, wait till the next because it's going to change.

Question: With your experience so far, what do you think the biggest challenge of being an artist is?

Julie: Charging enough. Although the [art pricing] calculator does help.

And some of that is then to just go with your intuition as well. There's a lot of that happens in with what I do with this. 

I guess the only other thing I struggle with is just the technical part, you know, keeping a website, having it halfway up to date or, the emails, Google Analytics and things like that. That's the struggle for me. I can always talk myself down or, you know, hop on my group calls and, you know, get straight again. Okay. Wow.

Question: So what is the biggest mistake you've made within your career to this point? The idea is that maybe you can help a new artist avoid this. 

Julie: Not starting sooner.

Stephanie: Ooh, that one gave me chills.

Julie: I don't believe in mistakes. But that starting sooner. Or thinking that it was even an option. That I didn't follow it sooner. 

I was actually just talking to somebody yesterday. A lady that John and I visited and she's retired. She is starting to paint some of the furniture, but she's wanting to paint some other things, too. I was asking, ‘what do you want to paint?’ 

And she said, ‘Well, I've always done art. I've always painted. But I was told that you can't make a living at it.’  

My sisters were great artists in school. They took art in school. I didn't take art in school. I don't know why, but I always felt like they were the artists. They were good at it. And while I dabbled, I didn't fully embrace it, I think, just because I felt like I had to pick a career. Go for one of the acceptable degrees and things like that.

Question: What is one piece of advice that you would give to artists that are considering making a living as an artist?

Julie: You know, other than just embracing that. And I mean, again, looking at the mindset of: maybe you have to work another job a little bit while you pass-through thing, until you get to a certain spot. 

We have to be smart about it. So even when I quit HR, I'm not going to be at the level in art as I was when I quit h.r. Like, I've had 25 years, and so there can be some overlap where you do work some while you are going that other path. And, that was one of the things I think that I was always hung up with about trying and doing something different is that I just had to stop one and start another. And you don't have to do that. You know, there are 100 ways to do something. 

But I think definitely find the people that encourage you and block the people that don't. And don't share your dream with anyone that is not 100% supportive. That is probably across all genres and it's very hard: sometimes the harsher people are families because they would not take that risk for themselves. So they're scared for you to take the risk. And but it can really dampen, it can really suffocate your dream. And so just be careful with the dream. Be careful and protect it. And, you don't have to reveal it even to your family.

That's my biggest one: not necessarily about art, but, being careful who you share your dream with. 



Thank you for reading and watching The Positive Painters Featured Artist Julie Noles.

Julie Noles Bio

My whole life I have loved (and I mean LOVED) animals of all kinds. When I worked in the corporate world all I wanted was to be at home with my dogs.

Well, about half a century later I have figured out how to do that.

While I have been painting for a while now, once I was introduced to oil paints my trajectory changed. They allowed me to capture these animals like I wanted to and now I can't stop.

My late aunt Pat and both of my sisters are gifted artists. I never considered myself one though until now. Something has awakened inside and I'm loving it!

Right now, I'm living my best life. Painting with my dogs by my side and helping others capture their pets as a forever keepsake.

 You can find more about Julie and view her artist profile at:


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