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Meet Julie Wildman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Wildman.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Every since I was five years old and my kindergarten teacher hung my painting of a rabbit up in the school hall, I have wanted to be an artist. In addition to classes at school, I took private art lessons throughout elementary and high school. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I decided to study graphic design so I could get a job doing something creative. I graduated from Columbia College in Chicago with a B.A. in graphic design.

After working for a few design firms in Chicago, I went on my own as a freelance designer. In 1998, I stumbled across an opportunity to take a year-long calligraphy course which focused on all sorts of different hands, learning different tools, grinding our own pigments, using real gold leaf, writing on vellum and parchment, and creating two- and three-dimensional pieces. The first time I wrote the letter ‘I’ with a nib and it looked like it was supposed to, I put my head down on my desk and cried. I was, from that point on, a raving lettering enthusiast.

I joined the Chicago Calligraphy Collective soon after, and through the Collective, have had the amazing opportunity to study with highly-regarded lettering artists from all over the world.

My business now consists of graphic design, commercial lettering, and teaching classes in lettering throughout the U.S. and Canada. I can’t believe I get to make a living playing with ink, paint, paper, and all sorts of crazy tools AND teaching others to do the same. Life is good.

Please tell us about your art.
I love beauty. I love words. I love abstract marks. I love making beautiful things with both. Making gestural, abstract marks expresses what I feel inside. Sometimes the marks are exuberant and colorful. Other times, they are quiet and monochromatic. Sometimes I add words that are legible to my pieces, and sometimes I don’t.

I look at letters as not just the things we use to communicate to others, but as marks and shapes. Shapes that can be manipulated or distorted. Shapes that create interesting negative space and become a part of a design.

Negative space fascinates me. I find that the space in between is much more interesting than the expected space. In our environment, I frequently look at the space in between things like tree branches, openings in rocks or between buildings, or the view through a knot hole or a broken seashell.

I then take the same approach in my lettering pieces, using words or abstract marks as simply part of an overall design or texture, allowing the negative space to become a focal point by either coloring it in or enhancing it with shadow or light.

In whatever I do, my hope is that the viewer would come away feeling joy–which is something deeper than happiness. Joy can be present even when one’s circumstances aren’t happy. I also want people to feel hope and to see beauty.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
I do think with the advance of social media, artists are getting more recognition. However, I would still like to see artists get paid what they’re worth when it comes to community projects. My community, for example, continues to ask artists to submit proposals for public art, yet only wants to pay what comes out to less than minimum wage for the time it takes to do the work.

I definitely think cities should seek to make room for more two- and three-dimensional art throughout its public spaces. And to set aside money that adequately compensates the artist for not only his/her time and materials, but for his/her experience.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My website shows a lot of my work. I do exhibit from time to time and will put up those dates on my FB and Instagram pages. I also have two pieces that are in the permanent collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago. They are titled ‘Psalm 117’ and ‘An Alphabet Book.’

The ‘Alphabet Book’ will be on display at the Newberry’s new exhibit hall starting sometime in September. Dates will be posted on my social media pages as well as my website.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Northwest Indiana / Chicago area
  • Website:
  • Phone: 219.616.0135
  • Email:
  • Instagram: juliewildmandesigns
  • Facebook: wildmandesigns

Image Credit:
© All art and images by Julie Wildman |

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Kathy McCreedy

    July 4, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    In addition to being incredibly talented and hardworking, Julie is one of the kindest, warmest people I have the privilege of knowing!!!

  2. Meg Kennedy

    July 7, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    I enjoyed a wonderful workshop with Julie when she came to teach for the Philadelphia Calligraphers’ Society a few years and was fortunate enough to acquire a couple of her pieces that adorn my studio and inspire me daily. Her kindness, open-mindedness, and delight in lettering arts makes her one of the most remarkable teachers I’ve studied with.

  3. Bernie Ryan

    September 8, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I completely agree with Kathy and Meg’s comments. Julie is beyond wonderful — as a person and artist. She has that exquisite quality that all great instructors share: the ability to draw out the best in each student, challenging each one to go beyond their comfort zone. Her lively, dramatic, heartfelt artwork speaks for itself.

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