You have seen the billboards, the adverts on the bus stops or maybe some weird drawings online! Now meet the artist behind them.

Julinu (a.k.a. Julian Mallia) is a bipedal mammal that derives great pleasure from translating thoughts into imagery. He works as a graphic designer and illustrator and is passionate about fine art as well as music, drumming and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

We caught up with Julian for a quick interview about his work, process and to get a little insight into how his colourful brain works 🙂

How would you describe your style?

As a processed by-product of my thoughts and lifestyle. The works I prefer tend to feature surreal (sometimes disquieting, sometimes playful) imagery executed meticulously. Most works start from a thought, an event or a dream that triggers some sort of reaction on my part. I tend to jot down / sketch such thoughts and refer to them at a later stage. I then explore these ideas visually by sketching, taking photos, looking up images and trying out various composition alternatives. If I find that the idea works visually I proceed to the execution phase. If I can’t see it work, I discard it. I find that if I don’t get attached to the initial ideas and explore/ dig deeper I come up with more gratifying/ original results. And that makes the work genuinely mine.

When and how did you realise you wanted to do this as a job?

mkmkI actually don’t work as a fine artist. I’m a full-time graphic designer / illustrator with an advertising agency. Though there are some overlaps between commercial art and fine art (e.g. in the idea generation process) the main difference is the client. In my full-time job the priority is the client’s need to communicate a particular message so the output serves a specific function. In that case I have to strike some sort of compromise between what I believe can work and what what the client wants.

In my personal side-projects the clients are either myself or people on a similar wavelength who I accept to work with e.g. musicians or photographers. I consider my fine art projects as a means to remain true to myself and explore and develop expressive outlets that are usually not possible in a commercial context. So my main priority in these projects is to create genuine visual output that first and foremost satisfies my tastes and needs.

I’ve seen Julian use a lot of different mediums to create his work and was curious what was his favourite and why.

I find that every medium has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the context. Any artwork usually starts with a pencil and paper and then I shift to the medium that makes most sense. For commercial illustrations I tend to use a graphics tablet since it’s faster (you don’t need to wait for the paint to dry and mixing pigments is less of a hassle) and the medium allows for drastic changes without having to start from the beginning. When I have more time I tend to go for oil paint since this takes time to dry and I find it to be really effective for more expressionistic/spontaneous brush strokes. However lately I have gone back to my first love – graphite pencils. It’s probably because I’m more used to using them but I also find the laborious addition of detail to be particularly appealing. In fact right now I’m working on a series of highly detailed drawings depicting surreal themes and ideas I have accumulated over the past few years. It’s quite time consuming but the results are far more rewarding – at least to me.

Many of you might have seen the bus bosses card game but probably few know that Julinu is one of the artists behind all the artwork. How did that come about?

That was a really enjoyable collaborative project between Mark Scicluna, Glenn Grech, Chiara Bonello fffand myself that started off as a student project. We were in our final year of our Graphic Design Bachelors Degree and we had to come up with some sort of interactive project. After a lengthy brainstorming session we came up with the idea to create a game based on our eventful experiences on board the old yellow buses. First we created a pilot project that was very well received and then a year later after we had graduated we decided to take it further and generate a 32-card pack ready to be sold as a tribute to the unforgettable public-transport culture.

It was a really enjoyable project and I think this could be seen in the final output as well as in the audience’s positive reaction.

As if painting/drawing/graphic design are not enough, Julinu is also a musician. A drummer to be specific, with the band ‘Different Strings’, who recently won the Hard Rock Rising – Battle of the Bands. If you’re wondering how the hell he finds time to do all of this stuff besides being able to stop time, you’re not alone.

Actually it’s a struggle to do both and I feel I don’t spend enough time doing either. However both disciplines complement each other and help me make the most out of my free time. If after work I’m too tired to go practice on my drum kit I can spend some quality time drawing and if I need a more immediate creative outlet I prefer practicing or rehearsing with the bands rather than drawing minute details. Sometimes I come up with visual ideas while I’m playing and vice-versa. I guess sometimes it’s good to temporarily detach oneself from an activity to pursue another.

As we all know, the conservative mentality this country is plagued with, coupled with our size, don’t really offer that many opportunities for artists, or to play it safe, not enough to make a living of. Any tips for aspiring artists in Malta?

fffwActually I need some tips myself!

Locally, I don’t think it’s feasible to make a living out of fine-art unless you’re ready to reach a compromise that satisfies the local demand. And given the fact that I am sceptical about the local tastes in art (I won’t rant about this because I feel like being a nice guy today) the local demand isn’t something I’d be really excited to aim for.

I think this is one of the main reasons that led me to do my own stuff. I’m doing my best to create the kind of imagery I want to see – that excites me. Images that I want to vomit out of my system, for myself. Others can join in liking it. You can call it art if you like. It doesn’t matter. Personally I’d rather do my own art for my own personal satisfaction. Having someone purchase it would be a welcome side-effect 🙂

There it is guys and gals. As you have witnessed from the above, this guy’s creativity knows no limits and I for one, am always eager to see what he’s gonna post next. Not only in terms of art but even the occasional facebook post. His fluency in sarcasm really shines through.

If you want to keep up to date with what this bundle of creativity is up to, make sure you like his facebook page:

Author: Janica Spiteri

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