Hullo, my name is Julie Benbassat and I’m an illustrator recently graduated and living in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Kunming, China then adopted by an elderly Jewish couple who brought me up in Cherry Hill, NJ. My childhood consisted mostly of reading fantasy novels, flipping through National Geographic Zoobooks, watching (a little bit too much) TV and taking small walks with my dad. My work tends to reflect my continuing love of the natural world, an obsession with strange fantasy creatures and an appreciation for vintage naturalist illustrations. I work with a variety of mediums including graphite, ink, gouache, acrylic, and Photoshop.
Oh and I love watching bad movies, chugging soup, and hiking (while playing Pokemon Go).
My hometown of Cherry Hill is famous for two things: the Cherry Hill Mall and for the Rabbi who hired someone to kill his wife. Despite the murder part, it’s a nice, sizable town and my parents purposely chose the location based on the size of the Chinese American and Jewish populations (plus the good schools). It’s also in the part of New Jersey closer to Philadelphia so I had to learn a lot more about living in New York than a lot of my North Jersey friends.
In terms of New York, I didn’t move until September 2019 so I only have a 5-month perceptive. Overall New York is filled with amazing possibilities for finding new connections, food favorites and places to explore.
The best thing is how close friends and family are to me, whether they’re in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly or Jersey.
The downside is the cost of living indefinitely. I shake in fear of my taxes this year haha.
My work tends to reflect my continuing love of the natural world, an obsession with strange fantasy creatures and an appreciation for vintage naturalist illustrations.
Overwhelming, Changing, and Shuffling
I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was a little potato of a child but I only seriously started considering an art career when teachers and family friends started mentioning “illustration” as a career where you could draw AND make money. I was so taken by this career path that I applied to the Rhode Island School of Design to pursue an illustration BFA.
While in school I did some freelance work here and there but I think my career really started taking off when I took Chris Buzelli’s Editorial class where he introduced me to his wife, PLANSPOSNOR art director SooJin Buzelli. A big bulk of my best editorial work has come from SooJin so I truly have to thank her and Chris for jumpstarting my career before I even graduated.
Luckily yes. My parents were always supportive of my career choice from taking me to art museums as a kid to framing my really bad anime art in the living room. Low key though, I think my dad also supported my art decision because my other options of history teacher, environmental scientist, and chef, were ironically less financially viable than illustrator.
It’s funny because I think about this question often and my answer keeps changing as each year goes by. As of now, I want to make more personal work in the coming years that focus more on my experiences growing up with older parents and the dissonance of loss and age.
As of now, I want to make more personal work in the coming years that focus more on my experiences growing up with older parents and the dissonance of loss and age.
Ok. So this is a little weird but I love the movie Tusk (2014) which is part of the director’s True North Trilogy. If director Kevin Smith ever wanted to collaborate with someone to promote the trilogy I would do it in a heartbeat.
Resilient. My mom has always been a key inspiration for me. She was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease when she was 30 years old with 5% survival rate. She came out of that diagnosis with a will to live. I truly cannot comprehend how strong she is to live with that disease till this day.
We had a family friend who also adopted a little girl from China who worked in conserving old Master’s work on paper. Although she wasn’t an illustrator I always admired how she talked about her job and how open the art world was.
I haven’t encountered any as of yet. In fact, I’m actually very grateful that there are a bunch of talented female illustrators I can look up to.
Making work is important but sorting out personal stuff is way more crucial in the long run and can lead to new perspectives and insight that your previous work lacked.
This might be a little specific and not applicable to everyone but I hope it can reach the people that need to hear it. If you’re going through something with your personal life that interferes with your art ambition, then it’s ok to take time off. Making work is important but sorting out personal stuff is way more crucial in the long run and can lead to new perspectives and insight that your previous work lacked.
Photos courtesy of Julie Benbassat.
January 17, 2020