Meet Julie Houts, Instagram’s Most Creative (And Clever) Illustrator

Now and then, in our ever-present quest to find the right art and people to inspire us, we come across a visionary who just gets it. Every statement or piece that they put out provokes identifiable feelings and exclamations reminiscent of “I was JUST thinking that,” or “Whew, I’m glad it isn’t just me,”. They create a bond with their fans and followers by being raw and real in a way that makes us want to skip out on real-life for a day and sip whiskey neats with them on a rooftop bar somewhere.

Lately, this figure has come to us in the form of Julie Houts, or rather, @jooleeloren, as her 157k Instagram followers best know her. By day she is a designer for J.Crew but in her free time, she is gracing our timelines with sharp-witted and hilarious sketches about everything from fashion, the raw realities of life as a woman, and current events. Houts, who attended both The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Parsons School of Design, is a remarkable talent rolled into a bit of comic relief, style, and delectable sarcasm. The buzz over these brilliant sketches grew to be so big, in fact, that this past fall she was able to launch her own site making her prints available for her fans to purchase. This week I was fortunate enough to grab some of Houts’ time and get her two cents on art school, the value of experience, and not feeling like a New Yorker.

Name: Julie Houts

School: I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for two years before transferring to Parsons.

Three things a woman in her 20s should always have in her bag?

A good book, a good tube of lipstick, a flask.

Designer you’re lusting after this spring?

Too many!  I just bought some Lemaire and some Sophie D’Hoor things that are proving to be very useful.  Anytime I go into a Celine store, I’m convinced I want an all-Celine wardrobe.  But then I remember I don’t make millions of dollars, and I leave the store.

A lot of our Lala contributors and readers are artists and/or in art school and are gearing up to graduate in the near future. When you were an art student what resources do you feel like personally helped you to feel better equipped for being a “grown up” and starting your career?

I interned all throughout my time at Parsons.  I always had one or two internships during the school year and had a full-time internship in the summer.  I think that was just as valuable if not more valuable than my time actually in the classroom/studio.  It’s easy to be in a little bubble of creativity in school, but it has nothing to do with the reality of having a job, which is often very administrative and as much about sending emails and writing POs than it is about sketching, draping, etc.  In my experience, nothing can really prepare you for your first job apart from just doing the job.

You have Midwestern roots from your life before you moved out to New York City. At what point did you feel as though you had officially become a “New Yorker”?

…I’ve been here ten years and don’t really feel like a New Yorker.  I feel the most like a New Yorker when I go back to the Midwest, actually. It makes me aware of the things in my personality that are counter to the typical Midwestern sensibility.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up around 7 or 8. If I’m really ‘Going For It’ I’ll sometimes take a morning Pilates class.  I make a pot of coffee, I put on WQXR, get ready.  I take a car to work most days because I’m a ridiculous, obnoxious person, but also because it gives me time to read or catch up on emails or call my family or pay bills.  At work there are emails, meetings, fittings, sketching, occasionally shopping… no day is exactly the same.  After work it depends. Some days I’ll have dinner / drinks plans with friends or my boyfriend.  If not, I head straight home and work on illustration stuff until it’s bedtime, which is usually around midnight.

A lot of your sketches shed light on the contradictory aspects of the world of fashion and the world of women as a whole. As a woman who is active in the fashion industry and who also has a strong social media presence, what do you feel is the largest impractical stress that women put on themselves today?

I think women are bombarded all day every day with marketing and messaging that is all geared towards telling us ‘How To Be’ and ‘How To Look’ and ‘How To Live’.  I think we all internalize this far more than we even realize, and it makes us unhappy and unsatisfied with ourselves, our bodies, our lives.  It’s a lot of pressure to BE all the ways.  The idea that we have to BE any one way is an enormous psychological stress that seems to just create MORE stress when we can’t figure out why we’re so unsatisfied. Kind of an Ouroboros –type situation.

You’ve obviously met great success with your work. What inspires you to keep that voice and those illustrations for @jooleeloren going?

I started my Instagram right when Instagram came out, and I think back then I had around ten followers and was basically using it instead of texting my friends photos.  I started posting drawings very casually. It was just what was on my desk.  Now it’s obviously a whole different thing, and is definitely not very casual anymore.  But in some ways, I’m still just posting what’s on my desk. *

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