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SPOTLIGHT REPORT


Local artist lives her lifelong dream in Austin.


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Julie Speed always knew she'd become an artist. Well, almost always, anyway.

"I knew that I wanted to be an artist as soon as I figured out that I could not be a caveman, which was the first thing that I wanted to be," she says. "A pirate was the second thing that I wanted to be, and then by the time I got old enough I couldn’t –- that I figured out that I could not be a caveman or a pirate, then I knew that I was going to be an artist."

Though she was always interested in art, it was not until she came to Austin that she was truly able to live her dream.

"I always drew and painted," she says. "... [My husband and I] moved around so much that I would just draw and not paint because I could only carry around what I could carry around, and it wasn’t until we got to Austin in '78 and I actually had a spot where I could stay for awhile and and buy oil paints and then I taught myself to do oils, and if I could have found a school where I could learn traditional painting, then it would have saved me a lot of mistakes."

Speed has since become one of the most successful artists to come out of Austin. Celebrities like Johnny Depp and Jimmie Vaughan are known to own some of Speed's pieces. Shawn Colvin's Grammy-winning album A Few Small Repairs is named for one of Speed's paintings and illustrated by another.

"As long as I paint, I’m this perfectly nice, sane, human being," she says. "And if I can’t paint for a while, I just get crazy. So, I’m not sure what’s happening, but as long as I’m painting, I’m happy. If I go more than a couple of weeks without being able to paint, I start getting nightmares and losing sleep, and just generally get antsy."

The most recent manifestation of Speed's success is the new critically-acclaimed book about her work Julie Speed: Paintings, Constructions, and Works on Paper, published in May 2004 by The University of Texas Press.

 

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Produced by Domenique Bellavia.

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