It's something you appreciate in layers: First, you register the fact that it's a pencil drawing, not a rendering or photograph. Then, if you're a watch nerd like me, you hone in on the gears and inner workings, the mysterious details of the machine. Then you see the shading, the incredible detail where Julie captured a nick in the metal, the shadow on a dial, the slightest wear on the wristband. You consider the scale of the thing, at least three feet in height, and eventually, you find you've been standing there studying the piece for 10 minutes. At least that was my experience.
After talking with Julie about her work here, I have a whole other level of appreciation for it.
I stumbled into watches serendipitously but I feel like it was fated, in a sense. There is so much I’m drawn to; abstractly with the concept of time and our relationship to it, as well as the concrete aspects of design. A few years back, I had wanted to focus on a collection of work that would engage both my head and heart. Something to keep me curious and interested in the intellectual realm, and something to capture me on the soul level. The art of watchmaking does both.
I’ve always loved design and I’m intrigued by what makes something timeless in any form of it. I’m fascinated by objects and spaces designed decades ago that achieve cult status, continuing to capture and enthrall a following. There are principles of design and then there’s the layer of mystery as to what makes something tick. This is what keeps my focus.
I am definitely someone who focuses deeply on something, working to understand and glean as much as I can. And then, eventually, I’ll get this feeling to pivot and move on to something else. At any given time, I always have side projects on the go – a variety of creative outlets and interests separate from my ‘day work.’ I have this compulsion to always be making things and I’ve got a list of creative skills I’d like to learn, including printmaking and textiles at some point.
I feel I’ve just scraped the surface with the timepiece collection. It’s the first subject I’ve explored this deeply and I’ve got a bunch of big dreams within it to keep me inspired and hustling.
"Possibility makes me tick; I love the challenge of figuring out something I’ve not yet done."
I look to weave in history and narrative elements within each piece I create and I work closely with clients to find these unique notes to emphasize. In the preliminary stages, I glean as much as I can about a timepiece through research and conversation. I let it all roll around and eventually, all of these details will distill into ideas.
Most of the time, the client is completely open to what I come up with and after proposing a few different design approaches, we’ll refine the selected one together. Up to this point, most have desired a fairly straightforward capture of the timepiece, but I’ve got plans for pieces with a deconstructed, conceptual approach.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to go beyond just a hyper-realistic approach. I wanted to capture these iconic timepieces with a different perspective, adding layers to create a bespoke piece. These added elements make the work unique and visually interesting.
I think it comes naturally but not necessarily easily! Picasso’s sentiment resonates: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Possibility makes me tick; I love the challenge of figuring out something I’ve not yet done. For each piece, I usually have a clear image in mind and then work to figure out how to translate it on the page.
You’ll often see natural elements in my drawings. Textures in the natural world have always captivated me and it’s been a super fun challenge learning out how to draw them when they suit the context of certain timepieces, like water for the Rolex Submariner or meteorite for the GMT Master II.
"We live the ever-present dance between hope and doubt. The questioning of the work is an invaluable part of creating, I think."
Exactly right. There is a magic to graphite in real life. It’s a very lively medium – there is a shimmer and a depth. I love the idea of using one of the humblest tools around to push its boundaries and find luxury in huge, intricate work. There is also a special metamorphosis that takes place as the wood is shaved off layer by layer, transforming the tool in hand into something on a page.
As is often the case, simple is the most difficult. Pure, even planes of graphite can be the most challenging element of any drawing. Gradients on a bezel or bracelet, as well. I have to move around the piece in all different types of light to refine these areas.
The timepiece drawings take anywhere from 250-450 hours, depending on the level of difficulty and intricacy. Over the last year, I’ve started drawing movements but I don’t have a grasp on the mechanical engineering bit just yet. I plan to take the Horological Society of New York watchmaking course to better understand a movement and what makes a watch tick. The next phase of this collection will have a conceptual focus based on the inner workings, and this is an essential course I have to take to really explore these ideas.
I had the great pleasure of visiting the A. Lange & Söhne HQ in Dresden last year. While I was touring all of the labs and workshops, I was spellbound at the watchmakers’ benches. These tiny intricately crafted pieces lay still and inanimate and by an order of expert assembly, they come alive and there’s a heartbeat. Just amazing, undeniable soul.
OH, yes. This is the natural state of being for anyone in a creative field! We live the ever-present dance between hope and doubt. The questioning of the work is an invaluable part of creating, I think. It’s also necessary to find moments to see the work through fresh eyes; whether stepping away, putting it aside or seeking feedback from trusted voices. Sometimes it’s just necessary to destroy the work and begin again.
The timeline for each timepiece drawing is long and intense but because of this, I focus on small areas at a time and build slowly. There are many days where I find myself in a meditative, flow state focusing on texture and form. I almost always lack confidence in a piece until about three-quarters of the way. At that point, things start to come together.
I know, it’s crazy. I’ve never worn a watch but after spending a decent chunk of time with them, I’ve now got a bunch on my list. I have a special affinity for vintage timepieces; they have stories to tell and secrets to keep. It took me a while to settle on and find my first one: A pink gold Lange 1. I was living in Portugal earlier this year and on the day I was supposed to fly to Germany to pick it up, I had to fly home to Toronto instead due to the upheaval of the coronavirus. So, it’s currently spending life quarantined in Dresden for the next little while…
I couldn’t say what my ideal watch would be. I think that’s the beauty of collecting, to have watches that suit all sorts of moods and occasions. I can say it’d be a dream to create something with Lange, F.P. Journe and Voutilainen, to name a few.
Some favorites across the spectrum: Rolex GMT-Master II 1675 tropical dial, Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project, Lange Zeitwerk, Journe Chronometre à Resonance, Heuer Skipper, Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso.