Libertyville art studio welcomes novices, pros
Julie Latayan ignites creative expression in 4-year-old, Marcello Prinz and his twin brother, Giovanni, in background, at her new Julie J Studio in Libertyville. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 26, 2013 3:42PM
LIBERTYVILLE — Julie Latayan’s first foray into art was drawing on a wall with her mother’s lipstick when she was 2-years-old.
Today, the veteran artist shares her passion with locals of all ages at her new business in downtown Libertyville.
When you walk into Latayan’s mix of a studio, gallery, store and classroom, you can’t help but notice two things: the colorful art work and the laid-back atmosphere.
A woman works on a canvas towards the front while her 4-year-old twins, done with their project, watch cartoons in the back. Meanwhile, Latayan — herself a step-mom of three girls — offers the twins a snack of goldfish crackers.
“This is what I wanted to achieve with this space,” Latayan said. “I want it to be warm and welcoming.”
Though she previously shared a location with another art business, Julie J Studio is Latayan’s first solo effort in Libertyville. She has been offering one-on-one and group classes, birthday parties and more since opening on Jan. 1.
Latayan admits she initially worried about how she would make rent on the space, but now her concerns have largely dissipated. Though not yet paying herself a salary, she is covering all her expenses without having to borrow money, she said.
Her interest in art was sparked by her eighth-grade teacher, who was also a professional artist.
“She took me under her wing,” she said. “I learned a lot from her.”
Latayan’s mother always nurtured her daughter’s passion, too. Growing up, Latayan said she remembers being allowed to paint on the walls of her house.
“We actually found an old painting of mine recently when the wallpaper was removed,” she said.
After that inauspicious start, Latayan eventually attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She then worked in California painting public murals, hit the art show circuit, taught art at a high school, and even did a stint as a caricature artists at Six Flags Great America.
It isn’t surprising, then, that Latayan describes art as an essential ingredient in her life.
“It’s like eating food,” she said. “It’s very therapeutic and calming.”
Latayan said that calming effect is something adults can benefit from, but she has also said it’s great for kids. At first, she said most of her young students want to get their painting done in an hour. But after watching some of the adults work on a canvas for days, they start to see the value of slowing down.
“It’s like drive-through America with kids nowadays,” Latayan said. “This helps them slow down in a world of iPads and video games.”
Teaching kids in particularly gratifying for Latayan, who said it’s inspiring to see how excited they get and how proud they are of what they create.
“It really helps with their sense of self-esteem,” she said,
Although kids are naturally inclined to express themselves through art, Latayan said adult students shouldn’t shy away from trying their hand at painting or other art forms just because they think they’re not good enough.
“Every painting is ugly in the beginning,” she said.
Jeanne Sapienza Prinz, the woman working on a canvas while her twin boys watched cartoons, agreed.
“I started out not knowing anything,” said Sapienza Prinz, whose background is in photography. “I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, but it’s very enjoyable.”