A Conversation with Illustrator Julia Kuo

Wed., Oct. 13, 2021

By Kristen Hampshire

The artist talks about how she hopes People for Trees will inspire the community.

Connecting people to the natural world is a passion project for Julia Kuo, a Taiwanese-American children’s book and editorial illustrator whose work will complement Holden Forests & Gardens’ People for Trees, a regional movement to reverse the trend of tree loss in Northeast Ohio by encouraging residents to plant and care for a tree on their properties.

Kuo is developing visual representations for the campaign, including a logo and a poster initiative that brings to life the benefits of trees and how to care for them. Here, Kuo share her inspiration for the project.

What drew you to the People for Trees illustration opportunity?

Julia Kuo (JK): As a freelance illustrator, I take on project that are interesting to me, and there are a couple of experiences in my past that align with what Holden Forests & Gardens is doing. For one, I took a couple of naturalists courses, including the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN) course. Their goal is to promote the stewardship of Ohio’s environment through education and community service. I’ve also co-authored a book with Michael Wojtech about trees that is mostly educational with a drawing component- “Drawing Trees and Leaves: Observing and Sketching the Natural World.”

How are trees and leaves an interesting subject for illustration?

JK: I think that for a lot of artists, drawing the natural world is an endless source of inspiration. With the posters I’ll be creating for People for Trees, the goal is education, a little bit of activism, stewardship and curiosity-to engage people to look at the drawings and hope they are interested enough to participate. People for Trees is a well-developed, complex campaign, and this is just once piece of it.

How will the project enrich your portfolio as a naturalist illustrator while encouraging participation?

JK: Overall, I have a couple of goals, and one of those is to bring more people in line with the natural world. But also, in another 25 years, the people who are going to be stewarding the land are going to look different, so how do we reach those people? How do we reach a broader audience and get everyone to care about the land around them, whether it’s a big tree or a tiny plot of land, or they have resources to do something bigger?
I lived in Cleveland for about eight years and only moved to Seattle last month, so I love continuing to be a part of the community and contributing and giving back in some way. This is an opportunity that seems lovely and pleasant to be a part of.

Kristen Hampshire


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