Influencer: Cambridge Artist Julia Powell, Master of Fine Arts

Corporate lawyer turned painter Julia Powell is a rising star on the city’s art scene. (Did we mention she’s also BFFs with Mindy Kaling?) By Jenny Rollins 

illustration source courtesy of Lynn C. Osborn

I always kind of had this artistic gene in me, and I’m 100 percent self-taught. But I grew up in a family where it was important to find a career where you could support yourself. I don’t have a trust fund to help me out. I just didn’t think that professional painting was a viable way of earning a living.

The coolest part of being the VIP print artist at the MFA’s Summer Party was the possibility that the lure of my prints would encourage people to purchase VIP tickets. The money from those tickets goes to the MFA, and anything that goes to one of the major cultural institutions of our city is a win.

Boston shouldn’t try to compete with New York. It should be its own city. People who say that Boston doesn’t have a good art scene—they’re not aware of what’s going on here.

I wish I could tell you that I was a vegan who crafts my own avocado toast and grows everything in my own garden, but I’m kind of a pizza girl. My go-to restaurant is an awesome place in Somerville called Posto, and my go-to order is their Margherita pie.

Julia Powell at a Glance

Hometown: Cambridge
Work Seen on: The Mindy Project
Instagram: @juliaspowellart
J.D. from: Stanford Law
Dog’s Name: Ella Fitzgerald

My advice to people starting an art collection is that meeting the artist is a huge plus. I really like trying to meet my clients so they can get a sense of who I am and my commitment.

One artist who has influenced my career is Robert Frost. I title a lot of my paintings after lines in his poems. He’s the quintessential New Englander, and a lot of his poetry is about the natural world here. But often deeper in the poems, which are so beautifully written, are messages about the larger world. And that is what I try to do with my paintings.

My parents always taught me the importance of curiosity. They were far less concerned with my grades and much more concerned with how I was absorbing and understanding the material and engaging with it.

My workweek has a different feel for me than for other people because I work seven days a week. I don’t take a single day off, but I’m not working 9 to 5.

The way that I keep my creative energy flowing is to try to find ways to decompress almost every day, and the huge thing for me there is exercise. I was a pretty serious athlete in high school and the beginning of college. I was a serious soccer and lacrosse player; now I play tennis pretty regularly.

Being an artist, you hear the word “no” all the time, no matter how successful you are. It is hard because your work feels like a reflection of yourself and people reject it. That’s why I think persisting and believing in yourself are so important.