Years ago when Kara Julian was a student, a fortune-teller predicted she would one day become a teacher.
As she was then on scholarship to study accounting in the United States, the West Bay native ridiculed the idea.
“I laughed, and told her she was wrong as there was no way I was going to be a teacher,” she says.
Those words still ring in Kara’s ears as not only has she given up a stable career in the financial services industry to become a full-time artist, but she also teaches art to adults and children.
Initially she was known for her artistic glassware under the name of Kara’s Glass Garden but now she’s rebranded herself as Kara Julian Art, with her portfolio encompassing fine art, murals, chalkboard art, private art lessons, children’s art camps and Art by the Glass painting parties.
With an artistic leaning from the age of 5, Kara often skipped her accounting classes at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa to sit in on art lectures.
“Clearly my ‘calling’ was literally calling out to me,” she says. “One day I decided to just leave my accounting class early. Instead, I ventured over to the art department on campus and sat (in the back) on an art lecture. Instantly my brain started firing on all cylinders. I was ‘home’.”
Returning to Cayman, Kara put art on the backburner for 15 years while she worked at Butterfield Bank and UBS Fund Services. Other job opportunities came along that allowed her to utilize her creative talents, then six years ago she was diagnosed with lupus, which heralded a life-changing time for her.
The medical condition is triggered by high stress, so Kara decided to make a lifestyle change and follow her heart to pursue art as a business.
“With no contingency plan, I leaped off that ‘cliff’,” she says. “Like a quote I saw a few years back, I jumped and built a plane on the way down.”
It was a risk that has paid off for the artist.
She began promoting her painted glass products, which she had been making as a sideline while working at the banks.
As fortune turned out, she was approached by the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort to see if she would create the chalkboard penmanship for the hotel’s special buffets and the juice, gelato and creperie station menus.
“I didn’t have a clue about designing chalkboards, but figured I’d rise to the challenge and learn quick,” she says.
Then in 2013, Kara began her Art by the Glass painting classes as a way to help pay her bills when orders for glasswork were slow.
“I had to come up with something new, exciting and fun,” she recalls. “I stumbled on group painting parties that had fast become a hit in the U.S. I was not well-experienced with painting on canvas but again, here was another opportunity to learn and apply my creativity on more than just glassware.”
The painting parties became popular, especially for corporate team-building events, birthday parties, bachelorette parties, fundraiser parties or just for Friday night fun.
“My method of teaching is fairly easy,” she explains. “I assume that people have had no experience so I guide them step-by-step in recreating my featured painting for that particular class. I stick with impressionistic-style painting as I find it an easy style for beginners.
“We use acrylic paints (as they dry fast), three to four paintbrushes, maximum, and easy designs that they can complete in one evening and walk away feeling a sense of accomplishment.”
People from all different artistic backgrounds attend Kara’s painting parties.
“Most of the time, I get individuals who have zero experience with art but are eager to try their hand at creating a masterpiece,” she says. “These are the ideal students, as they are like sponges and soak up everything that I’m teaching.”
The classes, which are mostly held in the evenings, last for around three hours during which time the emphasis is on having a good time. Kara plays upbeat music and there are appetizers to ensure everyone is in the party mood.
The classes are in Kara’s art studio on Crewe Road in premises formerly occupied by Purple Dragon Karate, a space which she shares with Monica Powery from [email protected] who teaches art to children aged 18 months to elementary age.
The pair also teams up to hold annual children’s art camps and, in addition, Kara teaches art two days a week at Grace Christian Academy.
Kara describes her own paintings as a whimsical impressionistic style, although she does venture over into more realistic work from time to time.
Her painted glassware is sold through Pure Art Gallery & Gifts and the Turtle Farm gift shop, while some of her fine art pieces can be found in exhibitions at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand
Cayman’s gallery, as well as her art own studio.
As for inspiration, Kara gets it from just about anywhere.
“I find ideas on the Internet,” she says. “I’ll see commercials for shampoos and like the colors used, or I’ll see a beach scene in a travel ad that takes my breath away and get my creative juices flowing. For local scenes, I refer back to photos I’ve taken or I’ll get inspiration from one of my favorite local photographers, Wil Bignal. Or, if I’m doing floral scenes, I’ll go and pick the flowers and study them up close and personal.”
Having fulfilled the fortune-teller’s prophecy that she would become a teacher, Kara has found a vocation to help others learn the art of painting.
“The one thing I love most about teaching, whether it’s instructing a 10-year-old or a 60-year-old, is the excitement they express when I’ve shown them something clever that improves their art skill and their eagerness to learn more,” she says. “Art makes me happy and I feed off other people who share the same excitement when exploring creativity.”