The World of Artist Julia Trops

Art and Activism mix in life of Colwood painter and sculptor

  • Feb. 4, 2019 8:00 a.m.

– Story by Darcy Nybo Photography by Don Denton

From West Shore Life + Style magazine

Say the word artist and several images come to mind: you might envision someone covered in paint, lost in thought or covered in clay or dust.

What doesn’t come to mind is a medalled ex-military woman, a mother about to get her master’s degree, and someone who has a passion for shining a light on concepts surrounding reconciliation. That, in a nutshell is Colwood’s Julia Trops.

Julia and her family moved to Colwood from the Okanagan in June of 2017. She immediately transformed her double garage into a workshop and display space. And she needed it: she has over 250 framed paintings, thousands of sketches, several clay sculptures, wax bronze works and hundreds of pounds of stone — one about to be transformed into a horse.

Don Denton/West Shore – Artist Julia Trops in her studio with a stone for a sculpture she is working on. Photography by Don Denton

Prior to moving to Colwood, Julia lived for 16 years in the Okanagan, where she took Indigenous studies and learned how to speak nsyilxcen at the En’owkin Centre, an Indigenous Immersion School.

“I was accepted into the En’owkin Centre because of all the work I’d done in West Kelowna in bridging the two communities [Indigenous and non-Indigenous],” she said.

While giving an artist talk at Summerland Art Gallery, Julia received a pamphlet about Culture Days — a fair held across Canada that focusses on promoting elements of culture.

“After I got the pamphlet, I had a vision. I started talking to people at the Sncewips Heritage Museum and people on the Board of Trade. We [eventually] held our first Culture Days, which was launched at the museum and included many of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses in West Kelowna. It’s been running every year since 2014.”

Julia’s path as an artist is nothing short of fascinating, and includes a stint in the military.

“I joined the military in 1985 and trained at CFB Cornwallis for basic training, then CFB Borden for training. After that, I moved to Moose Jaw, where I met my husband. I had walked away from being an artist after university in 1980, but even when I was in the military, I just couldn’t get away from creating art.”

Julia and her husband started a family and by 1997, after a peacekeeping tour in the Sinai, she decided to quit the military and go back to school.

“My husband had finished his RCMP training and was posted to Alberta. I went back to school at the University of Lethbridge. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts with Great Distinction in 2001. We moved to Kelowna in 2002 and I was accepted as an artist in residence at the new Rotary Centre for the Arts (RCA).”

While at the RCA, Julia developed the Livessence Society for Figurative Artists and Models, a life drawing society.

“I created it because it was needed. You can’t have life art drawings without models and vice versa.”

Julia became very active in her community, speaking out when she saw inequality and injustice. By the time she left the Okanagan in 2017, Julia had gained a Lifetime Achievement Award, had been interviewed on CBC radio numerous times, attended residencies in Italy and Spain, and become a Banff Centre for the Arts alumni.

“I was pretty burned out when I moved to Colwood. I hadn’t painted for two years, I was so consumed by community activism.”

Don Denton/West Shore – Artist Julia Trops in her Colwood studio with two of her latest paintings she is working on. Photography by Don Denton

That fall she saw a photo online of a four-year-old girl from the Ma’am taglia-Tlowitsis and Namgis First Nations in northern Vancouver Island. The child was holding a sign that said, “Fish Farms Out.”

“I contacted her parents and they gave permission to paint her. I gave the painting to them as a thank you, following the Indigenous protocol of giving and receiving. The first one [of anything] is always given away.”

Julia continues to paint for the love of painting and sometimes a photograph from one of the First Nations sites she follows online will catch her eye.

“I saw this photo of an Elder from Chilliwack, and I loved the intensity of his expression, and the fact that he was not in regalia, just everyday clothes. I created a painting from that photo. I’ve contacted him to see if he wants it.”

She adds, “There are a lot of layers to non-Indigenous artists painting Indigenous peoples and I am very aware of this — very cautious, very respectful. I ensure I am not crossing the line into cultural appropriation. It boils down to the fact that people use Indigenous imagery without understanding the traditions, the stories and everything behind it. I make sure I paint with awareness and respect. I always consult and never paint without asking.”

When she’s not in her studio creating art, Julia is finishing her Royal Roads University master’s degree project, which includes a paper, an art exhibition and a video. The subject matter is dear to her heart: the hegemonic white society and its impact on community and culture. She’s focussed on finishing her project and is in the process of finding a space for her one-woman art show, Bridging Cultures, in 2019.

“I’m proud of the fact I am very mindful of the work I do. From serving in the military to being a master’s student — being mindful is present in everything I do. Many artists paint to be commercially viable. I am not one of them. While I have sold a great deal of my work, my goal is to simply create. With each piece of art, I learn something about myself.”

Find more about Julia Trops and her art at juliatrops.com

Finished cast sculpture by Artist Julia Trops in her studio. Photography by Don Denton

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

The long winding road to Tofino-Ucluelet—then and now

If you are feeling frustrated about the Highway 4 closures, sit back read about what came before.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Farm and Garden Show coming to Tofino

Greenthumbs unite at the Tofino Botanical Gardens from Feb. 22-24.

Steelhead LNG stops work on Kwispaa LNG project near Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘deeply disappointed; Steelhead says funding is the problem

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

Most Read