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

Calling all Ridge Meadows seniors with talent

Video auditions are being accepted until June 15

Maple Ridge MP hosts morning meeting on budget

Registration through chamber of commerce

Letter: ‘Alouette dam not for flood control’

‘Building out further on the floodplain not without risk.’

Old Maple Ridge church has big birthday

St. John the Divine now 160 years

Being Young: ‘Golden period,’ after exams

I should be plenty entertained over the summer.

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

Anti-SOGI activist slams ban on B.C. dad speaking out about transgender son’s case

A judge has told the father to stop publicly objecting to his son’s gender

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Victims injured in Lower Mainland deck collapse ranged from 15 to 83 years old

Victim Services staff have reached out to those hurt and their families

‘Ghost restaurants’ cooked up by Joseph Richard Group to meet demand of delivered food

The new Meal Ticket Brands venture aims to ‘disrupt’ the local restaurant industry

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Torched SUV linked to Vancouver’s fourth homicide

Manoj Kumar, 30, was found dead from gunshot wounds in the Kitsilano neighbourhood

Multiple sailing waits as BC Ferries deals with Easter Monday traffic

89 extra sailings had been added to the long weekend schedule

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Most Read