Friday, 21 August 2015


Julie is an artist, teacher and environmental activist in London, Ontario, Canada. She has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from the University of Western Ontario, a Master of Fine Arts from the Instituto Allende in San Miguel Allende, Mexico and a Bachelor of Education from Althouse College, University of Western Ontario.

My defining moment was at my convocation at teacher’s college in 2005.

I was 48 years old and had spent the last 20 years or so studying art, travelling to Europe and completing my masters degree in Mexico at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel Allende in 1999, where I lived for almost 10 years.

I began teaching as a way to make money in Mexico and found I liked it and had a good rapport with kids.  So I came back to London, Ontario in 2004 and attended teacher’s college at Althouse College, University of Western Ontario, in 2005.

Having been in an art bubble for a long time, I was very unplugged from politics or world events.

I went to my convocation because I had met so many wonderful young women teachers and wanted to have a chance to say goodbye, because none of them were from London.

The speaker at the convocation was Maude Barlow, the Chair of the Council of Canadians, and although I had no idea who she was or what she was talking about, I found her to be passionate and articulate and inspiring. So I went to the library and found she had written a lot of books, especially about the water crisis.

When I located her books in the library, I first read her biography, which detailed her beginnings with the Trudeau government.  Her activism is legendary and I am so proud that we are now friends and meet in our work with the Council of Canadians.  I joined them right after the convocation but it took several more years of study and research and learning about the planet physically before I became an active member. 

The next thing that happened was that I saw Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. 

Al Gore actually came to London, Ontario, and did his presentation at the London Convention Centre where I was bar-tending. I saw the reaction in the room to his slide show. They got up and gave him a very polite standing ovation and then they just stampeded out the door. It would seem they could not wait to get away from the information that he imparted.

That really sparked my curiosity and I started reading more on that subject.

For me, it has been the most wonderful learning curve as I become more educated about everything!

I had great teachers along the way...Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, William Marsden, Timothy Flannery, Jared Diamond, Lester Brown, Annie Leonard, Tzeporah Berman. Allana Mitchell to name a few.

I watched documentaries on geology and climate, the arctic, the acidification of the oceans, the extraction industries, deforestation, pollution and consumerism, the tar sands...

I learned about physics and money and the stock market until all this info started spilling into my artwork and then into my teaching.

My preferred medium is batik.  You paint wax on cloth that resists the dye baths.  Each layer of colour is added on moving from light to dark.  It is a slow process that requires some patience and attention to detail. 
Sunfest: 2011  ©juliepickencooper
I am also an avid printmaker, working with lino and hand printing (as I don't have a press). I have recently been sewing pictures as next show will be entitled:  An Elephant Never forgets Climate Change. 

With all the research I was doing on topics about the oceans etc, I began making work about these subjects, marine life, which I had never considered before.

Sunfest 2011 @juliepickencooper

I also educate about the environment through a journaling project, called The Environmental Art Project.

I go into schools and we create books that experiment with different art techniques and push the layering of paint and crayons as far as we can go.  We prepare the page with colour, texture, writing statements. drawing and pictures.  I have been working on this for about 5 years. 

I was lucky enough to find a school that would let me test and work out my ideas with four grade levels.  I volunteered my time and the school gave 500.00 for supplies and I spent 6 months working with the students and trying out the ideas. 

A mini lesson would accompany each workshop about deforestation, ocean acidification etc.  I started the whole thing off with The Story of Stuff video, which I see as being the heart of the problem: consumerism.

From a grade 8 class
From a grade 8 class

I once did a grade 8 work-shop with 4 classes.  We did three workshops with the students and they produced this work, which was photographed and collected into a book that was sold to raise money for an arts/music/dance program for underprivileged kids.

 *artwork used with artist's permission


  1. Wonderful post, Julie. Love your pic, and the pics of the art work. Thanks for sharing this with us, Julie Johnson!

  2. Love your story! Can't wait to watch as you travel through the next chapters. May they be rewarding and just plain fun!

  3. Wonderful work and stories about your enco-art workshops Julie. totally inspiring.