Art is for Everyone: Interview with Juli Baker and Summer
Bold and vivacious — Juli Baker and Summer is needless to say one of the most notable rising stars in Bangkok. We got dazzled by her breezy artwork and soon fell in love with her courageous and fearless personality. As we chatted with Juli, she constantly reminds us of the brave young soul buried deep within us.
While everyone puts the spotlight on the exotic vibe Bangkok gives off, Juli has proved that this place is way more than that — it has been developing as a hot haven for talented young artists and a burgeoning art scene. If you want to discover a brand new perspective of Bangkok, Juli is your best guide!
AWW: What’s the story behind your artist name ‘Juli Baker and Summer’?
Juli: It all started 5-6 years ago when I was a film columnist for a magazine and needed to have a pen name. I combined the names of my two favourite movies' characters, Juli Baker (from Flipped) and Summer (from 500 days of Summer) and I've been using this name since then. I think these two characters somehow represent my own art in a few ways because both Juli Baker and Summer are young, independent, brave and kind.They know exactly what they want and speak their mind directly. My art is also pretty straightforward: using bold and vivid colour, I tell stories from women's perspectives. Moreover, Summer also refers to the summer season with tropical vibes, sunshine and blue bright sky, which usually can be found in my paintings too.
AWW: What’s the best thing about being an illustrator in Thailand?
Juli: This is a very hard question for me as being an illustrator in Thailand is not easy. We're all struggling by not having freedom of speech. Due to the current political issues, some artists who create political arts have been threatened by the government as well. The best thing that I could think of right now is that this is the perfect timing for all artists to be creative, thus using our skills as a soft power to convey strong messages that are against injustice.
AWW: Can you share an illustration that best represents you and Thailand?
Juli: This is one of my recent illustrations. There's an on-going pro-democracy protest in Thailand right now and lots of activists have been arrested. Police brutality is serious as they attack unarmed youth with rubber bullets and violence. There are many brave souls who are arrested simply because they strived for democracy and basic human rights. I made this painting as a tribute to all of them. The tone of this piece may be pretty sad yet this is what we all need right now — to always stay hopeful.
AWW: Most of your work seems to use bright colours. Is there any reason why? Also, who are the artists or illustrators who inspire you?
Juli: There's no particular reason, I just prefer using bright colours since I was a kid, maybe I was also inspired by my mom and dad because they grew up in the 70s. They both used to dress up like hippies with lots of colours and patterns.
David Hockney and Henri Matisse are my all time favourite artists. I used to be a fashion design student and struggled a lot because I didn't enjoy the course. The turning point is when I first saw the original painting of Hockney and Matisse in London. They inspired me a lot to be a painter. I like how their paintings tell stories of simple things in daily life, in such beautiful ways.
AWW: What are your studio essentials? Can you share your favourite spot in your studio?
Juli: Music is my studio essential, I can't paint without turning music on.Yet, my playlists are super random. It ranges from classic Beatles or oldies to jazz like Coltrane to 'Is This It' album by the Strokes. My favourite amongst all (which is also my guilty pleasure playlist) is full of Thai pop songs that I've been listening to since I was a kid.
My favourite spot in my studio is the yellow cozy sofa next to my music station.It literally is my comfort zone where I lay down and just think of nothing.
AWW: We noticed that you’re a huge fan of movies, and you sometimes even cosplay different movie characters. Which movie character best represents yourself?
Juli: Cosplay is such a strong word, I don't think I’m really cosplaying but my closet was inspired a lot from fashion in the movies. I used to be a columnist called fash'n film (fashion and film) for a street style magazine as well.
And of course, Juli Baker and Summer represent me the best. I also love Amelie Poulain as we have a lot in common. I'm also such a big fan of Richard Linklater's movie dialogue.
AWW: The art scene in Bangkok is burgeoning! As a rising young artist, is there anything you’d like to achieve in the community?
Juli: The art scene in Bangkok is very fun — we have lots of great artists but the problem is that not all people can access the art world. Even though there are lots of new galleries in Bangkok, other regions in Thailand don't have access to art scenes. We have many talented local craftsmen but they don't get enough support from the government.
As an artist, I'm trying to highlight these issues. It's heartbreaking to see underprivileged kids who can’t afford simple art supplies or to see young people who dream of becoming artists but can't because of economic issues. I personally believe that art and politics are related. I hope that one day when Thailand has real democracy, we will also have the government who truly cares about art.
AWW: Alright, here comes the last one! Which animal do you think best represents your inner self and why?
Juli: I always think my spirit animal is a butterfly because they're colourful and free. When I was young, my auntie used to tell me that the birthmark on my leg looks like a butterfly, she predicted that I'll travel a lot when I grow up and I really do! I have always considered myself as a global citizen, I wish to see the world by living in different places. I kinda like the butterfly life cycle as well, it inspires me to see the beauty in the process of changing.
To find out more about Juli Baker and Summer please visit the artist’s IG account | @julibakerandsummer
All images provided by Juli Baker and Summer.
About We Love Milk Tea Series
Since showing up on social media in 2020, #MilkTeaAlliance has been around for a while, and represents a shared love of tea drinks in Hong Kong (Milk Tea), Thailand (Iced Thai Tea) and Taiwan (Bubble Tea)! But the similarities are way more than that. Yes, people from all 3 cities love traveling and sharing their experiences, but there was also the way the youths were suddenly thrust into the world’s eyes as well. You could say that tea drinks are a powerful symbol of emotional connections and support!
This summer, we’ll be introducing the beautiful souls we met in these 3 cities. Let’s see what made their creative souls rise and shine!