I started off my career by making alien animals and sci-fi worlds as an escape from everyday life and to heal from the brutality of the world. But now that I’m older, I feel brave enough to explore this in my work.
When Zeke’s Arcana landed in my inbox, it blew my mind. Hot pink cards with psychedelic patterns, queer space-beings with frankly excellent hair/skin colour combos, eye-lasers and peculiar objects for heads, there are also animal helpers (YES pink tigers!) and the general sense you’re at the coolest galactic day-rave you’ve never imagined.
Julia Rich is a powerhouse of creativity, not only the creator of this fabulous deck, but a prolific artist running a busy business – Zeke’s Lunchbox – the story of which is shared via hundreds of videos over on her YouTube channel (highly recommended for anyone wanting a peek into the world of a full-time artist).
Hi Zeke! How’s your day going over there in Melbourne? It’s pouring here in mid-Wales today which is good – keeping me indoors doing the computer jobs I’ve been ignoring for so long…
Hi Beth! It’s winter here, so very cold but the weather has turned to El Niño now so at least it’s dry and sunny! Makes for great winters but terrifying summers.
Your studio looks gorgeous – it’s so great when artists are able to give themselves proper, dedicated creative space for their work. Can you tell us a little about your space?
Thanks for all the compliments about the studio! I moved here in early 2022 and haven’t really shown it off all too much. I’m going to be honest though, I’m a little perplexed by the compliments because it just feels like a humble “no-fuss” sort of space. I have a secondary living space in my apartment that I use as the studio and it’s housed in an art-deco era building so the ceiling moldings are lovely and almost hypnotizing.
I spend almost 40-50 hrs in this space so it’s kind of always a mess! I have three workstations; computer land, paint land and packing land. It’s honestly very cramped in here but I guess you have to make do with what you’ve got. So far I’ve spent a lot of time balancing all the different tasks and I’ve made some career highlight works here so I guess I should be grateful that the space works and serves its purpose.
Where does the inspiration come from for your images? I’m wondering if there is a whole
world that already exists in your imagination, or if it emerges bit by bit as you create your work. And do your characters have names?
I’m inspired by a lot of vintage pulp art and artists, especially Frank Frazetta. He used to paint worlds and the paintings were so good that they wrote pulp novels just to revolve around the art.
I guess my work takes on the same process. Specifically with the tarot cards however, I had a jumping off point and a lot of history and symbolism that is a requirement when making tarot cards. So the narratives were already in place but once you make the work they do take on a life of their own. They have their own personality, quirks and yes, sometimes names!
So to answer the question, it jumps around from both a planned story and narrative but evolves once the work is complete.
You’re working towards a show centring “women, specifically Asian women doing activities” – these images are so joyful! What has led you to this focus in your work?
I started off my career by making alien animals and sci-fi worlds as an escape from everyday life and to heal from the brutality of the world. But now that I’m older, I feel brave enough to explore this in my work. I was scared to ruffle feathers, whether that’s learned behaviour as a woman or a woman of colour, I guess is something I have to reflect on.
Painting Asian women is in part healing but also I feel like it’s my duty to accurately reflect who we are. To combat all paintings in the zeitgeist that are portraits of some poor, supple concubine. We’re still mostly depicted through a fetishised lens in art and it’s time to add some female voices and perspectives in the mix.
Also, I think a band of Asian women rocking out is just plain fun!
Clearly your YouTube channel, sharing your process and building community around your work is important to you – how does this fit into your working life as an artist, and how would you describe the role of community and transparency in your work?
I’m still battling this aspect of the job almost everyday. I haven’t really found a good balance, or even figured out my boundaries with this yet! So far, less is more. Quality over quantity but algorithms always contradict this and thus the battle continues.
Making videos is a lot of labour but it’s also the only place where I can succinctly tell my perspective and what I’m trying to achieve in the work. The community and having people really understand my work is rewarding. It’s great to be able to clearly tell the narratives I want to tell. Demystifying the process and letting people see exactly what goes into the paintings is important too. It’s the digital version of a pat on the head saying “good job!”
You can find out all about Zeke’s Lunchbox and check out videos including new work, painting tips and loads more on her lively YouTube channel. Julia’s also on Instagram @zekeslunchbox, and her website is zekeslunchbox.com.