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

Artart exhibitartistCity of Colwood,Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police closed McNeill Avenue after a workplace death Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
WorkSafe BC investigating man’s death during Oak Bay tree removal

Man was working for contracted tree removal company when incident occurred

The West Shore RCMP released these images of a suspect as part of its investigation into a report of sexual assault on Sept. 17. (West Shore RCMP handout)
The West Shore RCMP released these images of a suspect as part of its investigation into a report of sexual assault on Sept. 17. (West Shore RCMP handout)
Sexual assault suspect sought by West Shore RCMP

Police are looking for help identifying this man

Ma Miller’s Pub in Langford. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Historic Langford pub serves up some spirits

Ghostly experiences at Ma Miller’s pub

A bear similar to this black bear was spotted on Elk Lake Drive on Oct. 20 and is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich the night before. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear spotted several times in Saanich likely to be euthanized

Conservation officers still searching for bear reported near Elk Lake Drive

A notice on the door of the Starbucks at 3849 Cadboro Bay Rd. says it closes permanently on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Google Maps)
Cadboro Bay Starbucks location to close permanently after 16 years

Residents association seeks reason for closure set for Oct. 25

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read