Member Interviews: Marie-Judith Jean-Louis

MJ is an artist working mostly in acrylic and watercolour as a way to inspire others to see better through the power of mindfulness. She’s intrigue by the nuances between looking at a subject and seeing that same subject. Keeping in mind that we don’t see things as they are, but rather as we are, she’s also interested in the participation of the viewers as the final part of her creative process.

MJ has been exhibiting her work in public spaces and galleries in Toronto. She has also been producing artwork and illustrations for a growing list of commercial clients as permanent installations and live art.

Bell Box Mural Project, 2018 Dundas St W & Lakeview Ave by Marie-Judith Jean-Louis

Interview with Marie-Judith

What are you currently working on in isolation?  How will physical distancing affect your mural art practice in 2020 and beyond?

At the moment, I’m working on a new series of paintings on the topic of the four elements, when I find the time. I’m relatively new to the mural art community. The reduction of opportunities this year due to the impact of the quarantine will make it even harder to get in on mural projects. So I’m focusing on what I can do from home, working on my own projects.   

Your scope of work is extensive – from your sketchbook to murals and beyond – what compels you to create murals in addition to these other outlets?

I’m very curious by nature. If something sounds interesting to me, I just might try it. A lot of my projects are self-initiated. They enable me to explore various ideas and learn from them. What I like about murals is that they give the opportunity for more people access to art without having to pay for it. I like the idea of accessible public art galleries, and murals fall into that category for me.

How would you describe your style? Where do you draw inspiration from?

I don’t really have a specific description for my style, other than it’s just me exploring. Art is a tool to better understand the world for me. Sometimes I’ll draw and paint in a realistic way and other times, I’ll have a more abstract or surreal way of drawing and painting. 

I get inspiration from nature, people, books I read, music, TV shows, philosophy, spirituality, science, insights and various artists I admire. I take a lot of notes from insights and quotes I come across that capture my attention and eventually they end up in my art. 

Part of a triptych, by Marie-Judith Jean-Louis

Can you let us know a bit about your apprenticeship with John Pugh in California?  That must have been quite a learning experience!

It was a great experience. I spend 1.5 months in an amazing art studio tucked in the mountains of Northern California, learning some techniques from a professional artist and about the kind of lifestyle that is possible with that profession. I didn’t know it was possible for an artist to live like that. It was an eye-opener and gave me a new perspective on what I want for my career as an artist. 

I learned a lot from painting alongside John and other apprentices who were there during my stay. It’s not an easy profession and not for the faint of heart. He had 40 ft ceiling and scaffolding’s in there! I spent my time in his studio, painting various portions of giant murals and witnessing the amount of work it takes to prepare murals. 

I also had a chance to be a model on one of his mural located in Minnesota. It’s crazy to think that there’s a painting of me on a wall in the US. 

I’m very grateful for this opportunity. 

Working in artist John Pugh’s studio, in Truckee, California. Painting animals for his mural at the Denver Zoo / City Park.


Process shots of the North Wall Mural at Theater in the Round in Minneapolis, by John Pugh

Which artists do you most enjoy and how have you been influenced by them?

I tend to enjoy artists whose art is somewhat connected to spirituality and abstract ideas like Rene Magritte, Alphonse Mucha, Salvador Dali, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alex Grey, Gustav Doré, Thomas Blackshear and Lawren Harris. For me, art is the result of a journey to know ourselves, understand our nature and purpose in this world. I feel many of these artists create from a similar place. 

What is your favourite part of the whole mural-making process?

Coming up with the concept and seeing the results and reactions at the end.

 Do you have a most-memorable reaction to one of your murals that you can share with us?

I don’t know if it can be considered a mural, but one of my artworks displayed in the TTC is the most memorable. Not only because of all the positive feedback I received for it but especially because of the subject of my artwork, a TTC passenger found me and reached out to me to buy the original artwork. She told me that I captured her during a special moment in her life, and that was a great reminder. She invited me to see it framed in her house and we keep in touch from time to time. That is by far the most memorable and cherished reaction to my art being displayed in public to date.

Framed original artwork from the “Sketching the line” series, by Marie-Judith Jean-Louis

Do you have any resources that you find really useful in your practice that you can share with us?

I tend to read a lot, so I would recommend books. One of the most impactful books that I read before embarking on my creative journey is “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I recommend it to every artist who experiences blocks or impostor syndrome. It’s a great reminder of the importance of doing the work and sharing it because it’s not just for you. 

What role do you think public art plays society?

It plays a huge role in the health and wellness of the public. Art connects people, it makes them feel human, appreciated, and seen. Art makes them think, it helps them feel more compassion towards themselves and others. It connects them to others. It calms the mind and soothes the soul.

Introduction to Mural Art (with UrbanArts and Mural Routes) graduates, 2017

What are some common obstacles or challenges that you encounter working in this field?  What advice would you give to emerging artists interested in mural art?

It’s difficult to “get in” on project(s) if you’re new and not known. Also it’s not the safest way to create. Some project(s) I wouldn’t apply for because I wouldn’t feel safe painting there by myself. In terms of advice, I would say find your own opportunities. Don’t wait for them to just be handed to you because you might wait for a while. 

 Can you share a bit  about your Kickstarter campaign and what the book is about? 

The Kickstarter campaign was something I decided to try as a way to share my art and challenge myself to paint and do something out of my comfort zone. They were running a challenge to create 100 items and I decided to take it on. Through this experience I developed my ability to paint clouds, and that took me on a journey of discovering the connection between cloud and mindfulness and later on the series I’m working on this year about the elements. First I painted 100 clouds and tried to sell all 100 painting during my first campaign. That was unsuccessful but it lead me to create cloud oracle card(s) during another campaign which was successful. Exploring my cloud painting a little more lead me to create a book about what I discovered through mindful painting. 

The book is called “Strings of Thoughts“. It’s an invitation to meditate using paintings as visual prompts and also share my findings doing the exact same thing. 

What is the value of having a Mural Routes membership for you?

I love to see what’s happening in the community and also what opportunities are available for us. Last year I was fortunate to be picked for a project with Daniels’ Home who commissioned a painting from me for one of their new build. I found out about the project through Mural Route’s mailing list.

Check out more of MJ’s work:

Mural Routes member page
Instagram @mjsketchbook
Facebook @artistmariejudith

Marie-Judith Jean-Louis original artwork in progress


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