My main source of inspiration and renewal, in life as well as art, has always been natural spaces. So I simply try to create beautiful places in my paintings. The constant transformations taking place in the natural world intrigue me. I think our spiritual and creative life is in similar flux, and that we acquire morality and wisdom from observing the natural way of things. So in the imaginary landscapes I draw, there is always movement and ambiguity.
I like to leave the maker's marks, the means of creating illusion, quite apparent to the viewer. Although I do a lot of plein air drawing, the more complex paintings are from memories of observation. While I use abstraction, there is always an interior narrative embedded in my work. I do not work in pure abstraction.
There are two important influences on my technique. My training in designing typefaces has heightened my awareness of how the edges and spaces between things define what we see. And my admiration for Chinese brush painting has shown me how you can create opulence from the humblest of tools. My most recent paintings have been about bringing these two spheres, the East and West in me, into some kind of fresh synthesis.
Juliet Shen grew up in New York city and has lived in Seattle, Washington since 1983.
After a 35-year career in graphic design, she resumed drawing and painting, her original passion. She owes her reconnection with fine art to the supportive artists of the Duwamish River Artist Residency for their acceptance and encouragement. Starting in the summer of 2012, she began making drawings in Seattle’s industrial Duwamish waterway with them, and continued by herself in the Union Bay Natural Area, a reclaimed wetlands on top of an old waste dump. When inclement weather finally forced a retreat indoors to the studio, she used her observations of the shifting Northwest landscape to create drawings combined with relief printing.
Juliet has experimented with compositions that pay homage to the Chinese landscape tradition, but with a contemporary approach. She has made paintings reflecting environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest, such as the restoration of the Elwha River following dam removals and the daylighting of urban streams in Seattle. She paints wetlands, wild rivers, and tidal currents in a semi-abstract style that relies on fine brushwork. Her work is always infused with a sense of place, recognizable or fantastical. A month spent in Greece in 2016 resulted in the Aegean Series, a departure from her Pacific Northwest color palette. Residencies at Willapa Bay and on the Duwamish led to a fascination with patterns created by water currents moving in contradictory directions.
Juliet is a founder of CoDraw Seattle, a collaborative drawing cohort.
Juliet is also a typeface designer, with a masters degree in typeface design from the University of Reading, England. Her font for the Lushootseed language was included in Type is Beautiful: the Story of Fifty Remarkable Fonts, by Simon Loxley (2017). She has designed OUP Earlybird, an early reading font Oxford University Press; the Latin component of AwanZaman, a multiscript Arabic font by Mamoun Sakkal, and Bullen, a roman font inspired by metal type faces from American Type Founders Company. She ran an independent graphic design firm in Seattle from 1989–2012 and taught typography for 17 years at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.
Research and Writing
For a list of publications authored by Juliet, see the Typography section of this website.