Craccum doodles provide focus and freedom for Elam student

02 October 2017
Some of Julia’s Craccum illustrations

Next time you're reading Craccum on the train or in the back of class, take a moment to appreciate the illustrations. Second year Elam student Julia Zhu has been providing doodles for the student magazine throughout 2017, which has a weekly distribution of over 10,000 copies.

Responding to a call in an email to Elam students, Julia is now part of a group of illustrators used by the Craccum editorial team. She usually produces small, rough brushpen sketches for the lifestyle section. "I'm lucky that I've always gotten asked to illustrate cool things," she says. "I've drawn for topics relating to coffee, food, fashion, music and things that seem popular and relevant. For me, they're easy, five minute drawings, so I'm able to contribute regularly as it doesn't take long, and I'm keen to draw any time."

Requests for drawings come from Craccum's Visual Editor, who may occasionally provide the article the pictures will be supporting. Julia then quickly consults Google for reference, and sends through a sketch, and sees the final result in the following edition. Friends and classmates have complimented her work, but the most valued feedback has come from the Craccum writers. "At one of our gatherings, when I was introduced as one of the illustrators, they were all quick to say our drawings make their articles look good!” 

The Craccum work is voluntary, aside from the occasional bar tab session at Shadows. Julia is philosophical about working for free, or exposure, which is a common debate in the creative community.

Some of Julia’s Craccum illustrations
Some of Julia’s Craccum illustrations

"A lot of people might find it frustrating, but I believe that's just that way it is," she comments. "I've felt entrepreneurial about my work since I was 15, and if you want to make money out of it, you have to create the opportunities yourself. If your work is good, and someone is interested, they’d be willing to pay you for it. It's all part of the art world."

Julia sees her Craccum work as a way of creating networks and contacts, as well as freedom to supplement her long studio projects at Elam. "My tutor said it's good to have other lines of work to help inform your studio work," she says. "Some people don't feel connected to their art because they lose a sense of purpose. For me, the Craccum works give me a focus on art that I enjoy, adding value to my time at uni."  

On a similar note, Julia is openly optimistic about her future upon graduating. "I've come to learn that most art graduates do a bunch of different things, and I think it's a good thing," she says. "The more you do, the more you can do." With strong making and illustrating skills, and a growing interest in digital art, she is open to having many projects on the go. "I don't want to get bored and stuck in one thing. I always like having multiple projects and doing new things to feel refreshed." An example of this is her upcoming collaboration with a local band, producing live illustrations on a wall during their end-of-year performance. "Opportunities are slowly unfolding for me," she muses. "I just want to learn as many skills as I can while at Elam and apply them in different ways."

Knowing the stigma about art graduates finding employment, Julia offers an excellent metaphor. "Creative jobs are different, and you get them in different ways. They're like alleyways rather than main streets, you have to explore a bit to find them."

You can see more of Julia's work on Instagram and Facebook, and you can read current and archived editions of Craccum on their website