Julie Reneé Benda
Julie Reneé Benda

What does it take to be a top seller at the annual MCAD Art Sale? We asked Julie Reneé Benda, one of the best of the last two decades, to talk us through her experience and share her secrets. 

Julie Reneé Benda ’16, MFA, is a writer, illustrator, and visual artist with a practice in print, sculpture, and public art. She draws, writes, carves, prints, performs, and engages the imagery of plants, animals, and landscape to animate her stories, creating vivid connections between people and their environment.   

What mediums do you primarily work in?

Print, illustration and wood.

What has MCAD meant for you in terms of launching your creative career?

MCAD, for me, means people. It is a space that introduced me to and helped me develop some of the most influential relationships in my career thus far. The network of students and professionals that it draws together create a web of avenues for continued growth far after graduating. It was, and still is, vital to have a circle of other creatives that are enthusiastic and determined to help one another along what will most definitely be an evolving creative career path. 

Where are you now in your career/what does your primary artist practice look like?

My primary artist practice is split between some sculptural narrative work that can be found in galleries or public spaces, printmaking, and written/illustrative commercial work. I spend about 75% of my week as a self-employed artist. I currently make/sell work, exhibit, write, speak and submit to publications. Still in the early stages of my career, I believe I've been "whittling away" at what parts of my practice are the most necessary and finally starting to get a sense of the shape I want this career to take.

Where can people find your work?

Folks can find work for sale on my website, and a new comic series I'm writing, Beaver of Fine Arts, is published online by McSweeney's Internet Tendency. 

Can you describe a memorable sale or moment from the Art Sale?

Opening night working at the Art Sale for the first time. The activity, the wall to wall art, the work being bought. Everyone was finding something that they connected to and it just gave me a profound sense of shared energy that you can't get in a studio by yourself!

What do you love about making art?

Currently, I love dreaming up the best (or worst) puns for the series Beaver of Fine Arts. Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud, and whether or not it's a comic I end up using, I think the laughing is a good thing. 

Have you ever purchased anything from the Art Sale? Describe your favorite piece.

Yes. A few years ago I bought two of Ryan Hughs's watercolor pieces. Each one is a different little orange shop clamp centered on a large 22 x 30 in. sheet of watercolor paper. I look at them every day! I love them. 

Is there any Art Sale work that has inspired you? Describe it!

A wonderful artist, friend, and alum Sarah Evenson has been not only an inspiration for my venture into illustration, but thier work has shown me how to incorporate a printmaking and a fine arts background into more narrative work. I love their pieces as they are honest, candid, relatable, and oh so colorful! I can only hope my work might be some of those things for others. 

What Art Sale advice would you give to young MCAD artists?

Work in series! Let yourself explore the same idea over an over again, then show that work together. I think it helps show patrons the depth of your practice and allows folks to find the nuances that specifically resonate with them. 


Additional Top Sellers

*Note that the term "Top Seller" is defined both in sales and number of pieces sold.