Artist makes her dreams come true

It’s never too late for big dreams, and if you’re Cardiff artist Julia C R Gray, it’s never too late to make them real.Beginning her career as a muralist, Gray’s recognition was launched in 1980 with a major Lake Tahoe commission.After relocating to Encinitas with her family in 1993, Gray contributed her artistic talents as a volunteer in her three sons’ elementary school classes, while also teaching faux finish painting techniques to adults.

Julia C R Gray practices new ceramic techniques at San Francisco Art Institute. Courtesy photo

As an active member of the arts community, the 101 Artist Colony member founded and produced “Wild Bogs and Leaping Frogs,” a San Diego Botanical Gardens event featuring amphibians and carnivorous plants. In 2007 Gray served as lead artist and designer for San Diego River Park Foundation’s public mural project.

According to Encinitas native Carolyn Cope, whose McNeill Guest House boasts several original murals by Gray, “Julia has a gift for articulating ideas. She can see the vision and bring it into reality.”

Gray says, “Even though I was producing artwork, I didn’t truly think of myself as an artist until I started creating my own original work.” Since her first solo show at Rhino Art in 2000, Gray has continued to develop her individual artistic voice.

Past chairperson of Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild, Gray says, “The motive for my work remains the same whether the subject is the natural world, the cultural world or a mythical world: to become immersed in the beauty and mystery of the world. And to share the joy I experience bringing these benevolent beings to life through delicious color and rhythmic paint strokes.”

With Gray’s enjoyment of collaboration, thirst for experiencing other cultures, and a recent stint as artist in residence, a dream began to coalesce: to spend the rest of her life creating artwork in international locations. She realized that in order to achieve the dream, she would need to expand her network, abilities, and credentials.

Gray took a leap toward making her dream real by applying to San Francisco Art Institute’s BFA program, where the working artist instructors are involved in major projects in which their students are often included. More than acquiring techniques, the potential connections would be invaluable in gaining access to art at the global level.

Driven by the conviction of her goal, her application was met with an acceptance letter, accompanied by congratulations for being awarded the annual $20,000 Presidential Portfolio Scholarship. Her previously earned college credits were accepted, allowing her to enter the program as a junior, and additional grants were received. Gray said, “Every requirement I desired or needed just clicked into place” as a result of taking action toward her goal.

She says, “Attending art school to complete a Bachelor’s in Fine Art at age 52 is a significant (and sometimes humorous) experience.” The benefits, however, far outweigh the costs. Gray says, “It makes me glow to think about it.”

Julia C R Gray’s work can be seen at, and her artistic process can be followed at,

Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at


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