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Feature Article from "Twist Out Cancer" Blog

(As featured on the Twist Out Cancer Blog 8/12/2020) Twist Out Cancer is a non-profit that pairs artists with cancer patients to get to know them over a period of months, hear their unique story, and create a piece of art inspired by their journey. For more about this amazing organization, visit www.twistoutcancer.org

Julie Pelaez has always had a creative mind and artistic ability, however, she never got serious about her art until she found the perfect medium: 

Five years ago, Pelaez was enjoying a day at an Austin art show when a specific art collection caught her eye. 

“I saw this art across the room and the colors were so vibrant,” she said. “I had worked in so many mediums and I had never seen something like this. 

The medium turned out to be alcohol ink, a relatively newer abstract art technique that has gained popularity over the past few years. Alcohol inks are fast-drying, highly pigmented and best used on hard, non-porous surfaces. The alcohol evaporates and when the ink dries, it can rewet with rubbing alcohol to create various effects.

“Once I dabbled in it, I loved it.” 

Following her passion

Shortly after, Pelaez jumped into her second career as an alcohol-ink artist. 

“When I found this medium, I never grew tired of it,” Pelaez said. “I’m dreaming in color. I feel like I didn’t find it – it found me. I’m running with it, loving it and I don’t see myself stopping. I’m constantly finding new ways to experiment and mix in new mediums.”

She realized alcohol-ink art had something big planned and the more she focused on her hobby, the more turning her passion into a career seemed possible. She is now a full-time artist. 

“It was a game changer – so therapeutic,” she said. “You’re spilling ink, mixing it with alcohol and blowing it with air. You don’t have complete control over the process, so it’s symbolic for me to let go of control and be present in the moment.”

Using her art to heal 

Pelaez has turned toward the creative arts as a therapeutic outlet for years, especially when it came to processing the emotions that come with cancer. 

“I have family that have gone through cancer or near-death experiences, and I naturally turned to art to process those emotions and grief,” she said. “I truly believe in the power of art therapy.”

It was fate that Pelaez was connected to Twist Out Cancer. 

“I was already doing art therapy on my own for people I knew, so it made sense to be part of Twist Out Cancer. I was so honored to use my talents to help.”

Pelaez is currently serving as an artist for the 2020 Brushes with Cancer Austin program. She participated in the 2019 Brushes program and is thrilled to be back as an artist for the second time. Being an abstract artist, Pelaez works with color to tell her inspiration’s story. 

“I think abstract art is so much more freeing. As the artist, you are more in your head. People see the finished product and might not know what everything means. It’s sort of my secret. 

For her 2020 inspiration, Melissa, Pelaez plans to use bright and electric colors to convey energy, hope and positivity. 

“My biggest tools are color, composition and layering. Through the way I choose colors, how they interact with each other, and the emotions they convey – that’s how I express my stories.”

Going through two Brushes with Cancer experiences, Pelaez has found lifelong connections with her inspirations, Katie and Melissa. Even after the 2019 event, she still connects with Katie on Facetime every one to two months, as well as regularly reads her blog. 

“I think the Brushes platform has provided a safe environment where you feel like you can talk about anything with the person you paired with. By the time you go through this journey with someone, it’s hard not to be part of their life, even after the one-day event. You share such an intimacy.”