Ursula Xanthe Young's Urban Fairytales

Nov 09, 2013 - Dec 11, 2013

Ursula Xanthe Young, graduate of Parsons School of Design, is a San Francisco favorite. Illustrator, painter, designer, Young has become known and beloved for her tender flowery urban fairytale illustrations. Exhibiting frequently in the Bay Area and selling paintings in New York, London, Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong and all across the U.S, Young’s art along with large wall murals, apparel & club flyers, can be spotted in magazines and in boutiques across SF and beyond. After a decade of making her lovely mark in the Lower Haight neighborhood of SF, Young recently relocated to a remote spot in the trees in Sierra Nevada foothills. From the green rural dales of Northern England to a Northern California forest, and all the cities in between, she finds inspiration in the organic within urban landscapes–crossed wires, Victorian buildings and fog-filled horizons that are often backdrop to her brightly painted doe-eyed flower girls. You can find her beautiful work at the amazingly friendly Luna Rienne Gallery in the Mission and as a permanent installation at the gorgeous Grand Hyatt in Union Square.

What inspires you to paint and to keep painting?
I am inspired by so much–inspiration is everywhere–San Francisco always creeps in after 10 very influential years living there. It’s where I had my first solo art show, sold my first painting and found my voice, so I always come back to that. I can't help but be enamored by the dreamlike and magical quality of that city. But since moving to the woods, nature has started to be a huge inspiration. I often reference my love of Victorian fairytale art from my childhood and I’m also inspired by my travels and the people I meet along the way.

When did you start painting?
I've been making art since I can remember. My parents used to say I would stay up late in my room at the age of 3 surrounded by drawings, pencils, pens. It’s so great that they helped to let that side of me flourish and took it seriously from a young age. I was taking art classes from the age of 7 and spent my last 2 years of high school at a school on a farm that had an amazing art program. As a senior I had my own studio and my art teachers there were huge inspirations for me. They took us seriously, we had real critiques, life drawing and created large bodies of work exploring different techniques and mediums.

When did you start seeing yourself as an artist?
After graduating from art school (Parsons School of Designin NYC) I lost a bit of self confidence–being around that much talent and not feeling ready to go fight for my place in the illustration world. It all seemed a bit cutthroat and I didn’t feel like I had the business-mind for it. So I packed up everything and hitched a ride to San Francisco, somewhere I had always been drawn to and had heard many stories about as my parents were at Berkeley in the 60s. It took me a couple of years until I had my first art show, and I don't think I really considered my self a serious artist until after that first solo show. It was a successful show and I sold almost everything. It really boosted my confidence and made me know that this is what I should be doing. I had never planned to be a fine artist, I always wanted to illustrate children’s books (and still do!) but things just started heading more and more that direction after that first show at Edo on Haight in 1999.

Who were your influencers?
In terms of artists, I love the pre-Raphaelites, Mucha and all of the art nouveau art and design, Klimt and that era in Vienna, Victorian fairy painting and old fairytale illustrators (like Arthur Rackham).... I also am influenced and inspired by street art and the new urban mural movement, and my contemporaries in the art world. I am so lucky to know some amazing artists who I truly admire and respect, visiting their studios inspires me to no end. In terms of who actually influenced me to keep going over the years: I guess I need to thank my parents–hippy academics who always gently pushed me towards an education that took art seriously. My dad would take me to art museums and galleries from the age of 5 on, to all the amazing museums around Europe. It’s still something we enjoy to do together.

~Lalé Shafaghi