Julie Cosgrove’s formal education began with a two-year Diplôme d’études collégiales in the visual arts from Dawson College in Montréal. She also completed an Honours Degree in Fine Arts at Lakehead University, where she majored in painting and ceramics. Here her work won numerous accolades and scholarships, including the University President’s Award, the Dean’s Award for Painting 2002-03, the Millennium Scholarship Award 2003-04, the Dean’s Award for Ceramics, the University Alumni Purchase Prize, the Biljana Baker Prize, and the Hilda May Utting Award for Abstract Painting. In the summer following the completion of her degree, Cosgrove was accepted into the juried Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, where she was given the Telford Fenton Memorial Award.
Places and journeying are a major influence in Cosgrove’s work, having formed a focus for her academic study and also serving as an ongoing source of creative inspiration. For more than a decade, Cosgrove spent her summers working as a canoe and kayak guide, leading groups through secluded areas of Ontario. These river routes led to Hudson and James Bay in polar bear country, where the only access is by boat or float plane. At the end of each summer, she would return home with many visions and experiences of these landscapes, which would inevitably become an integral part of her paintings.
Summers spent in the wilds of Canada were often juxtaposed with winters spent in some of the most remote parts of Asia, including lengthy treks in the Himalayas of Nepal, India, and Tibet, as well as horse treks with nomads on the Mongolian Steppe. The stunning landscapes and beautiful architecture, people, artwork, and traditions encountered throughout these wanderings continue to provide a powerful influence in Cosgrove’s life and work.
In 2008, Cosgrove began her Masters of Fine Arts in Painting at the University of Calgary. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, the Alberta Graduate Scholarship, and the highly competitive Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Master’s Scholarship, each of which helped to fund her exploration of place and space, joining her guiding practice with her painting practice.
In autumn of 2013, Cosgrove took part in an international group show in Athens, Greece called The Lure of the Local: Women Artists in the Canadian Landscape. The exhibit took place at the Vorres Museum in collaboration with the Canadian Embassy and featured contemporary artists with ties to Alberta. Cosgrove was invited to join the exhibition after the visionary for the project, Caterina Pizanias, was exposed to her work while curating the inaugural exhibition for the Esker Foundation in Calgary.
In 2015, Cosgrove was accepted for a residency at Joya: arte + ecología, a not for profit, arts-led field research centre in the mountains of Almería, Spain. It facilitates, through production and collaboration, contemporary art by artists whose work provokes a discourse on the environment and sustainability. Her immersion with the arid landscape, with its drought conditions and simple surroundings, reaffirmed the value of water as a precious resource. She thus endeavored to paint smaller works using rationed amounts of water. Her adaptation to these conditions opened new portals of creativity that deeply connected her work to her environment.
When she is not painting, Cosgrove teaches at Lakehead University and enjoys paddling on the lakes and rivers of Northern Ontario, deepening her bond with nature and making plans for her next big adventure. “My painting changes as my life changes,” she has stated. “It is a parallel and a reflection of what I am living.”