Q&A with Badass Babe Workbook author Julie van Grol

Julie Van Grol is an illustrator and instructor based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She started a project on Instagram called “100 Days of Badass Babes” where she shared and illustrated 100 powerhouse women. This was the inspiration behind her new book, Badass Babe Workbook. Julie took the time to chat with us about the inspiration behind the project and her experience as a woman in the art world.

Author of Badass Babe Workbook

What or who inspired you to create 100 Days of Badass Babes in 2016?

Every year, I have a weekend get-together with my best pals (most of them are women I lived with/met in college). In 2016, I had spent some time talking with them about wanting to turn over a new leaf in my illustration practice. We also spent the weekend recounting stories of amazing, inspiring women (ones we know and ones we don’t), probably because we were a few months away from the 2016 presidential election. I wanted to stay in that space of acknowledging and celebrating stories that challenge male dominance, white-washing of history, and other examples of awesomeness that’s perhaps less known or not taught as often to students.

After that weekend, I wanted to put together a regular project that would a) get me to share my work more regularly and b) combine my interests of inter-sectional feminism, learning, and illustration. So a 100-day project in which I’d learn, illustrate, and share became the clear choice. It was a big undertaking but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What was the most inspiring thing you learned while researching the project/book?

I was always so floored by how much one person can endure, accomplish, and affect the course of history. It’s really easy to think that one person can’t make an impact, but researching and reflecting upon more than 100 examples of remarkable individuals shaped what I see as possible. And all of their stories and strength are vastly different from one another! You can find exceptional individuals in every field, every culture, every time period.

Who were your heroes growing up? How about now?

It’s funny, I don’t think I latched onto any one person as a hero while growing up. I tended to connect a lot with characters in the books I read (I have a vivid memory of identifying with Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island). I also was raised on Sesame Street and the Muppets, and as I got older I became increasingly interested in the work of Jim Henson. His imaginative, often goofy approach to his projects still influences most of my creative work. Sesame Street was (and is) super progressive and amazing. I’m still in awe of Henson’s Legacy.

Today I love having more visible examples of women/femmes to look to for inspiration. You don’t have to look far to find examples of outstanding individuals that should be looked to as examples. I try to recognize awesome qualities and accomplishments of the stories I encounter, but I also think that holding one another to standards of perfection isn’t fair or realistic, so I think recognizing that we’re all human is an important facet of admiration, too.

What has been a struggle for you as a woman in the art world?

Firstly, I have to acknowledge that I’ve been very privileged in a lot of ways. I had a great education, and as a white, cis-gender, hetero person, I’ve undoubtedly received a lot of opportunities that are obstructed or inaccessible for people of color and LGBTQ+ folks.

I think the struggles I’ve had as an artist are part of a bigger picture regarding gender roles and how we’re taught to behave and where our value lies. I’ve struggled a lot with imposter syndrome and confidence in my work as an artist (and as a teacher) and I’ve found that’s far more common among female-identifying folks than their male-identifying counterparts. There’s something about self-worth and confidence that has been historically a “masculine” trait. Thankfully, that’s shifting and we can see more and more examples of confident and qualified people of all genders. I think we’re finally untangling gender from those traits in a collective, conscious way.

(And I hope that we can also do the same with race, sexuality, and economic class!)

What has been an asset to you as a woman in the art world?

I’m trying to see all of my qualities, including those that are tied to my female identity as an asset. They’re all pretty inter-woven, so it’s hard to say, “This is happening because I’m female.” But what gives me hope is that we’re starting to see how toxic patriarchal systems can be, and finally embracing different approaches (such as…matriarchy? systems focused on equity and having all communities at the table?).

To be in a place where, I can embrace the attributes that I have (that are often considered “feminine”) rather than having to change them to fit into existing power structures—that’s exciting.

What advice would you give to young artists who want a career in art?

Stay curious. Always be in the pursuit of learning more, and be ok with being wrong sometimes (we all have blind spots, and no one has all the answers).

Find your communities. Surround yourself with people who energize you and complement your strengths. Always find ways to contribute to the community, too; it’s a two-way street.

Don’t wait. Self-doubt has a way of getting in the way of taking any action, including making art. Be okay with what you can do now, and don’t wait for when things will be perfect. They never will be. Make the thing!

If you could have a dinner party with three other babes from the book, who would you pick, and why?

This is the hardest question!

If I wanted to have a night of laughing (which is always), I’d probably invite Leslie Jones, Ellen Degeneres, and Jessica Williams (with the hope that she’d sneak in Phoebe Robinson).

I’ve been trying to focus on my health more lately. It’s taken me a long time to accept that taking care of myself is a revolutionary act; there’re a lot of problematic structures kept in place by us being run-down and overworked. I think having Audre Lorde, Pema Chödrön, and Oprah Winfrey over to share their thoughts on taking care of oneself would be my choices.

For a night of just listening and learning, I’d have Wilma Mankiller, Sylvia Rivera, and Berta Cáceres. These women’s stories differ greatly from my own, and I’d love to hear anything and everything they would have to say on their experiences and perhaps their take on where we are today.

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Badass Babe WorkbookChannel your inner lady badass by harnessing creativity with the Badass Babe Workbook! 

This empowering art book highlights the accomplishments and messages of over 100 badass babes with prompts, art activities, and writing exercises that will encourage you to unearth, fuel, and cultivate your own inner superpowers, unleash your creativity, and find your voice.

Get details on trailblazing, badass babes — scientists, artists, athletes, writers, activists, poets, entertainers, and boundary breakers — and you will see how creativity and self-expression combine to energize change in yourself, and in the world. The Badass Babe Workbook is a playground for you to tap into your ideas, find your voice, and be reminded of the difference each of us can make when we are unafraid and assured in what we envision and express.

In these complex, sometimes bewildering times, the Badass Babes Workbook keeps you engaged and connected with phenomenal women. Dig deep into yourself, polish up your gifts, fight injustice, and be your biggest, best, badass self!