Julie Elman began her work on the Fear Project in 2012 as a way to turn the things that scare people the most into something they would want to hang on their wall.
“It started out as a ... project to help myself move along with my creative process and explore fear,” Elman, an associate professor in the School of Visual Communications, said. “So it started out sort of about me, and it quickly turned into something bigger than myself.”
Students can view the Fear Project in the Schoonover Center’s Visual Communication Gallery throughout the month of February.
When people find out about Elman’s project, she said they tell her their fears in person or via the Fear Project’s website. Some of the fears she has illustrated include propaganda, clowns, fish, biscuits and, most recently, the election.
When she completes an illustration of a fear, she often emails the person who submitted the fear a photo of it drawn out. She found people feel “lighter, less burdened” when they see the fear, she said.
“I think it’s rewarding when people respond to the fear in a way not just to say, ‘Oh, I like it,’ but ‘Thank you for sharing and helping me process this in a better way,’ ” Elman said.
When she started the project, she was thinking about how she was fearful of certain things, one of them being her creative process and whether or not it worked, she said. In the beginning, she set an amount of drawings she wanted to make and how frequently, which helped her with her fears of creating work.
Elman creates each illustration by hand. The early drawings were created with a single sheet of paper but evolved to include multiple layers of paper and other textures, Elman said. The way the fears look on paper is based on her own intuition.
“I moved away from the cute, whimsical sort of doodle look to something that feels more right when I express fear,” she said.
Elman enjoyed learning about the fears, she said. Fears are universal, she said, and are often a shared experience because people can talk to each other about their fears with each other.
“I do think it’s one of the main, underlying emotions people have that motivate them to either do things or not do things,” she said. “It’s so key in everybody’s lives.”