from Illinois to Mesa, Ariz., a four-year-old Judy Wise hated
the desert and dreamed of green trees and snow. Judy has lived
on a country road outside Canby, Ore., for the last six years.
Her neighbors are goats, crows, sheep and the deer that wander
into her garden to partake of roses and strawberries. Now she
dreams of desert.
Well-being in her body and mind is what feeds Judy Wise's muse.
When things are going right, the ideas flow, she feels powerful
and wants to share that feeling through her art.
"If I'm sad or depressed then I just want to journal and be
still," she said. "I listen carefully to my moods. I do
yoga and I work to make my life harmonious and full of joy because
I love being productive. The quiet times are inevitable, too; I
do my best to get through them."
Judy's richest ideas come from the things she loved in her childhood:
mermaids, friendships and dreams of far away, exotic places are
themes she never tires of depicting.
"Memories our minds are full of images, we just have
to dive in deep and retrieve them," she said. "The more
you do it, the easier it becomes."
The abundance of circuses in her work goes back to her childhood:
dressing up and putting on shows, something Judy and her sisters
did to entertain themselves.
"Circuses are so weird and frightening," she said. "Remember
the horror of the Siamese twins and the bearded lady? They're perfect
to use as a metaphor for all that challenges and frightens us in
life. And mermaids! Please I'm a Pisces. I collect mermaids
and Madonnas; I love impossibilities."
Having never felt like she belonged where she was growing up, Judy
now believes it was just artist angst.
"I don't think most artists ever feel like we belong. We are
alien; therein lays our power to see the world differently than
other people. I always felt like I was watching other people live
while I was just a quiet observer," she said.
"To this day I am not a demonstrative person; I don't want
people looking at me. Instead, I want to look at them. I am very
nosy, very curious about things"
Being inquisitive and a natural mimic means everything Judy sees
can influence her artwork.
"If I see a new thing I like, I'm all about that for awhile.
It goes along with wanting to absorb everything and with being curious,"
Inspiration also comes from Judy's travels. She's on the road several
times during the year and has been to many places in the world.
The flip side
You name it, Judy's probably used it in her mixed-media pieces:
beeswax, resin, asphaltum, collage, chine colle, plaster, dirt,
varnish, all sorts of papers, manuscripts, recycled books, linen
thread and fabric.
"I love to experiment!" she said.
Judy also does reverse acrylic painting. Done on the backside of
a transparent material, once the painting is complete it's flipped
over so the unpainted side is up, taped to a sheet of white mat
board, then framed.
"If you've seen reverse-painted icons, it's that same idea.
It's something I discovered while printing monotypes. I liked the
way the painting looked before it was transferred from the acrylic
plate to a sheet of paper in the printing process, so I decided
to frame the painting instead of printing it," she said.
Judy offers prints of some of her paintings, but is too prolific
to include them all.
"I can't even keep up with myself to document my work, which
I think is important for an artist to do," she said. "I
shoot as much of it as I can with my digital camera or slides but
I only make prints of the ones that I think have the most commercial
"In other words, things that have universal appeal and are
accessible to people without art backgrounds."
Her list of favorite artists is changing all the time, but the
ones she's admired the longest are Matisse, Gaughin and Dufy. The
moderns include Agnes Martin, Maira Kalman and Dan Eldon.
Judy's art can be seen at Earthworks Gallery in Yachats on the
Oregon Coast, the Rental Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum
and the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem, Ore.
This month she's showing at the Silverton (Ore.) Arts Festival.
Over Labor Day weekend she'll be at Art in the Pearl in Portland's
downtown park blocks. Future shows are listed on her Web
As a childhood introvert and loner, Judy spent much time drawing
in her bedroom. By age 10 she was already identified as an artist
and her parents were providing her with supplies.
"It was like discovering I had super powers," she said.
"I could draw well enough that I could attract attention and
be special. That was a wonderful thing then and it still is now."
Working with papier-mâché for the first time in fourth
grade, Judy made a red and yellow four-legged creature that looked
like a deer minus the antlers.
"I thought it was holy, that's how powerful it felt. We were
a very churchy family so I knew right away that that was a blasphemous
thought," she said. "I tried not to think it but it was
still how I felt."
Judy's father enjoyed woodworking, her maternal grandmother was
a painter and several relatives are architects and engineers.
"Both of my parents were very bright and gifted," she
said. "I think they would have been artists if they'd had the
advantage of more education. So I would say they were unfulfilled
in that way."
Neither of Judy's sisters went to college, either. She believes
their lives would also be much different if they had.
"I think school offered me so many opportunities that others
in my family did not have. It has really taught me how to ask questions
throughout my life. I am a curious, curious person," she said.
Steered away from art by her college counselor, Judy got her degree
in English and secondary education, with a double minor in art and
"My college art classes were wonderful. I worked my way through
college and was a little older than the other students," she
said. "I was not socially confident but I was always confident
of my ability to draw and paint. I believe every artist is self-taught.
After all the schooling we still have to choose how to present our
work. It is constant self-invention."
Ten years ago Judy taught watercolor at Portland Community College;
she's now in a learning mode, not a teaching mode.
"I really enjoyed teaching and had lots of great painters
in my classes," she said. "But after just two terms I
felt ready to get back to my own work."
At one time, Judy thought that some day her curiosity about materials
and techniques would be satisfied and that she'd have learned all
she needed to know to express her ideas fully. Now she hopes it
"I used to dream that," she said. "But more recently
I've realized that if it ever happens, the game would be over and
I would be disappointed. So I think I know now that the search is
everything, wondering what is next and what will happen if I try
this new thing or that new thing. And that is enough.
"Just to keep going and to keep meeting new artists and trying
new things, I am a very happy person. Art saves me every single
day from boredom or complacency. It makes life endlessly rewarding."