A u g u s t   2 0 0 5

Sketch Pad

Judy Wise
Silent observations
by Kathy Anderson

oving 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.

Diving deep
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.

"Bad Idea"

"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," she said.

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.

"Cats Love Parties"

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 value.

"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 site.


Questioning life
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 sociology.

"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."


Endless rewards
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 never happens.

"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."

E-mail Judy at judywise@canby.com and visit her Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.