Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you study or train and about your present job?
Like so many artists, I have spent my life making art, so I’m primarily self taught. I got an Associates Degree in Visual Communications from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 1984, and did graphic design for 11 years, before becoming a stay-at-home and un-schooling mom. When I birthed my son, I birthed a new me! Those years of “thoughtful” parenting changed my life perspective. Watching my son grow, I learned that my choices directly and deeply affected him and consequently other people too. In 2006 I took a portraiture class at our local museum and that got me started drawing and painting again. When my son was 12 he decided to go to “real” school and from that day forward, I’ve been making art. Today, while process is my focus, I consciously try to bring good into this world through my art, hoping to affect others positively.
What inspired or influenced you to become an artist?
I’m not too sure about this. Although, thinking about it, I fully appreciate that my parents and one of my grandmas always made sure I had art supplies growing up. That certainly influenced me. Also, I was labeled “slow” in elementary school and it seemed to stick. By the time I was in high school, I really didn’t even consider a four-year college or another career, because I didn’t appear to have aptitude in anything except art.
Please describe your current aesthetics, materials and medium you use in your pieces.
I’m sort-of obsessed with keeping my trash small, reducing my contribution to our landfills. I pay attention to the natural consequences of what I do. That very much influences my work. Paper collage is my thing for now. Using used paper, often purposeful because of words or sentences printed on it, is part of my process and joy in art-making. I also like deliberate details (like in “Sisters Hoo” each owl’s eye-shine is the word “sister” cut from a book.) That kind of thing connects me with my work and the person who sees it.
I like acrylic products and paint/stain all or most of my papers two or three times before I cut or tear it. I do different painting techniques which creates interesting textures and color variety. I end up with nice palette of painted papers. For all untreated paper, I apply a UV safe product to keep it from fading or yellowing. Finally as glue and sealer, I use matt heavy gel medium (diluted with water until it’s like thin pancake batter).
Who are your current favorite artists and designers? Why?
Current and always – Andrew Wyeth – I grew up seeing Wyeth’s work at the Greenville Museum. I always feel like I can step inside his work and be part of this other world. Rex Ray – His work is bold, confident, well designed and commercially successful. I also respect his personal journey. Michael Cutlip – His work is process rich, well designed and his color use is beautiful. Laurie Frick – love her obsessiveness and how introspective she is. She does this neat visual thing with data that connects us all.
I could name a bunch of artists who live here in Greenville whose work I appreciate, but I’ll narrow my list to these artists: Kevin Isgett, Paul Yanko, Katie Walker’' - each abstract painters - and Eileen Powell a ceramicist. Eileen focuses on endangered species in her work. She presses objects into the clay to make texture that is interesting to look at, but also significant to the story she’s telling.
What’s been your favorite project so far?
I did three collage portraits about public school – elementary years. They each tell a story that I think needs telling. One is about bullying, the second is about friendships and busing, the third is about the weighty responsibility our teachers have addressing the needs of the variety of students in their care. In the “teacher” piece, the figure wears an owl necklace, in honor of my granddaddy who was a public school principal for part of his career. He called himself “the wise owl”. My mom was a student-loving, patient teacher’s aid for many years and my sister is currently a wonderful, creative kindergarten teacher.
What is a constant challenge for you and most rewarding part of having a creative profession?
I have big ideas that I constantly talk myself out of. I think it boils down to fear of wasting money and resources just to produce art work. I hope I can overcome that at some point. Another challenge is procrastination. I work well under pressure which is probably why I end up putting myself in that situation.
Rewards: My creative process is constant, interesting, giving, draining, exciting, exhausting, solitary. When I have the opportunity, I appreciate connecting with others and talking about our shared human experience when they see my work. It’s always surprising to me how my work is seen by others.
What do you do when you are not working?
I hang out with friends occasionally, walk with my husband and dogs daily, cook and bake.... but I have to be honest – because of this depression that hangs over me since my mom died about 1 1/2 years ago, I’m not doing things I used to enjoy.
I noticed that the most of your pieces have owls, birds and other animals in it. What is their significance in your work?
I love watching and seeing birds that live around my yard or neighborhood. Every year, we have a Carolina Wren’s nest in our garage. During those weeks when they are flying in and out, nest building, sitting on eggs, feeding the babies, I’m there, the human who occasionally sits on the garage steps hoping to catch a glimpse of the action.
Last night, I heard barred owls, I think. It wasn’t the usual “who cooks for you”, but more a screeching sound. Very high pitched and loud. I went out on the front porch hoping to see them, but they were silent and I couldn’t locate them. I regularly hear or see owls in our yard. There’s just something about a barn owl that I love that makes it a favorite subject. Maybe it’s the gentle face and eyes. What beauty. We live in an older city neighborhood with lots of big fantastic oaks. These giants are home to many beings and from my attic studio windows, I watch.
And of course I’m a total dog lover. Dogs have to be some of the dearest creatures ever. My two pups are always ALWAYS following me around the house. They are as special to me as I am to them. My surroundings are the main reason animals are present in my work and the joy I get watching and living with them is their significance.
Any news that you can share on your current or future work ?
For Artisphere (a juried Art Festival here in Greenville) I did among other things, a couple of new barn owls. I used a different color pallet and was pleased with the outcome. They aren’t on my website yet.
I’m very excited to have an exhibit soon at the Greenville Museum of Art in mid August. I’m currently working on a series of winged creatures - dogs, deer, a pig, a fox and a hare so far. They are 3-D, which is something new for me.
I just finished a flying pig called “Winged Wilbur” during a 24 hour art making event called Flat Out Under Pressure. I worked about 16 hours to complete it. I’ve been emotionally down lately, and haven’t felt joy while I work. Perhaps getting that pig piece done is just what I need to jump start my desire to work. I also have a large barn owl piece on the easel. I’m working the background and have the owl sketched in.
Visit Judy's website - http://judyverhoeven.com/