Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Judy Westergard - Painter

The Gardener
Judy Westergard

Bio~ I started painting when I took a workshop through the U. of Minnesota's Split Rock Arts Program. A week at the Cloquet Forestry Center in a class called "Drawing for the Truly Terrified" (which I was!) and I was hooked.

Fifteen years later I'm still learning. I so much enjoy exploring and experimenting that if consistency of medium and voice is what you're after, you'll not find it in my studio. Visitors there often remark on the variety in my subjects and voice. What can I say? I’m sort of like the Manhattan Transfer. I paint what I love and what I love is as varied as their music. (On the other hand, my mother would have told you that I just get bored easily.)

Tell me about your work. What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I’ve been working in oils for a number of years, creating portraits of people using only their hands. About a year ago I took a botanical watercolor class from Marilyn Garber, founder of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art. (http://www.minnesotaschoolofbotanicalart.com).

I wasn't particularly interested in watercolor work or in painting pictures of plants. Rather, I saw this as a discipline I needed; I signed on under the theory that if you want to play jazz piano well, a good foundation in classical music isn’t a bad idea.

To my way of thinking, Garber’s instruction would provide me with the classical basis I needed if I wanted to get better at what I was already doing. I never expected to fall in love with botanical watercolors. As a result of almost a year under her excellent tutelage, I'm experimenting with combining my hand portraits in oils with my watercolor botanicals.

The Massage Therapist

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?
Whether they're looking at the hand portraits or my botanicals, I hope that viewers of my work come away with a heightened insight into the details that make both people and plants intriguing, mysterious, beautiful.

Independence Day

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
“You’ll never be an artist because you can’t tell me how many buttons are on your shirt without looking,” my 9th grade art teacher told me. It took me 40 years to figure out that what he was saying was that an artist needs to pay attention to the details. At 14, I believed him and became first a secretary, then an English teacher. I didn’t start painting until I was almost 50. I’m a slow learner...but one who pays attention to details.

Tell me about your work space and your creative process. I show at Northrup King (http://www.northrupkingbuilding.com/) and I work at home. I have half the basement for my oil paints. Not glamorous, but the walls are white and my husband stapled sheets of white foam core to the ceiling. The upstairs attic-cum-bedroom is where I do my dreaming, writing, drawing, and watercolors. My stash of art books is there, sharing space with my plants, boxes of handmade paper, and three ring binders I call my Directories of Visual Instruction...collections of magazine clippings, sketches, colors I’ve mixed...it’s my main source when I want a new idea.

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

I wish there were room to list them all! At the top of my list are Margo Selksi (http://www.mnartists.org/work.do?rid=35639). Her narrative figure work entraps my imagination. Kristie Bretzke (http://www.kristiebretzke.com/) does insightful and thoughtful portraits of street people.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see? I get to the "biggies" a lot...the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (http://www.artsmia.org/) and the Walker Art Center (http://www.walkerart.org/). I love wandering through the galleries in Grand Marais. Locally, hands down it’s the amazing and ever-growing work by the N.E. Minneapolis artists, especially those artists in the Casket Arts Building (http://www.casketarts.com/) and those in the Northrup King Building (http://www.northrupkingbuilding.com/).

Primrose Leaves

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

I’ve stumbled across some amazing people through Fine Art America (http://www.fineartamerica.com/). I frequently return to the apps I've installed on my iPad, a favorite of which is "Art Authority."

Another favorite is an accidental find through eBlogger: Myrna Wacknov (http://www.myrnawacknov.blogspot.com/) does collages, watercolor figure work and portraits that speak of someone who loves people, color, and experimentation.

An Act of Contrition

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m not ready to make a detailed commitment to what I’m experimenting with, but I can say that it has something to do with combining classical music with jazz...in other words, my watercolor botanicals with oil paintings. If this works out, they’ll be at the gallery space I share with Darrell Hagan (http://www.mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=5274) in Studio 427, Northrup King Building, Minneapolis (http://www.northrupkingbuilding.com/).

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