Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015


My journal entries became my blog; my blog became reams of notes; ultimately (because I can't let good enough alone), I compiled my notes into my first book: My Life As a WWaBT. (Pronounced "wabbit," it stands for "Woman With a Brain Tumor.") Kathleen Daughan says, "It's an engaging telling of a life changing event. Beautifully written with a sense of humor and purpose. Judy paints, with words, exactly how a couple gets through some terrifying times."

And from Donna Tabbert Long: "A truthful and gifted writer, Judy shares her world shattering journey as a woman with a brain tumor in a way that made me laugh, cry, cringe and smile. It's a memorable
and ultimately, life affirming story.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Stained glass window by Marge
approx. 5'x3'
I spent a delightful two hours the other day with Marge, a 92-year old friend of my mother's. I've known Marge and I've admired her since I was a kid but I never paid attention as to why until now.

I remember my mother speaking with admiration (and, yes, a small amount of envy) as she told me about Marge. I sensed from the timbre of my mom's voice that a woman as deer hunter was beyond her comprehension. (She finally gave up deer hunting at 90.)

Marge played the organ and the piano...because she wanted to. She's an excellent artist. I still have the apron she painted for my bridal shower 46 years ago. She took up stained glass as an avocation. She's now relearning the banjo.

What I admired "back in the day" but was too young to figure out was that Marge was ignoring stereotypes of who those  women during the 50s and 60s should be. I listened with avid attention to stories my mother told me about Marge's golfing and hunting adventures. I was a child of a blue collar family in which women were subtly but inexorably urged to fit the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval mode. It was Tales of Marge that let me see beyond that clich√©.

But what I admire most now is that Marge hasn't lost her enthusiasm for life. She's had many of the same challenges that others in their ninth decade have endured. She's now tethered to oxygen 24-7. Nevertheless, she's still the curious, interesting, involved woman I remember.

What a role model!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Attitude is everything!
In my October 1 posting I talked about leaving the art world so that I could spend more time on writing.

Believe it or not (and it's I who do not quite believe this), I've completed a 6000+ word piece. The subject is one you may have read on earlier blogs: My Life as a WWaBT (my acronym for Woman With a Brain Tumor), pronounced "wabbit".

Snarky and honest, it's a memoir of my trek through fear, relief, and how I learned to deal with the few but insistent sanctimonious, preachy people who thought I needed their advice about how to deal with this.

My challenge now is to figure out what to do with my essay. At a little over 6000 words, it's too long for a magazine but too short for a book. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

There's really no other way to describe it. Everything I looked at was doubled. When I looked to the left, my left eye refused to return to center. And when I tried to get up, I felt a strong sensation of being pulled to the left. Even the words in the book I'd been reading were off kilter, as if the print were on two panes of glass, the upper pane separated from the lower by a good half inch.
Walking over the bumpy coral paths of the tiny town of Puerto Aventuras became a challenge. The numerous bars that bordered the bay no doubt led folks who saw me frequently wobble and occasionally trip think I'd had too much to drink...not an attractive sight in a woman well on her way to 70. 
"I wish it were as simple as an extra-strong mojito," I told Dean. I muddled through the last two days of our vacation, clutching his arm, trying hard to avoid walking into people and walls. Neither of us discussed what this might mean because frankly, we didn’t know. We agreed to leave it to the experts and in the meantime, enjoy our last two days of sun, surf, and really good Mexican food....
(... a few weeks later in the ophthalmologist's office:) "You're thinking brain tumor, aren't you?" I said.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


My dad had a talent for figuring out exactly what I wanted, even if I myself never knew. I remember with great fondness my 12th Christmas. My dad gave me a ream of plain white paper, a dozen pencils and a pencil sharpener, and best of all, an old used Royal typewriter. I was beside myself with joy and filled with the warm, full feeling of delight that came with the knowledge that someone knew even more than I just how much I wanted to be a writer.

Four years later and far more sophisticated (after all, I read "Seventeen" magazine faithfully), it must have been a challenge to give me something original. I made it known that what I wanted was cash. I could get much more for less at Dayton's when their clothes went on sale immediately after Christmas. Armed with Christmas gift money and my 10% student employee's discount, I had dreams of a closet full of new clothes.

But while cash was what I wanted, and while cash was what I predicted I'd get, the romance of being surprised was what I knew I'd miss. My dad must have known it, too. Each day of the week before Christmas morning I poked, lifted, and shook an oddly wrapped box with my name on it. Heavy. Something blocky inside that kind of shifted against what sounded like loose wads of tissue paper. "Be careful with that!" Dad would warn me. 

But the sneaky look of glee in my dad's eyes told me he was up to something. Darned if I could figure it out.

Finally, Christmas morning! Before breakfast? Late? I don't remember any of the details, only my belly laugh as I opened the box, tossed out the wads of newspaper (!), and found two heavy blocks of well sanded maple duct taped together. I borrowed Dad's pocket knife and sliced the tape. Inside was a crisp, new $100 bill. 

Once again, Dad let me know without telling me that he knew me really well. And isn't that the best gift anyone could get?

Monday, December 15, 2014


I saw a sign hanging on the door of a new office: "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" My first reaction was probably the same as that of a lot of other folks. Wow! The sky's the limit.

Then I thought about it--for about five seconds.

Without failure, would we ever learn anything? True, failure can be depressing and embarrassing. And if not challenged, it can lead to inertia. But like you, I learned to walk by falling down. I learned to share toys by being bopped on my noggin by the toddler from whom I grabbed that teddy bear. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of things in your life that you wouldn't have done had you not risked potential failure.

So what would I do if I knew I couldn't fail? The answer's easy: Nothing! It's the potential for failure (and the attempts to avoid it) that adds excitement to the adventure. And it's failure itself that teaches us how to succeed. Don't believe me? Google "why failure is important." You'll find over 420,000,000 results.

So let's go for it, kids! Try that new recipe; strap on those skis; take a class in (name your subject). Even if we do fall on our metaphorical keisters, we'll have learned more than if we didn't try.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


"Gaining Momentum"  oil on canvas     Sold

Even though it's too early in the season to post this, I wanted to get it out there because I know darned well I'll forget to do so this winter. I wrote this in a workshop at The Loft the other night; the prompt was to finish this sentence: "It wasn't my idea to...."  Try it yourself; it can lead to some interesting memories!

It wasn't my idea to go to the the park that winter afternoon so long ago,  but Andi had been watching the Olympics figure skaters so I wasn't surprised when I heard her call from the other room, "I wanna try that, Mom."
It never was hard to talk me out of my list of housecleaning chores, so I wrapped a muffler around my six-year-old's neck, pulled her Kermit the Frog hat over her ears, and grabbed our skates. Off to the park we drove.
The hiss of steam in the warming house, the smell of wet wool, the thunk of skate blades as skaters thumped their way down the wooden ramp to the ice rink elicited warm memories of my own days as a teenager when I tried so hard to emulate the fancy moves I used to see on our grainy black and white TV set. This was a good idea. I couldn't wait to help my first-grader out onto the ice.
And so we took off, each of us in our private imaginary worlds: she in her future life as a high scoring, axel jumping athlete, me in my 25-year-old memory of myself as a high school junior, trying so hard to catch the eye of the classmate on whom I'd had a crush for quite some time.
"Cute little girl. Yours?" I startled at the male voice that jabbed itself into my reverie, jolting me back to the present. I mumbled something in the affirmative and continued to skate, praising Andi on her newly acquired stopping technique. 
"She's really pretty. She looks like you." He did a quick 180, skating backwards in front of us, blocking our forward moves with his bulky, obese body.
My internal radar went on high alert.
"Do you live near here?" he asked.
"We live really close," my daughter said, sensing my reluctance and no doubt wondering why her normally talkative mother was now so reticent.
By now we were half way around the rink. I wanted so badly to go back to a few minutes earlier when my biggest challenge was to relive my teenage memory. It was becoming apparent that this jerk just wasn't going to leave us alone! I gave up and said something to Andi about how we needed to get back home and start supper, promising her that we'd return soon.
Back in the car, my daughter reminded me once again just how astute she was at reading people. "Mom," she said, "MOM!" trying to get my attention as I maneuvered the car out of a tight parking spot. "That guy was flirting with you!"
"Huh?" I said, not really understanding her.
"Yeah! He's just like the boys at school except he didn't pull your scarf off!"
Come to think of it, we girls who twirled our way around Jackson Park's skating rink 30 years earlier judged whether the boys liked us by whether they pulled on our scarves.
"C'mon, honey," I said. "Let's go home. Let's talk about when it's OK to let a boy pull on your scarf and when it's not."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: Leaving the Artist's World, Entering the Writer's World

The phrase "impostor phenomenen" caught my eye the other day. A quick internet search told me that it's the tendency to feel like an impostor -- to be certain that one is going to be found out -- to suspect any successes one has attained have been attained only through good luck, knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, but never (or at least rarely) the result of personal competence.

The subject resonates with me because, despite the years (and yes, the dollars; painting is a pricey endeavor!), I've been feeling myself drift away from fine art to the point that I've not picked up a brush for at least 10 weeks. In fact, I'll be packing up my paintings and leaving my space in The Northrup King Building in a few weeks.

There are lots of reasons for leaving: vision problems and joint pain are among them. But the real reason is my continuing tendency to step back from my easel, look at the work, and say, "Wow! That's pretty good; I wonder who painted it."

Sounds weird, no? 

I've felt the same way about the quarter of a century I spent teaching. Intellectually I know I did it, but emotionally? Hard for me to believe. After all, people like me don't get to be teachers, or artists, for that matter. And while I know that of course I taught, and of course I created all that art, I also "know" that any success in those fields was because I was in the right place at the right time; I got the job because the principal was desperate; I sold the painting because ( get the idea).

Bottom line is that I'm losing interest in fighting this tendency. But all is not lost; I have no intention of sitting around watching dust accumulate on my tabletops and my brain. If you've been following my blog, you know I've been writing for a long time. The only difference is that now I’m writing more. I’ve started working on a memoir. It incorporates two main themes I've been playing with: growing up in a blue collar neighborhood in the 1950s, and growing up with a dad who had far more in common with Archie Bunker than he did the dad in "Father Knows Best."

I have a long way to go, but I can see a way to get there. Publishing? Maybe; we’ll see. But writing is the one thing in my life that has never left me feeling like an impostor. In the meantime, I have a lot of art to move. Look for a "studio relocation" notice closer to the end of October.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Serendipity? Coincidence? Providence? Call it what you will...all I know is that I was delighted to walk into Grand Marais' Drury Lane Books and find the kind of fountain pen* I've wanted, because the beautifully hand-made journal I'd purchased earlier this year seems to require a pen with a nib.

I removed the cap, grabbed some old paper for experimenting, and while I was delighted with the pen, I did not expect a flood of memories of Mrs. Edna Fitch's fourth grade classroom.

Other teachers at Holland Elementary had acquiesced to the replacement of the 19th century wooden desks with contemporary (by 1954 standards) classroom furniture, but not Mrs. Fitch. Her primary reason? The built-in inkwell. We nine-year-olds were issued fountain pens, small bottles of ink, wide-lined paper, and instruction in the Palmer method of handwriting.

Despite that dear lady's efforts, I never did develop an elegant nor particularly legible hand. Nonetheless, I have many warm memories of that wonderful woman who smelled of lavender and who helped guide my uncoordinated fingers as I struggled to make my straight letters straight and round letters round. 

She would have been at least 130 years old by now and I'm well past my half-century mark, but I miss her still. I'm hoping that my journal writing will be worthy of her efforts.

*Curious? It's the Pilot Varsity Fountain pen; no inkwell dipping necessary.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a memoir for at least a year. I so much want to explore what I perceived as my grandmother’s dislike of her second child (my father), and subsequently of my mother and us kids. But I can’t seem to get past that infernal internal editor who keeps staring over my shoulder, whispering deterrents about disapprovals of — or even hurt from — descendants of the people I would write about. In fact, it’s a challenge for me to write that prior sentence about my grandmother. My push me/pull you dilemma has much to do with being raised never to air one’s dirty laundry etc.

So I’m doing what I usually do when that internal critic immobilizes me; for years it was books on how to paint. This time, I’m heading for the bookstore and stocking up on books on how to write memoirs. Whether I’ll actually put pen to paper (or in my case, fingertips to keyboard) remains to be seen. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

(A stage whispered aside to Mary McD.: Thank you for your encouragement; I needed it!)

Monday, July 14, 2014


"The Kiss"   giclee reprint available at Westergard Fine Art
At the urging of a good friend, I've taken the leap and joined the big kids in the deep end of the merchandising pool. Come on in; the water's fine and, I've been told from folks who've visited my real-world gallery, so is my art. You'll find original oils for purchase directly from me. I'm also making available 7"x5" giclee reprints on archival Museo paper ($5.40 + $2 shipping).
If you're a fan of high quality paper, you'll love Museo paper. You can mount these onto blank card stock for your own greeting cards or, if you prefer, slip them into a frame of your choosing.

Click on the photo to get to my Etsy shop.

By the way, if you see something you particularly like, you'd be doing me a great favor by hitting the "heart" button on that item. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Yep, that right! 
When you place an order on my, site (or anyone else's, for that matter), FineArtAmerica will e-mail you a $100 gift certificate from instantly. It doesn't matter how small your order is on If you order a single greeting card, you'll still receive the gift certificate. (And yes, you'll find greeting cards with repro's of my paintings on 'em.)

Once you receive the gift certificate, all you have to do is visit, enter in your gift certificate code, buy some wine, and you're done! Then, just sit back and wait for the wine to arrive on your doorstep. If the logistical stars are in alignment, maybe your wine and your order from Fine Art America will arrive at the same time!Before using your gift certificate on, please note the following restrictions:
Terms & Restrictions (you knew there had to be a restriction or two, right? Pay attention to the first sentence below. )
The $100 gift certificate is only valid for first-time buyers on and can only be applied towards purchases of $160 or more. You must be 21 years or older to redeem the gift certificate. Wine can not be shipped outside of the United States. Additional restrictions apply. Void where prohibited. See complete details at Naked Wines is not affiliated with Naked Winery ( in Hood River, Oregon.
There is no minimum purchase required on Fine Art America in order to receive the gift certificate. If you purchase a greeting card for $5, for example, you'll still receive the gift certificate from - yes, really!

Friday, July 4, 2014


I used to do a lot of writing, some of which included writing artists’ statements. I was reminded of this today when, while purging files, I came across “How to Write an Artist’s Statement.” The questions below were among those I asked folks for whom I was writing statements. They’re intended only as a jumping-off point; a good statement would include only a small number of these items. But by thinking about them, you should be able to create a short, cohesive paragraph or two. (And for gallery display, “short” is the key word here; people will read short statements, particularly if they include a photo of either you or your work.)

Sample of one of my artist's statements
If you’re at a loss for how to write an artist’s statement, perhaps these will help. (And while I’m at  it, don’t forget to proof read your final copy. A good way to do that is to read it aloud. Even better, if you’re working on a computer that will “read” to you, plug ‘er in and let ‘er rip. Any sentences that sound illogical or disjointed will jump out at you.)

In no particular order:
  1. What was your goal for this particular series?
  2. How long has this series been underdevelopment/how long have you worked on this series?
  3. Does this work continue previous work or is this a departure from previous work? Briefly explain.
  4. What do you want the viewer of this work to understand?
  5. What does the viewer need to know in order to understand this work?
  6. What should the viewer know in order to look at this work from a different point of view?
  7. What inspired this work?
  8. Have you handled your media/medium in any unusual way in this work?
  9. Why do you work in this particular media/medium?
  10. Does this work rely on symbols? What are they and what do they represent?
  11. Which artists, writers, musicians, film makers (if any) influence you?
12. Does anything in your childhood lend voice to your work?
13. What is your philosophy of life? (Be careful with this; the answers often are fraught with cliches.)
14. What is your philosophy of the place of art in life?
15. Why do you (paint, draw, sculpt, photograph, etc.)?
16. How has your training or education influenced your art?

17. What isn’t on this list that you would like to include?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


(Work in Progress)
I don't know if it's my age or the overly-strenuous winter we Minnesotans endured, but no matter. Whatever the reason, this summer of 2014 seems to be more beautiful, more lush, more awe-inspiring (and I don't use that word casually) than any I can recall.

My neighbor's iris embodied all those qualities and begged to be painted. I started this one yesterday; I like where it's going, but since my painting studio is in my dark, dank basement, it's going to have to wait for a dark, dank day for finishing.

For those of you who are oil painters who like this kind of info, I'm working wet-on-wet with Gamblin oils and Gamblin solvent-free medium. I love their products, especially the solvent-free medium. It's easy to mix and it's odorless. If you want brush marks, I urge you to give this one a try.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


After considerable debate with My Self and with My Checkbook, I decided to take the financial plunge and buy one of Susie Shipman's beautiful hand-bound journals. (See I certainly didn't need another sketch book; after all, I have at least half a dozen, with 90% of the pages of each still untouched. Furthermore, I was more than uncertain about something this spendy. Fortunately, selling a couple of paintings helped me convince Self and Checkbook that yes, I did indeed "need" this book.

This elegant and appealingly tactile book arrived a couple of days ago and along with it came a surpass: I'm not afraid to use it! Maybe it's Susie's handwritten dedication. Maybe it's because she and I chatted by phone about my intentions for the book and what kind of art I produced. Whatever the cause of this sense of magic, the book is inspiring me to explore and experiment. I've always been reluctant to do that on expensive paper, but something about Susie's beautiful creation inspires me to explore color, media, and subject matter. I've already painted flowers using Golden's new QoR ground and watercolors. Next up: My husband's over-stuffed BLT. This is gonna be fun!