2011 Interviews : Judy Wood Interview
Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews
Interview with Photographer and Artist Judy Wood
By Molly Anderson-Childers
This year, I've got a dynamite lineup of interviews. We begin this month with photographer and artist Judy Wood . We'll be dishing the dirt about all things creative. Judy, it's a pleasure!
Q: When did you first discover your passion for art and photography?
A: I don't remember ever "not" creating art and being very aware of the visual content and patterns of the world around me. I spent endless hours drawing as a child (almost exclusively horses, still a major element in my artwork to this day) and when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, would always answer either "artist" or "dog catcher." At that time I thought the town "dog catcher", aka animal control officer, got to keep all the dogs they apprehended, and that seemed like a heck of a good deal to my young self. As my understanding of job requirements evolved, I cut back to "artist" as my desired goal. I was fortunate to have the ongoing support of my parents and then of my husband to allow me the luxury of time and a roof over my head as I evolved towards "working artist" status, while raising a family.
Much of my art training has been self-generated. I took an art class here and there as a child, worked on my own through high school, and majored in fine arts at the university level. The main benefit of the university art degree was in exposure to a number of media I would not have tried on my own, studying art history through the ages, and an education in composition, design, and critical thinking as it applies to the creation of art. Being open-minded about art styles and media has served me well for decades not just in my "one of a kind" media, but also as it applies to my work in photography. Since my university days (decades ago now) I have found I have the tools to teach myself anything I want or need to know, particularly with the advent of the worldwide web, where whatever you want to learn can be accessed online if you are dedicated to the process.
I came to art photography relatively late in my career, with the purchase of my first digital SLR less than ten years ago, and am totally self-taught in photography and in Photoshop, using the "artist's eye" and the knowledge acquired over a lifetime of work in other art media. I still think of myself mostly as an artist who uses a camera, rather than as a photographer.
Q: Which artists and photographers fuel your inspiration?
A: I can't point to any one particular individual or movement as a source. I have a broad and eclectic appreciation for a wide variety of artists, media and styles. Prehistoric cave painters, medieval artisans, Art Nouveau and Art Deco have all captured my attention at one point or another. The stylized and decorative paintings of Gustav Klimt have been an ongoing inspiration. I have an interest in abstract/non-representational works as well. Having come relatively late in my career to photography, I haven't (yet) taken the time to research the founders and inspirational figures in this world. I do have endless admiration and respect for the "pioneers" of photography, who trekked all over the wild and remote places of the world to capture their images, burdened by mountains of equipment and with glass or metal plates in tow, working to master a technically complex medium. Their work has stood up to the test of time for over a century now with a quality that modern technology is often hard-pressed to match.
Q: Was there one particular artist who influenced and shaped your work at the beginning of your career? How have your influences changed over time?
A: The main influences I recall at the beginning of my career (which would be in my art student days) were negative ones, or so they seemed at the time. I was an art student in the late sixties, interested in portraying animals, especially horses, in a somewhat realistic fashion. This was not a good time for those sorts of aspirations, and I was quickly made to feel that the words "horse" and "art" were mutually exclusive. At the time I was insecure enough to be persuaded that this must be correct so I toed the line and learned not to mention this odd notion I had about recognizable imagery in artwork.
I still remember the comment of one of my instructors, who announced, "If any of you want to be serious artists, don't get involved with horses." This came from his attitude towards a fellow faculty member who was both a fine artist (and who used horses in her imagery) and a fine horsewoman. My professor clearly felt that this fellow artist had compromised her art career by her preoccupation with horses, but in truth the two passions supported each other. The "horse" artist is still painting and still riding, now in her 90s! That's the career model I want to emulate.
Ironically, it wasn't until I entered the world of riding and horse ownership that my true artistic course was confirmed, and I was set upon the path that I follow to this day. Despite having loved and studied equines all my life, I didn't learn to ride or become active in the horse world until I was in my mid-thirties. I resisted the first few requests by fellow riders to create horse art for them (can't be art if it's got horses in it!) but eventually relented and came to understand that this was the direction I needed to go. By this stage, I really didn't care what others felt about what I was doing, or how my work fit in to the larger art world. This was what satisfied and excited me, and this was where I was heading.
Q: What's your favorite way to unwind after a long photo shoot or a grueling day in the studio?
A: Strangely, my best unwinding after a photo shoot out in the field comes at the computer when I download the images and relive my day, seeing what worked as anticipated, what didn't, appreciating the happy accidents, learning from my errors, and making plans for how I can play/work with the images in Photoshop.
My day consists of mornings in the studio, afternoons at the stables with my horse, then evenings in the studio again. I find I need that afternoon break from artwork in order to freshen me up both physically and mentally, so that routine works well for me.
On occasions when the photo shoot or studio have really wiped me out, nothing beats a good book in the comfy chair by the fireplace, with a strong cup of coffee and my dogs and cat nearby.