The Eccentric and the Wise – Judith Shaw

I had the opportunity to interview a great artist over last week, and I feel like she’s got some great insights in to what makes the art community tick. She’s got practical as well as highly spiritual insights into finding what you love and going ahead with it.

If you don’t get a chance to read through the interview, this snippet should suffice –

Judith: There is an old photo of me when I was around 3 years old with my two older sisters. They both look out at the camera like very proper young ladies where as I am busily examining my hands as if to say “oh look, hands…. I can do something with these.”.

Here’s where you can find more about her – Judith Shaw

 Over to the interview –

gugg-jude721. Your art is absolutely gorgeous! I find myself enamored by it almost everytime. What is the inspiration for you to create on a regular basis?I am inspired by ancient wisdom traditions, stories and images of the Goddess in Her many forms and by nature. I often see images, patterns and colors in my mind’s eye stimulated by something I am reading or a beautiful tree, flower, or sunset. I’ve been accused of being obsessive as I paint and draw so much. When other responsibilities and duties of life prevent be from painting for an extended period of time, I feel very off-center. Once that period ends and I am back in my studio a feeling of peace pervades my soul. Sometimes I think I would explode if I did not paint.
2. What was your journey like from a young child to today? Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

I have always been into creative endeavors. There is an old photo of me when I was around 3 years old with my two older sisters. They both look out at the camera like very proper young ladies where as I am busily examining my hands as if to say “oh look, hands…. I can do something with these.”.As a child and a teenager I painted and drew, played piano and guitar, sewed, danced and did gymnastics and was also very involved in theater. In fact I first thought I would be an actor. I started my university time at UCLA with the intention of majoring in theater. But at that time I realized that I did not posses the amount of aggressive self-promotion energy necessary for success in a performing field.A few years later I resumed my studies in New Orleans (where I grew up) at UNO without a firm sense of direction. I had a friend who was majoring in fine art. I remember the day I went to his house and saw his studio for the first time. I walked into the room where there was an easel with a painting in progress by a table with paints and paintbrushes. Something hit me when I saw that set up and I knew that I wanted to pursue the path of a painter. Painting has been the one constant in my life since that day.
3. Were there people that said that you couldn’t become an artist or said that you weren’t good enough? What was your response and how did you take their criticism?

many-lives72The first art class I took at UNO was “Basics of Design” or something like that. The teacher gave me a C in that class and told me that if I didn’t do better in my next art class then I should really consider dropping art and finding something else to do with my life. My next class was a sculpture class. My teacher in that class was a great guy but I discovered that I am not a sculptor. My project for the class was a large clay sculpture which I did not cover properly so it dried out and broke a day before it was due. I got a D in that class but did not stop learning to create art.

Still to this day I get rejected quite frequently. One of my favorite rejections has come from gallery dealers who say my work is very beautiful but they can’t move work with spiritual content. Well at least I am successful in getting my message across. Or it’s been said that my work is too “New Age” (i.e. – Goddess art is not really art) Or it doesn’t fit with the story the exhibit is wanting to tell. Or there were an unprecedented number of applicants and unfortunately you were not selected, etc. etc, etc. I do get discouraged and wonder sometimes why I keep on. But then I remember that I paint because I have to. I paint because the process of painting is my spiritual practice which helps me reconnect to the source, to the flow.

And now with the advent of the internet and one’s ability to self-promote it’s not unusual to get a message from someone about how my work has touched them, or an image has helped them through a difficult time.

beach-cruiser7214. I sense that there is a strong “spiritual” aspect to your art work? What is your take on these things? (Meaning of life, spirituality, etc)

My spirituality is one of spirit manifesting into the physical. These beliefs are what led me to the Goddess as metaphor for a world of dualities born out of unity.

The underlying theme of all of my work is that life is one big interconnected whole. Back in the 80’s before people started talking about quantum connections and only those who were pursuing studies of Eastern philosophy were talking about the oneness of all, I was trying to resolve these thoughts on canvas with paint. I remember the struggle to express the uniqueness of whatever “thing” -(human, tree, etc) while at the same time it being merged into the ground around it. I am still engaged in the same search. I start a new painting and it gets to a point where the “thing” is definitely a “thing” and I feel like – OK so what?. It needs something more, something that expresses the deep connection, the oneness of all life. Now, I frequently use Sacred Geometry embedded in the painting to express that connection.

As a child growing up in New Orleans, I remember seeing majestic oak trees with leaves dancing in the breeze and sun glistening on the grass which evoked deep feelings of connection to the cosmos. I longed to lie on the bright grass, embrace the earth and feel time disappear. This same feeling surges up in me as I paint. Brushing yellow gold on top of a deeper color, I sense the paints come alive even as I feel myself move outside of ego, outside of time and inside to my deepest source. It is this experience while painting and my desire to express a belief that our bodies and souls are one whole within an interconnected web of life which keeps me returning to my studio.

5. What would you say to aspiring artists out there? A single message.

If you have a burning desire to create art; if you feel you hands itch with the desire to make something; if concepts and images around you inspire visions in your minds eye; if seeing the work of great artists excites you so much that you want to run home and create something of your own; and if you have the courage to find your own voice then by all means go for it. People talk about talent all the time. I think it’s the desire to create that keeps an artist returning to the studio more than talent. And don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration is often found while working.

But don’t romanticize an artist’s life as some easy escape from work and responsibility. It’s hard work, with a lot of alone time and without huge economic rewards. But the rewards to the soul are priceless.

Image courtesy Judith Shaw –




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