Judy SoutherlandThis past weekend, with snow and slush still filling the streets, we made our way to a talk by our good friend Judy Southerland, a Washington DC artist, who’s  show at a gallery in town was about to end and we wanted to see her latest work.   Judy’s the godmother of our boat.  After we purchased her last fall, I ran a  short competition with my Facebook friends to name her and Judy won.  She gave us Dolce Vento, Sweet Wind.

When I retired the first time (yes, this is my third retirement) back in 90’s, I signed up for “open class” drawing lessons at the Corcoran School of Art and Design.  I had visions of bursting out of my corporate consulting persona to become a visual artist. However, despite my lifetime of dabbling with art and persistence at the easel, by the end of the second class, my lack of talent once again revealed itself.

Judy, as my Corcoran teacher, was refreshing, open, expressive and always encouraging, no matter what any of us in class did.  Judy’s a down to earth person who grew up in Alabama with no formal artistic training except for her high school years of stenciling and poster making until she was in college.  She creates from those deep Alabama roots that people who have lived in the south connect with.  In fact, at one time, she painted with dirt (we have two abstracts that attest to it).  I love Judy because despite her superlative instruction, informal but serious approach to work, encouragement to let myself go and to just let the work emerge, she accepted my decision not to continue. My best work was a charcoal sketch of a handkerchief; not exactly something ready for prime or even sub-prime time.

Good work takes time.  You do a little, step back, see and let it sink in, then return to work some more until you know it’s done. The process is as important as the end product.  Truthfully, I was just not wanting to “do the process time”.   Instead of finding joy in the work, I found backaches, headaches, heartaches, frustration and sadness with tears sometimes filling my eyes by the end of a stressful class. My sophomore year college art teacher had been right; even on a good day, I am only a B- student who would never flower. My paintings were dead, in dire need of resuscitation, and I’ll never forgive that woman for grabbing the brush out of my hand to “touch up” my work.

The magic that connects my hand to my brain just doesn’t exist.  It’s all lost in the translation.  (Perhaps that is why I can’t play tennis or catch a ball as well).  Anyway,  Judy became a good friend instead of instructor and John and I watched her work evolve over the years through realism to abstraction and experimentation to her latest elemental “root” work as I call it.  I may not be able to make art, but I certainly can see the magic when its there.