A Baker’s Dozen of Q&As with Portland Artist Judy Wise

Mark making is a term used for the creation of different patterns, lines, textures, and shapes using, well, whatever you can get your hands on. Charcoal, ink, scratching things out with something sharp. What you do with these patterns, lines, textures and shapes determines if you have a still life of an apple or chaos. Judy Wise has chosen chaos and the hope of bringing some order to that chaos. Her influences are the thriving dance, music, live theater and museums of Portland, with the ever-present and important environmental impact, or lack of, that is so important to all Portlanders. Think spontaneous. Think lively and thoughtful. Think Portland and you’ll see the order that Wise has brought to the chaos of her art.

Bridgeliner: Contemporary art is a big umbrella that covers different types of art that deserve their own classification. What type of art do you make – how would you classify it?

Judy Wise: I paint abstractly with a lot of mark making because I love the tools of paint and pencil or crayon. In my mind I am not in any “camp” I just play with the materials that I find useful. I paint and draw because I love to look at paintings and drawings myself. I am the same child that stood in awe before an oil painting and decided that was how I wanted to spend my life; learning about how to do that. I thought it was sacred then and I still do.

Bridgeliner: What’s your favorite color to use and why? And is there a color you’d never use (and why)?

Judy Wise: I suppose if I had to choose a favorite color it would be yellow because that color always lifts my vibration and makes me feel better. But no color lives in solitude, it’s always about relationships and harmony or conflict; that’s why there could never be a color I would avoid. What a dead world, one in which we tried to rein in diversity.

Bridgeliner: What themes do you pursue?

Judy Wise: My goal is to uplift, to create hope and beauty. Renewal, I suppose, and faith in the human spirit. I don’t think of that when I’m painting but those are values I try to bring to every transaction in my life.

Bridgeliner: What research do you do?

Judy Wise: I am always studying. Especially the properties of paint, plaster, the materials I use in my work. I like to grind my own pigments out of rocks I collect and experiment with marble dust, wax, various paints and textures. I spend more time studying and researching at times than I do painting in the studio. I’ve also worked in ceramics, printmaking (etching and woodcut), sculpting. There is so much to enrich the experience and imagination.

Bridgeliner: How has your art changed over time?

Judy Wise: It’s gotten more confident, looser, and less “perfected”. That’s kind of funny because I should be “better” now that I know more but actually, the work is more childlike than ever. It is a return, perhaps, to just making human marks and loving the imperfection in that.

Bridgeliner: What is your dream project?

Judy Wise: I kind of like when someone commissions me to do something that overwhelms me. Then I have to hunker down and pull out all of my coping skills to overcome my own fears and limitations. I love the challenge of working bigger and bolder than I’ve done in the past. So it’s the thing that I fear as well as the thing that will bring me a new level of knowing myself and what I’m capable of.

Bridgeliner: What role does the artist have in society?

Judy Wise: To show us all how worthy life is. How beautiful. How we all have goodness in ourselves to contribute. For example, I love theatre and go to live performances as often as I’m able. I always leave the theatre uplifted and joyful. I love it when the actors can make me really feel, cry, rejoice. I think it is the highest good to offer love in that form. I fall in love with the actors for the joy and depth of feeling they bring.

Bridgeliner: What do you tell people when they say they don’t have a creative bone in their body?

Judy Wise: I don’t tell them anything. It’s just a thing people say. But of course, we are all creative. We make the world with our actions at each moment.

Bridgeliner: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about your art? And the best piece of advice you would give?

Judy Wise: An older artist years ago told me that no one could tell me how to be an artist. That’s the advice I would give as well. The fun really is in living the mystery day by day. Finding the materials and methods that bring you, a unique human being, the most joy. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t what it should be. I think art should be joyful play. A difficult puzzle to solve which every human is capable of doing in their own way. You can’t fail because you get to write the rules and you also get to decide what it means to win.

Bridgeliner: Let’s talk about Portland. What has Portland meant to your art? How has the Portland art community helped you?

Judy Wise: Portland gave me a great gift in being able to sell my etchings at the Saturday Market in the 80’s and 90’s. That gave me time to really learn how to be a maker as it also gave me an income to survive on while I learned. So I owe Portland a lot. I love living here and have participated in Artquake, Art in the Pearl, and many local art shows that have put me in touch with the art community here. It’s been extraordinary.

Bridgeliner: What Portland artist do you admire?

Judy Wise: Gosh, so many. Fay Jones. Rene Rickabaugh. Rick Bartow, Liza Jones. And others. Many over the years whose work has challenged and inspired me. Also Jim Hibbard, my life drawing teacher at PSU.

Bridgeliner: Who are the artists (from anywhere/anytime) that have inspired you the most?

Judy Wise: Again, too many to choose from. I’d hate to leave anyone out. Vermeer. Otto Dix. Egon Schiele. Every folk, child and institutionalized artist, Hannelore Baron, Joan Mitchel, Cy Twombly, I’ll stop there and then change the list many times. I love almost all artists who have gone before me.

Bridgeliner: You’re stuck on a deserted island. You can only grab one tool out of your art box. What was it? Why?

Judy Wise: A pen. And please, my journal. That’s my home on earth. Where I go to the fountain for renewal.

The paintings above are on sale on Judy’s website and are named, in order of appearance:

Very Fine House  by Judy Wise

June Bug by Judy Wise

Marking the Days by Judy Wise

By Bridgeliner Creative Studio
The Bridgeliner Creative Studio helps clients big and small engage locals, through campaigns that use creative marketing, storytelling, events, and activations to build community, conversation, and impact.