Judy Sherman – Friday Night Guest – November 25, 2022
(Submitted by Sally Williams)
Judy Sherman was our guest presenter and treated us to a wonderful timeline of her evolution as a painter, followed by a demo. Her award-winning work resides in many galleries, as well as private and corporate collections. After graduating from Humber College and taking additional courses at OCAD, Judy began her career as a graphic designer and illustrator. Her love of travel led her to spend many years studying and working in Florence, Italy. Returning to Toronto, she found work painting murals and faux finishes. Encouraged to move to fine art (shows & galleries) she now also teaches from either her home studio in Aurora, or the McMichael Gallery.
Not content within the confines of very traditional training, Judy blends her love of the old master style with animation to comment on world circumstances, and a love of observation on the delicate balance between humans and animals. Humour (sometimes a little dark) plays a big part in the joy her work brings to viewers and collectors. It’s guaranteed to spark conversation with its lovely blend of narrative and representational style.
Judy mostly works from life, and has amassed a lot of “props” and visual reference material e.g. vintage toys that feature heavily in her earlier work. She started moving into painting animals and submitted a piece for the Canada 150 (honouring the Group of Seven) and was inspired to move in this direction after painting a friend’s pet pig. She thought the subject needed something, added a gun, titled the work “Go Ahead, Make My Day” and was encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response. She realized this was a fun direction to take.
Another piece “Cowbird” won an award, and this led her back to painting toys, but this time, much looser. More relaxed.
Judy finds she’s evolved from painting academically to now “creating” and her work has more emotion. She works from life where possible but uses photo reference material when needed. Samples of her work included a commissioned selfie of a man with a bird on his cap. She articulated the need to sometimes use artistic license and adjust parts of the final image (perhaps the pose or background elements), knowing the client trusts her judgement.
After a wonderful discussion of her career, it was onto the demo. Judy mentioned upfront that she’d probably be challenged by the artificial lighting, as she usually works with natural light whenever possible. She discussed her choice of subject (a beautiful, bright red cardinal), the humorous setting, and let us in on her title (we look forward to seeing the finished work!)
Judy doesn’t feel the need to under paint and is happy to begin with the white background (but prefers a grey palette for her paints, as it helps figure out mid-tones and what colours will look like before applying them to the board or canvas).
Working on camera, she toggled between red and orange to build tone in the cardinal’s body (try and avoid using black paint if possible. You can create rich greys and darks using blue and brown). Judy pointed out that painting in artificial light was making it tricky to gauge the tone and shadow and vibrancy of the red, and she’d revisit it later, with better light.
She likes to sketch with a favourite brush and starts mapping out the overall scene and figuring out the direction, and negative space, basic shapes and proportion. The process includes a “dead colour” layer, to figure out light and shadow and proportions. Then the detailing, as she gets to know her subject.
During our Q&A, Judy shared that she prefers to not mix any mediums with her paints (odour, environment etc). She also pops her brushes into the freezer to save on cleanup time!
Her advice, while working on the demo was: Try and sketch and paint with a large brush. It’ll keep your work loose and force you to “paint, not draw, which is important”.
There was discussion with Judy in the chat about using well known figures e.g. Looney Tunes characters in her paintings, and the issue of copyright when it comes to painting one original vs prints. This sparked a conversation about copyright and the difference between a one off original vs making prints.
We were also directed to a few useful photo reference resources:
Thank you, Judy, for a wonderful insight into your work, process and inspiration!
If you would like to learn more about Judy’s work and teaching schedule, she is happy to answer queries about her work or courses. You can find her online here: