Judy Pickett is an artist who combines cyanotype printmaking and encaustic painting to create her botanical artwork. Based in Orlando, she harnesses the light of the Florida sun to create her solar-powered work. When life threw her a curveball, she turned to creativity to keep her grounded. A few years later when she became an empty nester, she found herself returning to her creative work to simultaneously find comfort and push herself out of her comfort zone.
Here is her story.
The seasons of my life have flown by.
Child. Teen. Young woman. Wife. Teacher. Interior Decorator. Mother. Artist?
When the children go off to college and start their own lives where does that leave me? This is the question I was faced with at the end of 2018 when my youngest child went off to college. What is my role in the world when my son and daughter are no longer home? Who am I now? Although I have a degree in elementary education and I have worked in office interiors, for most of my adult life, my primary role was wife and mother. Old fashioned you might say but I loved being home with my kids and taking care of my family. When my kids were young I taught them and helped them to see the world around them, as they grew older I supported their dreams. My family was my life.
In 2014, one of my children developed some heath issues. It was all encompassing. I felt the need to designate a little time for myself. I enrolled in an encaustics class. I knew nothing of this medium but it turned out to be such a great class for me! Encaustic is a type of painting done with paint made from beeswax, demar resin and pigment. At room temperature the paint is at a solid state but when warmed up to 175-200 degrees it becomes molten. As you brush it on your surface and it almost instantly hardens again. Each time you add a layer of paint it must be heated with a heat gun or torch to fuse the layers together. This heating can create beautiful results but it can also create a bit of chaos as the colors blend and move. I found this medium to be very freeing. It taught me to let go a little. Still focusing mainly on my family, I continued to dabble in encaustic for the next couple of years. I also continued to explore other art forms too. When I was introduced to the alternative photography method, known as cyanotype, I was hooked! Cyanotype uses photosensitive paper to develop an image without a camera. It creates beautiful blue and white images by laying an object or a negative onto the paper and exposing it in the sun. It’s magic! Then I began combining the two mediums.
My inspiration comes from living in Florida where I can play in the sun most of the year and I have beautiful tropical plants from which to create my photograms. There is something special about planning a cyanotype print in a darkened room then bringing it into the light to see a new form appear. I start in the morning, laying out designs of plant life on to the light sensitive paper made the night before. It is a joyful time that harkens back to raising my children. As I lay the designs in the sun and wait to see what the sun will make, I feel like a child myself. When the sun has done its job, I rinse and soak the image. I watch the creation happen before my eyes. After the print is thoroughly rinsed, dried and developed, I adhere it to a wood panel. I then smooth the hot encaustic paints over the entire surface, bringing the image to life with light and texture. The union is complete.
For the next couple of years, I continued exploring this union of these two mediums.
Fast forward to Fall of 2018, and I had become an empty nester. 20 years of raising a family. Now what? With the help of my supportive husband, I began to reimagine myself. What did we really want to do with this next chapter of our lives? I thought of all the things I enjoyed doing. My artwork was foremost on my mind. I love creating but I find it difficult to put myself out there. This was so out of my comfort zone. Could I really make this into something? And If so what? It took me most of 2019 to decide to work toward sharing my art. And in December I enrolled in a mentorship class to get things going. My art focus would be cyanotype combined with encaustic, a union of form and texture.
2020 started with two group shows, one in February and one in early March. Then the pandemic hit. Although this put another pause in the trajectory of my art business, my world changed very little. I am one of the fortunate people whose life continued almost normally. I say “almost normally” because there is no “normal” when you see the devastating news each night of death and loss of livelihoods. It forced me to change my focus from myself to what was going on in the world.
Spring of 2020 was a time of worry, sadness, guilt and reflection but by the summer, I made the decision to move forward with my plans to share my work. The solitude caused by the pandemic gave me time to work without interruption on my website, my art, and branding. I picked a single social media focus and plugged into it, giving me a sense of community. I started getting out in nature more, especially working on my cyanotype prints. And I chose a nonprofit to support, through my sales, so I could give back to my community.
I am beyond grateful for the life I have lead and the life I have yet to create. This new stage of life will definitely include sharing my encaustic cyanotypes with the world. All I can really say is this mid-life creation is a Work in Progress.”
Thank you Judy for sharing your work and your story.
You can find more of Judy Pickett’s work on her website.