One-on-One with Judy Steffens, Illinois
What is your work about?
I’m a figurative artist. I paint people in everyday life situations. My current focus is my ongoing Beach series celebrating people enjoying the sand and the sea. I was inspired by a year of living in Florida and also by many visits there. On the beach I observed women and men of all ages, shapes, sizes and colors simply enjoying themselves without body shame or worry of their appearance. Their peacefulness and relaxed confidence in that setting made an impression on me. My admiration of these beach-goers led to this series of paintings.
Do you have a studio routine, strategy or ritual that helps you get in the creative zone?
I work Monday through Friday starting at 9:00 am till about 3:00pm. I get up by 6:30 and have a cup of coffee, usually sitting in front of my easel, while I catch up on email and social media and review my to-do list. By the time I set up my work area and pick up my brushes I’m ready to go, mentally and physically. I listen to the radio, podcasts and music. I switch it up for variety. I also try to catch the NXT Level Q&A’s. Having a routine is crucial for me.
How has the pandemic affected your art practice?
The pandemic has had very little effect on my art practice. My goal for 2020 was to spend as much time in my studio as possible and paint as many paintings as possible. If anything, the pandemic has made that easier because – no where else to go and nothing else to do! As my studio is in my home, I have been able to work as usual. My husband, however, has been teleworking during this time, but I enjoy his company. He does his thing, I do mine. And he gives me feedback which I appreciate.
What is your greatest reward, memory, accomplishment or proud moment as an artist?
Honestly, the one thing I am most proud of is that David Crosby (Crosby Stills and Nash – yes that David Crosby) follows me on instagram. He occasionally “likes” my posts and once commented “Nice work, Judy”. I met him in November of 2018 after a concert and gave him a very small painting inspired by one of his songs. He seemed truly touched and said he’d take it home to his wife. A close second proud moment happened recently. A gallery owner saw my work in person the first time and immediately offered me a solo show.
What is one thing you MUST have in your studio?
There are only a few things I MUST have in my studio. Besides my paints, canvas and supplies. I must have good light. I must have a radio, a computer and my podcasts and music. I must have coffee and snacks, but since I’m at home that’s easy. But of all of these, the most crucial items I MUST have is good light. I have big windows and lots of them so only on rainy days is that a problem. Then I have to resort to artificial light, when natural light is by far my preference.
What would you tell your future self about being an artist right now?
What I’d tell my future self is a tough one. If I could go back and talk to my 20 year old young art student self I’d say, “Stop cutting classes. Spend every hour in the studio you can. Consider constructive criticism, but don’t take to heart negative comments about your style or subjects. This opportunity is only here now and your family sacrificed for it. Make the most of every second. Don’t stop painting.” To my future self I’d say, “I’m glad you picked up your brushes and got busy. You’ve enjoyed years as an artist. Never too late.”
How has the Art NXT Level Academy improved your art career?
I had a degree in art but no career before the Art NXT Level Academy. I only painted a few paintings a year and my subjects were random. I joined the Academy as a new, emerging artist. I learned how and why to develop a cohesive body of work. I learned how to show my work more selectively, how to develop the right relationships and how to begin to get my work noticed. I began to have sales through social media. I learned that in spite of my age it is possible to have an art career.
What is the best art career advice you’ve ever received?
I first saw Sergio Gomez on FaceBook as he and Dr. Yanina were about to launch the 5 Day Emerging Artist Workshop. Describing what an emerging artist is he said that an emerging artist can be any age. Those words stopped me and grabbed my attention because I am, well, not young. So I kept listening and was intrigued and encouraged by what I was hearing. I took the workshop and joined the academy and have had successes I know I’d never have achieved on my own. Best advice I’ve ever received – an emerging artist can be any age.