Art comes in many forms and people find their creative spirit in a variety of mediums. No matter the choice, art can evoke emotion and connect people to each other and to the world around them. Olympian artist Judy Cook has been drawn to an array of art styles and has really found her calling in mixed media art. Through her bright pieces and lighthearted work, Judy hopes to bring a little joy and whimsy to people’s lives.
Judy is a lifelong Washingtonian and has been an artist for as long as she can remember. She didn’t always pursue her art full-time though. For 30 years, Judy worked as a computer programmer for the State of Washington. When she finally decided to retire, she wanted to get back to what was close to her heart, which was art. She pursued an art degree at The Evergreen State College and took art history, printmaking and other art classes. This opened up the world of art for her and she truly loved having the opportunity to learn so many new and exciting things.
“There is something to be said about learning for learning’s sake instead of learning to support yourself,” she says. Being able to pursue this passion rather than go to school simply to pursue a career was a meaningful experience she will always be grateful for.
Since graduating with her art degree in 2014, Judy has worked with many mediums. One of her favorite art methods has been paper mâché because of how unique and versatile it is. The art of paper mâché can be quite tricky and requires a great deal of patience. “You use water, glue, maybe some wiring, and then layers and layers of paper,” Judy explains. “The paper is molded to make whatever you want.” Judy has done many paper mâché pieces, including a praying mantis.
Judy participated in a project where each person was given an encyclopedia with a certain letter and asked to create something. Judy was given the letter ‘M,’ so she used the pages from the ‘M’ Encyclopedia to create the praying mantis. The piece is currently displayed as part of the Collins Memorial Library Book Collection at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
Judy’s other artistic passions are textile work, including silk painting and making scarves. Her silk paintings start off with a piece of silk that is dyed to form the background. She then allows it to dry and uses silk screening to imprint her art onto the silk. Silk screening essentially uses a negative of a line-drawn image to transfer the drawing onto the silk, which can then be detailed with more paint or with wax. Her scarves are hand-crafted using a wet-felting process, which means she uses layers of fabric and threads and then wets and agitates the material to get it to shrink. The result is a beautiful, colorful patterned scarf that can be used to compliment any outfit.
While Judy’s art is usually lighthearted, she recognizes that art can be a great platform to communicate messages about difficult topics in our world. She recently created a multi-media textile piece called “Invisible,” which was focused on the missing Native American girls and women in our country. “My thought was to use art as a voice to make a statement about current events,” she says. “I chose to focus on Red Lives Matter because I have a connection through childhood friends and family members.” The piece demonstrates how these women have become invisible in our society with the names and figures fading into the forest. The piece was chosen out of 500 entries to be featured in the Collective Visions Gallery Show in Bremerton, which Judy was honored to be a part of.
While art can be used for serious topics, Judy usually prefers to be more whimsical with her pieces. “I want to bring joy to people with my art,” she says. “It has been a great outlet for me that way.” Art has become a huge part of Judy’s world and she cherishes the time she has to dedicate to her craft now that she is retired.
Some people may feel like it is too late to get started, but Judy thinks otherwise. “Art is something you can do your whole life,” Judy says. She encourages people wanting to get started to stay true to themselves, especially if they hope to make a career out of their art. “Do it for yourself and your enjoyment,” she adds. “You should enjoy what you are doing and to do that you first need to figure out what you want to do for yourself.”