Τετάρτη, 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

The portrait of an artist: Judith Clay


Alice's first snow


In the magical world of Judith Clay anything is likely to happen ...

These strange girls with big eyes and square faces, go out at night and chase the moon...
 They catch it with their hands, hold it like a mirror and the sun is peeking and feels jealous...
They wear butterflies in their eyes, they tie them on a string and walk with them... 
They embrace fish and keep them under their umbrellas to protect them from water when it rains .... 
 They blow dandelions, they fill the night with their soft feathers and talk with the birds...
  When they read, the world around them comes alive ... 
They fly high with autumn leaves ... 
They can do everything
Their dresses inflate like balloons and their long hair is waving. Tulips bend when they fly and grass is caressing their tiny feet ...


After hours at the Christmas market
When did you begin to paint, what made you decide to do illustration?

I have always been fascinated by the pictures in story books, and started to draw when I was about 8 years old.  After high school, I completed the three- year training to become a ceramic painter.  I didn’t start to do “illustrations” until much later, although I don’t consider myself an illustrator in the traditional sense.  I create my pictures as originals, not to be printed and published in a book or magazine.

Is there a text, a book, a fairy tale, a song you would like to illustrate but haven’t yet?

I have a book of old local stories and legends from the area where I’m from, a small town in Northern Bavaria. It is called "Legends of the Sonneberger Low Country and its neighbors". Some of the stories explain where the name of a town or castle comes from, some have ghosts, witches, or mysterious treasures in them.  I would like to illustrate some of those stories.   

Happy birthday, Pippi
What kind of illustrations do you do? Would you like to share a unique experience you had when illustrating a book?

So far, I have only illustrated and published one book, a story that I also wrote, "Thea’s Tree"[1].  What was unique about the story of this book is that it developed out of the leaf of a tree.  On my daily walks with our dog, I always passed a row of poplar trees and fell in love with the shape of their leaves.  The whole story developed around that leaf.   

What materials do you usually use?

I’m a mixed media artist.  I use inks, ink pens, pastel sticks, colored pencils, and collage elements.  I love the texture of watercolor paper, so most of my drawings and collages are done on heavy watercolor paper.

Hide and seek
Is there time of day you prefer to work? Do you always paint at home?

I am a morning person and prefer to work early in the day, but when I’m very involved in a drawing, I don’t care what time it is.  All my work is done at home since my studio is in the second bedroom of our house.  Although, I always take my artwork with me when we travel.  So sometimes my work is done in hotel rooms. 

What is on your desk at this moment?

Everything.  My desk is always covered with pens, pencils, pastel sticks, paper, scissors, brushes, rulers, little toys, postcards, ink bottles…

Are you currently working on something?

At the moment, I am working on the third part of a three-piece winter collage series.  They are three separate collages that—in the end—will fit together to make one collage. 

Last days of summer
Is illustration a profession for your or a hobby? Is it possible to make a living through illustration in your country?

It is definitely a profession for me that I take very seriously, although I don’t consider myself an illustrator, more a self-employed artist who does illustrations.  I have only done one picture book.  My pictures “illustrate” the stories that are in my head or a fairy tale that inspired me, but are not usually done to be published. I sell them as originals or prints and take part in exhibits with them. At that moment we are living at the United States. I don't work as an illustrator, but others do and it looks like they can make a living as illustrators. I don't know how easy it is. It is not easy as an independent artist, which I could call myself.

Which illustrators -classical or contemporary- have inspired you?

There are so many…  Susanne Janssen, Anne Herbauts, Sara Fanelli, CarllCneut, Wolf Erlbruch, Edward Gorey, ElodieNouhen, Momo Takano, Olaf Hajek… But I also take inspiration from traditional artists like Paul Klee or Henri Rousseau. 

Roller Coaster Ride
Image forms imagination. When you paint do you think that the images will come alive in the imagination of children?

That is the hope that I have for my pictures.  That is part of the reason why I like to add a lot of details:  to take the viewer away in different directions of the imagination.

What is an illustrator’s relationship with childhood? How much do your childhood memories define your work?

My childhood memories are what defines my work.  I use toys, games, places, clothes, fairy tales, experiences, etc. from my childhood and use them in my drawings.  I consider my childhood memories my most important source of inspiration.


Twilight hour
I have always thought that illustration is for painting what lyrics are for poetry. Sometimes the lyrics are considered to be poetry. What is the relationship of illustration to the art of painting?

To me, illustrations are paintings or drawings or collages that tell stories.
In your illustrations girls always have very big eyes, almost square faces and tiny feet. Their body type almost looks like a collage. What lead you to this choice?

For many years I developed and changed the characters (yes, mostly girls) in my pictures.  The big eyes developed because—for me—they connect the character on the paper to the viewer, they draw the viewer into the picture.  The tiny feet are important because they make it easier for my characters to “fly away” or “dance away” from reality into fairytale land.  You can’t do that with big feet!

 ***

[1]     Thea' s Tree was chosen for the White Ravens of the International Youth Library in 2012.
[2] Judith Clay is an award-winning German artist and writer. Her work has been widely exhibited in Europe. 




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