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Creative Pagosa: Judy Robbins

Photo courtesy Judy Robbins Printmaker and painter Judy Robbins is registered in the Pagosa Arts and Culture web directory and will be one of the participants in the MAKERS Expo and Tour, to be held in Pagosa Springs on Oct. 12-13.

Photo courtesy Judy Robbins
Printmaker and painter Judy Robbins is registered in the Pagosa Arts and Culture web directory and will be one of the participants in the MAKERS Expo and Tour, to be held in Pagosa Springs on Oct. 12-13.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to http://pagosaacp.org/Register.html.

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Judy Robbins.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

“It’s funny you should ask that because about a week ago it really sank in that I am an artist, that it is quite alright to call myself that because, after many years of dodging that question, the truth is that is what I do, all aspects of it. I am also a longtime wife and mother in my spare time.

“I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My father was a steelworker, my mother a housewife and I grew up in a very blue collar, steel-manufacturing city. I must be honest and say that life was not easy for us — it was not easy growing up there or getting an education; just staying in school was an accomplishment.

“I am the oldest of six children, so I have some of the overbearing leadership qualities that imposes, as well as knowing more than anyone else. My father would not allow me to take art classes in high school as he believed I needed to support myself at a paying job (he was right), so I went into the commercial secretary track, even though art and literature were my obsessions.

“After high school, I did go to Teachers’ College where we actually had to take an art education class. We made videos, sculptures and potato prints and I think that is where the first dream of being an artist got started. I studied printmaking using metal plates and a press in Canada at the Dundas Valley School of Art after my working day as a secretary was done and continued to take classes in the United States after emigrating here with my American husband in 1976.

“After earning my nursing degree in Massachusetts and working for several years in that field, I reached a crisis where I knew I did not want to live my life like a square peg in a round hole and with the support of my ever-patient husband, I went back to school and graduated at age 49 with a degree in fine art. Since my husband’s retirement, we have lived in Maine, Arizona, New Mexico and now Colorado. In each place, I exhibited my art at different venues, entered juried shows and opened my studios to the public.”

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

“I have been doing a lot of printmaking in the last few years after primarily working in oils. I studied up to the Advanced level with Michael Coffee at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts in the reductive printmaking process. Monoprints and linocuts are my chosen printmaking methods. I also belong to the Sonoran Paperworks Collective in Tucson and that community is very active in exhibiting the paper and book arts, including collage, which is a new interest of mine. I also paint in oils, my subjects being landscapes, buildings and animals of the Southwest. When I moved to the Southwest, a whole world of light and color and starkly beautiful geography opened up to me. I was in awe and loved that this place lends itself to the possibilities of all the mediums I work with. I also write a WordPress blog and poetry, although I do not have the audacity to call myself a poet yet.”

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work?  Why?

“Paper for printing and collage, inks, carving tools, brushes, canvases and boards, all sorts of little mark-making tools, X-acto blades, glue and oil paints are some of the things I use to make art. I have always loved paper and hoard lots of different types, including paper I dye myself. Plastic food wrap will always be found in my studio to keep inks and paints moist on the palette. You can never have too much plastic wrap and paper towels. I have an antique clothes rack mounted on the wall which has been invaluable in hanging prints and papers to dry.”

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

“I do not start my day with an agenda as that never works out. When I have a block of time of three hours or more I will be working in the studio or at my desk. However, my mind is always churning away and there are amazing projects in there just waiting to be called up. I tend to be the pondering type and start a new project with some visual image of what I want to do. So even though it looks like I am just dead-heading flowers or washing the floor there is a lot of thinking going on about my next work.”

Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

“My late mother-in-law, who was a huge influence on me, told me very early in my married life to “do the right thing” no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant it might be. In those situations where it would be easier to just opt out or live life as if people don’t matter, I have tried to follow her advice. I try to treat people like I would like to be treated and to be an honorable person. My husband is a never-ending fount of advice so there is no shortage there, but in serious matters, he is my go-to guy for wisdom.”

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa country?

“We have done some wonderful hikes here. We like to eat out at our favorite restaurants, listen to good music, go the PSCA theater to see their amazing productions. We like to take trips around the state to hear musicians we know about, visiting some of the little towns of Colorado. My criteria for living in a place is that it is beautiful, safe and good biking territory and Pagosa Springs met all that. So if you see an older lady in neon orange or green cranking along U.S. 160 in the breakdown lane, please don’t honk. I sometimes like to just hop in the truck and go to the transfer station with my husband.”

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

“I plan to continue experimenting with the reductive monoprints and do some very small oils and a couple of large ones of the places I encounter in Colorado and Arizona. I would also like to enter some juried shows and get my work out there a bit more. Literature and poetry classes are on the agenda. One short-term goal is getting the studio and work ready for the Makers Tour and Expo. I think this is going to be a significant event for Pagosa and I know personally how hard certain people — you know who you are! — have worked to make this happen. I am very grateful for the opportunity and so look forward to meeting people in my studio.”

Q: What is your dream project?

“One of my dream projects would be to write a book of poetry and use my prints as accompanying art work supporting the poems.”

This story was posted on August 15, 2013.