Judy Takács: A Heroine’s Journey

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

I love when I can make the paint into life, when it switches from an inanimate object to a living person. I love when I can get the paint colors to become flesh. I love when I can get the drawing believable and at the same time full of flair and personality. I love when a single stroke makes the difference between representation and profound understanding.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?

Waking up early, kicking off a great painting day by downloading about 15 excellent itunes songs that I’ve been writing down as I hear them. Then putting in a full and productive painting day all before making a late lunch for my family and having the kids all enjoy each other’s company. Then, in the evening getting together with girlfriends for dinner and laughing till my face hurts. Then coming home to my sweet husband, going for our nightly walk in the neighborhood and talking about philosophy, politics, events, art, the kids and life.

What is my greatest fear?

I always fear for the safety and health of my family. These are things I cannot necessarily control. I don’t sit around and worry about not being a good enough artist or dying in obscurity because that is all within my control…more or less.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

“Deplore” is a strong word, and I’m usually pretty positive and confident about myself. But I wish I were more comfortable with confrontation. I really just want everyone to be happy and I don’t like to argue with people. I generally try to look for common ground, but sometimes people need to be confronted even if it’s uncomfortable. And, this feeling spills over into to the art, I’m always thinking in the back of my mind, how I would explain this painting at an art opening, and sometimes, that thinking affects what I paint…or at least what paintings I show.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

Rose Frantzen, Daniel Sprick, Steven Assael, David Kassan, Aleah Chapin, Jenny Saville, Judy Carducci, Burton Silverman, Leslie Adams, Pamela Wilson, Jeffrey Hein, and lately I can’t get enough of the work of Karen Offutt…the list is long, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many genuinely good people out there in the art world…good as artists and good as people too.

What is my greatest extravagance?

When I’m traveling, I’ll splurge on a hotel in a convenient location. At my stage in life, I’m done with the days of getting a cheaper place that’s far away. I like to be able to walk to museums and good restaurants and fascinating areas when I travel. I will also buy art I love sometimes. I also will splurge for shoes that are cute AND comfortable. Cute can be cheap, comfortable can be cheap, but the combination is rare and pricey, but totally worth it. Those are the shoes I actually wear. Now this sounds like a Glamour Magazine interview.

On what occasion would I lie?

If I felt the lie would truly benefit the person I’m lying to, more than the truth would. It’s trading my moral high ground for the well-being of another person.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

I wish I could carve out space better. My paintings don’t have much depth. I’d probably have to do more interiors and landscapes to get better at depth, but they don’t hold my attention or beckon me to paint them. I do admire paintings with beautiful space in them though. I also would like to find that passionate something in me and release it so my work can get from “here” to “there”…but I don’t know exactly what that is, or where “there” actually is. It may not exist, and I may just have to keep plugging along and let inspiration find me working.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

This past Thursday I had a great painting day. I almost always paint in my studio, and it was a subject that had been working around in my brain for weeks and weeks while I was traveling and not painting nearly enough. I finally did paint, after a week of not painting, and surprisingly it went beautifully. Love those days. And, as always, I hope my best painting day is still ahead of me.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I’d be more courageous in art and in life. And I’d tell the truth more about what I do and don’t want to do. I think I’m too polite sometimes…(see the question about avoiding confrontation.)

What is my greatest achievement in work?

A few years ago, I embarked upon a zany idea…Chicks with Balls…where I painted unsung female heroes from my ordinary suburban world…topless and holding balls. I wrote their stories on my blog (chickswithballsjudytakacs.blogspot.com) and also published a book on blurb.com (http://www.blurb.com/b/4503608-chicks-with-balls). The fact that I took this zany idea and built it to the point where so SO many people connected with it and now know me as the “artist who does Chicks with Balls” is really pretty remarkable. I feel like I’ve really done a good thing with this…for myself as an artist and also for the beautiful women who have posed for me.

Here’s a short video of the complete collection as it was shown at the Cuyahoga Community College Gallery East in Cleveland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO4QACeS9XQ

And here’s a TV interview I did where I talk about the Chicks project:

Where would I most like to live?

Exactly where I’m living right now, in our beautiful house that we built a few years ago with my spacious studio, right here in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s the best place in the world to live, though there are so many places in the world I’d like to travel to; London, NYC, Paris, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Vienna, Budapest, Milan, Moscow…all with amazing museums.

What is my most treasured possession?

The possessions that I can’t live without are those that enable me to live my life the way I want to. My car is a very big SUV, which enables me to transport paintings up to 48″ by 72″, and it can get through most snow situations safely too. I can also carry 8 people, or my family of 5 and all our baggage (literally and figuratively). I also can’t live without my coffee machine, because, well…coffee. I also love my itunes playlist…about 1500 songs that I paint to, and really love collecting and adding to. And my favorite paint color that I’m crushing on right now (Glamour Magazine lingo again) is Michael Harding’s Unbleached Titanium! I’ve ordered a second and third tube, but it’s on back order so I’m rationing it!

What is my most marked characteristic?

I had to ask my husband for the answer to this one, since I think I’m fairly ordinary. This is what he said… “I would say it is the dichotomy of you being very caring and empathic but also very determined and undaunted when faced with challenges. You’re like a cherry tree: roots firmly anchored in the earth so as to withstand the strongest gale… yet with delicate blossoms that can be moved by a whisper.”…I’m hoping this is a teaser for his Valentine’s Day poem for me next year!

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

Right upstairs in my studio. I also love going to the art museum too, the Cleveland Museum of Art. My inspirations have changed over the years, but I’m always finding a new treat there. The Butler Institute of American Art is about an hour from me too, and they have a gorgeous Sargent and a couple amazing Cecilia Beaux’ too! Not to mention the best Raymond Kinstler I’ve seen yet!

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

Tommy’s on Coventry. They have the hands down best falafels anywhere, ever. And, also a restaurant that’s no longer there, called Lemon Grass, a Thai place with the best Pla Rad Pick (a phenomenal fish dish that’s sweet, tangy, spicy and crispy all at the same time) in the world. The sushi at Imperial Wok is also to die for!

What books influenced my life and how?

I’m as Democrat as the day is long, but I really loved Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I identified with the strong, smart, quick as a whip and highly principled female heroine who is doing ALL the work and supporting EVERYONE. I also loved The Fountainhead, featuring an groundbreaking architect who does not compromise his vision for anyone for any reason. Another book with a strong female lead, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. A dystopic fantasy novel, when I read it back in the ’80s; it is now more of a scary warning tale about how precarious our women’s rights actually are. And, A Thousand Splendid Suns was awesome. Strong women in Afghanistan, enduring and prevailing in a hideously oppressive society. And, Roots was wonderful and horrible too. There again, strong heroes and heroines prevailing under the worst form of torture and oppression imaginable.

Who are my favorite writers?

Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Ayn Rand, Khaled Hosseini, Alex Haley. Steven King and Philippa Gregory are guilty pleasures!

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

Bob Dylan. And I’d go out with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”…Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Also, maybe

Boz Skagg’s “Loan me a Dime”. Also, anything sung by Nina Simone. But, hopefully by that time my playlist will have evolved into something completely different…maybe some great music that hasn’t even been written yet. Though, I know my kids would choose to bury me to “Me and Bobby McGee”. They know that’s “my song.”

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

Dagny Taggert from Atlas Shrugged. I also loved Artemesia Gentileschi from The Passion of Artemesia. I also find Uma Thurman’s Character, “the bride” in Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Kill Bill to be strangely satisfying…in a “living vicariously through her badassery” kind of way!

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

My mom. She is the ultimate unsung heroine. A mild-mannered Hungarian-American Professor of English Literature, she had a fierce side and authored some amazing histories and fiction books. She was also my biggest champion. I miss her every day.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

I’d love to mention some art movie that no one’s heard of, but, truly one of the movies I thought was brilliant was Shallow Hal. Yes, with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow. He’s shallow and only likes gorgeous skinny girls and he has a spell cast on him where instead of seeing someone’s physical appearance he sees their soul; if their soul is beautiful, then they are gorgeous. If their soul is bad, they’re ugly. He doesn’t know he’s seeing people this way and the hilarity ensues…but it’s also an amazing message for us all to live by, and it’s delivered in a fun and surprising way. So, I think everyone should see this movie.

What role plays art in my life and work?

A pretty darn big role actually. It’s what I do. That said, I will set it aside when kids are home from their college breaks so I can putter in the kitchen and hope to have some meaningful moments with them. Yes, sometimes I make them pose for me, but that only goes so far… I want to be fully in the moment when they’re around. Art feeds life feeds art…I say.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

My husband…whether he knows it or not. He’s my best friend and has, over the years (26 now!) come to recognize what the right and wrong things to say and do concerning my art career. He supports me unconditionally and has never tried to control my successes and failures. And he makes me laugh all the time. He is also someone I can vent to about just about everything, and it’s satisfying. He lets my frustrating story become a funny story and that helps me put it into perspective too. And did you see the poetic words he wrote about me earlier in this interview?

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?

I need to embark upon another project where I park myself in a location and paint people I would otherwise not slow down and get to know; a project like when I painted senior citizens in my hometown, or retired nuns. I feel this project should attempt to bridge and heal some of the divisive gaps between cultures created by our current political situation. I just have to find the right situation with eager models.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017?

Because I attend the Portrait Society each year, I have a beautiful opportunity to meet many of the artists I admire. Some of the artists I love whom I have not met are Jenny Saville, Steven Assael, Vincent Desidario, Margaret Bowland.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?

On deck, I have about six Chicks paintings waiting for me…women who have volunteered to pose since the last traveling Chicks show in 2015. I have also begun a series incorporating writings from my mom and dad who passed away this past year. Professors of English and Mathematics, the loads of hand-written notebooks were staggering. I’ve saved many of them and taken pieces of ephemera to incorporate as collage elements into paintings…sending out my parents’ energy into the world again. And I just thought of a cool idea this morning, but it’s not in the verbalization stage

Where can you see me or my work in 2017?

In June, I’ll have two paintings in a show called, “Step Right Up” …a carnival theme show at the e11even2 Gallery at Cleveland’s 78th Street Studios. And, in the next year, I’ll be planning my inaugural exhibit at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. This organization archives the work and sustains the legacy of notable Cleveland Artists. I was asked to archive a piece of my work there a few years ago, and couldn’t have been more honored to be asked at such a young age. (50) At my request, I’ll be sharing my inaugural exhibit with Marilyn Szalay, one of Cleveland’s foremost figurative artists and educators…now passed away. And, I’m always entering juried shows, so hopefully there will be a nice selection of those too for 2017!

 What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

In my life, this means that I shall paint, draw and create art until the day I die. I hope to die with a paintbrush in my hand…some day very far in the future of course!

 Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

Alia El-Bermani is the first one who came to mind. She’s my personal contemporary hero as one of the founders of the Women Painting Women movement, along with Diane Feissel and Sadie Valeri. WPW began as a blog and has expanded into a phenomenon that celebrates the work of women artists and also embraces the notion of the “female gaze” viewing and depicting female subjects in art…a very different sensibility than the traditional “male gaze”. A very sensitive, intuitive and expressive realist, she is a very generous mover and shaker, curator, juror, speaker and all around exemplary role model in art.

How can you contact me?

 website: judytakacspaintspeople.com

Blog: chickswithballsjudytakacs@me.com

Email: judytakacs@me.com

Facebook: Judy Takács, artist

Facebook: Chicks with Balls, Judy Takács Paints Unsung Female Heroes

Wikipedia: Judy Takács

Instagram: JudyTakacs


The Heroine’s Journey is brought to you by Peter de Kuster dedicated to educate, amuse and enrich creative professionals.

Almost five years after launching The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Journey, business storyteller Peter has become an irreverent, forceful voice—inspiring people to make make money doing what they love.

To learn more about having Peter speak at your event mail him at peterdekuster@hotmail.nl


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