Usually I’m not in the right place at the right time. I’m more of a day late, dollar short kinda gal. This past fall I began thinking about moving my studio out of the house. I started researching spaces and costs and communities. On impulse one afternoon, I stopped by a local opening. Judith HeartSong was there. I had connected with her online before, but this was the first time I’d met her in person.
And she just happened to be starting something very exciting.
For once I was somewhere at the right time. And I know her new endeavor Artists & Makers Studios is the right place for me.
I haven’t known Judith long, but I can tell you she’s all about supporting artists. She’s driven. Professional. Caring.
I may be leaving my house to paint in a thriving arts complex under her seasoned direction, but I sure feel like I’m coming home.
Judith HeartSong is a professional artist with 33 years of experience as a painter, muralist, and mixed media artist. She has painted large murals along the eastern seaboard, including a large mural at the National Zoo. She has successfully licensed her work to a number of companies and one of her paintings was presented to Hillary Clinton at President Clinton’s first inauguration. Judith has curated, juried, and hung countless shows and exhibits, and has extensive experience and expertise in PR and arts administration. She worked as the art director for the very successful corporate art consulting firm, ArtMatters here in metro DC for more than 8 years, building bonds with metro area artists and artists all over the country. Judith founded the very successful artist discussion group, salon – an artful conversation which brings together artists from all over the metro area, and the salon concept is now poised to spread nationwide. Judith is the founder and executive director of Artists & Makers Studios and her studio is now housed at Artists & Makers.
Studio shot of Judith HeartSong working on Peacock Crimson
Why do you make art?
It is the only thing I was ever meant to do. I knew in third grade, as did my teachers, that I would be a professional artist. I have also learned in recent years that I was meant to nurture artists and build community for them.
Describe your studio practice. For example, do you keep set hours, listen to music, or have unique rituals?
When I was raising my two children I would paint during their school day and in the middle of the night. Eventually painting was my full-time job. I worked as the art director and office manager for the very successful corporate art consulting firm ArtMatters for 8 1/2 years, and left to take the helm as executive director at Capitol Arts Network. Forming a for-profit entity with two business partners, I am looking forward to getting back to my regular studio practice at Artists & Makers Studios while serving as executive director.
What's something people who aren't familiar with you/your work should know about you?
I love to paint from my own reference photographs, and take pictures whenever I travel.
How do you get going again on a piece when stuck?
I am sometimes working on several pieces in the studio at one time, and frequently mixed media pieces are in process on the worktable. Switching from a painting to working on a woven nest or other mixed media items causes my brain to shift gears. I often resolve paintings in my dreams.
What is the best advice someone ever gave you about art, and who was this person?
“Focus on your passion and do what you love.” - my Aunt, who was also an artist.
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 40 Inches
Who are your biggest influences and why?
My Dear Aunt Mickey, who was a tremendous artist and mother-figure to me, Chagall, Kahlo, O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Gaston Lachaise, Audrey Flack, Frank Lloyd Wright, Wyeth, and too many more to name. All for the lush visual and incredible dedication to process.
What inspirational quote do you re-read when you need support for the creative process?
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” - Georgia O’Keeffe.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an artist in the metro DC area?
Metro DC offers amazing opportunities to visit museums, and there is an amazing community of artists here that we are working to bring together!!
How can metro DC do better by its artists and galleries?
Better coverage by newspapers and magazines.
How can artists do better by metro DC?
Network and meet your fellow artists.
How do you pay it forward with other artists or people interested in art?
Aside from my art, building community has been my main focus in the last 30+ years. Whether organizing artist opportunities, working with the women’s caucus for art, opening art centers, and the discussion group, salon – an artful conversation. The salon business model has just gone world-wide with salon starter kits selling here in the US and in other countries so that artists can start their own successful gatherings.
What advice do you have for artists new to the metro DC scene?
Immerse yourself. Find a place to connect with other artists and creatives – whether it is at an artist studio complex like Artists & Makers, or a gallery that you love.... Poetry readings, open mics, open drawing sessions, photography field trips. We have a wealth of this sort of creativity in the metro area. Hook up with the Washington Project for the Arts, artdc, or some of the local arts organizations near where you live.
Orange Sunflower Reverse
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 40 Inches
What tips would you give someone who wants to buy art but is afraid to start?
Start small, attend art festivals, gallery openings, and studio open houses. Buy what you love!
Who are some great affordable local artists people can easily -- and confidently -- start a collection with?
Elissa Farrow Savos, Zachary Oxman, Tim Tate, Danny Conant, Jackie Saunders, Tory Cowles, Victor Ekpuk, Alison Sigethy, Joan Belmar, Michael Janis, Colleen Henderson, Rebecca Cross, Erwin Timmers, Rosemary Feit Covey, Helen Frederick, Hiu Lai Chong, Sean Hennessey, Margaret Boozer-Strother, Laurel Lukaszewski, Alan Sislen, Julia Bloom, Anne Marchand, Betsy Stewart, Carol Barsha, Michael Enn Sirvet, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Francie Hester, Eve Stockton, Adjoa Burrows, Freya Grand, Joey Manlapaz, Amber Robles-Gordon, Colin Winterbottom, Karen Hubacher, Susan Finsen, Susan Makara, Linda Plaisted, Min Enghauser, Kate Kretz, Rebecca Clark, Mary Early, Jennifer Kahn Barlow, Kari Smoller Minnick, Mark Poss, Lee Newman, Eric Celarier, Sheep Jones, Bonny Lundy, Craig A. Kraft, Nancy Weisser, Rania Hassan, Lori Katz, Elyse Harrison, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Lenny Campello, AnaMarie Paredes, Sondra Arkin, Pam Rogers, Lisa Marie Thalhammer, JJ McCracken, Mary D. Ott, Hillary Steel, and of course ANY of our resident artists at Artists & Makers Studios!! (And THAT is my short list!!!!!) [Author note: Most of these wonderful artists can be found on the Washington Project for the Arts ArtFile Online registry of artists.]
Some artists make a piece they would never sell. Tell us about yours.
I have not had that luxury.... 12 years ago I lost my permanent collection when I left my marriage of twenty years with a suitcase.
What's the most valued tool in your art business tool kit and why?
PR skills. You cannot sell the work if no one hears about it. My blog has been featured in the Washington Post twice, and my newsletter has garnered awards and articles written about it.
What easy but smart strategy or resource (besides social media) helps you get the word out about your art?
Talking about my work when I meet people.
What new strategy will you implement in the coming months to grow your art business?
After 33 years in this business, I have reached a point where I paint what I want to paint and when. My focus is now on helping others grow their art businesses!
Thank you, Judith, for creating a welcoming space for artists to come home to... and for people to see local art, take classes, interact with artists, and enrich their lives with meaningful experiences. Art makes us wonder, remember, and dream. Artists & Makers Studios promises to nurture all that and more.