Profile of Monterey artist Judy Skeen

Monterey, Va. –
Monterey artist Judy Skeen currently has an exhibit of her paintings and drawings on display in the Highland Public Library. It’s part of the series of shows sponsored by the Highland County Arts Council. Judy talks about how she began drawing as a child.

“I grew up on a farm that was very much like the farms here, but it was in Fluvanna County, central Virginia,” said Ms. Skeen. “My parents were very poor and were able to grow and do everything by hand. It wasn’t a perfect family or childhood, but they were so encouraging with their children about reading and telling stories and I don’t remember how my mom handed me crayons and paper, but from the time I can remember I was drawing and they encouraged it. The schools in Fluvanna at that time when I began to go to public school were, as far as I can tell, excellent. Every teacher encouraged every child with any gift they saw,” she said.

Judy goes on to talk about her art training in college.

“Without every choosing, I’ve followed the course of putting down images of the things I loved and I was lucky to get a scholarship to start me to VCU, which was then RPI or Richmond Professional Institute,” said Ms. Skeen. “I went to college after high school fifty miles from home, but it might as well have been a thousand for all the differences in the environment. Within a few months I loved it. I remember one of my drawing teachers saying to us you guys are going to learn to draw like the old masters and then you can go be as avante garde as you want. You’ll be yourself. We had to critique each other’s work and about what our art meant and I think that really takes you somewhere. Now the one thing I might say about the school at that time is that they did not prepare us for a career. So when I graduated with really good grades and well thought of by the art teachers, I had no clue about what to do about earning money, so I went to work at UVA as a desk clerk at one of the wards. I always just kept drawing and coloring things and painting them. I don’t really call myself an artist, I call myself an image maker,” she said.

Judy came to Highland County in 1976 and has been a very popular part of the local and regional art scene ever since. Earlier this year her works were on display at a gallery in Charlottesville. While in Highland County Judy learned about raising sheep.

“From there I got settled on a farm and learned how to care for sheep, which I’d really never seen because it’s too hot in central Virginia, and they kind of became the love of my life for domestic animals,” said Ms. Skeen. “I was very good with them actually. Maybe the highest praise I’ve ever had is that one time Dr. Joe Malcolm, our then vet here said that the farm I lived on, the farm owner and I had the best flock in the county,” she said.

Judy talks about her love of making images of animals.

“It’s a passion I’d say and I don’t usually plan what I’m going to put down, but sometimes I’ll think oh, I would like to do some studies of that,” said Ms. Skeen. “I don’t know how it’s going to come out. I don’t even think about that. But when I sit down to work, it becomes what it is,” she said.

Judy Skeen’s art show is called “All Creatures: Paintings and Drawings by Judy L. Skeen.” The show is on display in the Mountain View room of the Highland Public Library and runs through January 2.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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