Monday, October 20, 2014

Nicole helps me out as I’m loading up the U-Haul to Pennsylvania

Nicole’s children

For the past few months I've been frantically working to finish the portraits for the next Chicks with Balls show in Pennsylvania at the Luzerne County Community College. Nicole's was particularly complex with her tangled yarn analogy of motherhood, featuring her children.

Between painting and waiting for layers to dry…which was taking forever…and getting the blogs written, I was down to the wire and getting overwhelmed. I didn't moan and groan about this on facebook, or even in private to Nicole though. I just flip out at my family occasionally, and then go back to doing the work, because it's actually all good.

A week or so ago, however, Nicole, who is a very perceptive soul, sent me the following message.

Nicole said:
Hi Judy! I just wanted to reach out to tell you "you're off the hook" as far as I'm concerned with writing a blog about me. Honestly, I can only imagine how much pressure it is on you to try to summarize someone's entire essence of being in a blog post. Especially because you are already doing it so beautifully and exactly through paint... I can also tell you that a part (and sometimes a lot more) of me identifies with the things you've already written about your other chicks. If you insist on putting something in writing for me, just go back and take excerpts from the others' post and mash it all together to create one for me! Cut and paste is a beautiful thing... That pretty much sums me up anyway.. Lots of little pieces and experiences and desires and personalities and faults and talents and mistakes and dumb luck adventures and, and, and,... that have somehow ended up gelling (and sometimes not) together in one living being who's just trying to get through this life enjoying it as much as possible and sharing as much positive energy with others as possible. Maybe I could even be different and you could have me be your first "non blog" hahaha. Really, though, your very generous gift to me in all this is the painting, which, although you are just as talented with your pen as you are your brush, I know is your true love and how you, at your core, desire to connect with people. Consider us connected and cross my blog off your very long list of things to do right now! Can't wait to see it! And you xoxoxox

a detail from Nicole’s children

Here's how I responded… 

Judy said:

Thank you Nicole! You've just written my blog for me! I'm serious…totally serious! I'm working on your painting as we speak, hoping the white will dry in time for the shadows under the yarn to dry in time for me to varnish it and then dry so it won't stick to the other paintings when I stick it into the Uhaul! Actually, your painting is lying in the "drying room"

AND, I think your "don't bother writing a blog about me" message soo OOOOO perfectly exemplifies the whole Chick with balls thing, it's perfect! So, if you don't mind, I shall quote your message more or less verbatim…no changes, no proofing, no paragraph returns, just a mad rush of very considerate thoughts. It will be the last one I post before loading the truck I think.

No better gift actually! Thank you!

The title of your painting, is "Nicole's tale of motherhood told in yarn" or something like that. I still have to polish the title a bit.

This is awesome and so perfect!


a detail from Nicole’s children

And this is what Nicole thought…

Nicole said:
This is so wonderful. Amazing how things just organically become what they are supposed to, right? xxoo

a detail from Nicole’s children

Yes indeed…life unfolding around the art!

And now it's off to pack the U-haul and take the Chicks on the road to Pennsylvania for its showing at the Luzerne County Community College at the Schulman Gallery on October 24th!

P.S. The titanium white is dry…phew!

Mark your calendars
and if you can swing it, make your plans…
Chicks with Balls is traveling to Pennsylvania!

Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács Paints Unsung Female Heroes

Schulman Gallery
Luzerne County Community College

Gallery Talk: Friday Night October 24th at 5:30

Opening Reception Immediately Follows until 8:30

And, I’m teaching a workshop at the college on
Saturday and Sunday October 25th and 26th.

Oil Painting the Figure and Face
with Personality and Grace…

two day painting workshop with instructor Judy Takács.

Luzerne County Community College
Schulman Gallery 
1333 South Prospect Street
Nanticoke, PA
Show Dates October 24th through December 9th


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cathy’s Home

Cathy’s Home
When I first made friends with the artist, Cathy Rogers, a few years ago, her adult daughter sent me a thank you note.

This may seem odd…or sweet…depending on whether you have a suspicious or appreciative personality. I’m a little of both, and I was exceedingly touched; especially so because I could never imagine my own (seemingly oblivious teenage) boys reaching out like this on my behalf.

This Facebook thank you note was even more special because I knew that Cathy’s daughter, Patty, has very limited mobility since birth because of cerebral palsy.

Of superior intelligence, insight and intuition, Patty is a college-educated author, and requires full time physical care…provided by Cathy.

It is to both their credit that Patty gratefully realizes that her mom’s artistic identity needs to be nurtured in order for her to also be the effective and loving caregiver she is to Patty. This was the crux of her thank you note; she was happy that her mom was making some “art friends.” In her previous life, Cathy had been a machinist…thus the work boots in her Chicks painting. 

Her daughter had sent me the note after Cathy and I had gotten together with another art friend Susie (she posed for Chicks early on) to go to the Butler Institute of American Art to analyze, criticize and feast on some sour grapes about their legendary Annual Midyear Juried show. None of us had been accepted that year, so it was fair game. 

Cathy told us about her life over lunch. On paper, the details are dizzying. She is full-time caregiver for her adult daughter with cerebral palsy. She is also full-time caregiver for her elderly mother, who survived a stroke with multiple impairments. She has another daughter, whose health problems and surgeries often bring her home to Cathy’s house for extended recovery stays. And, though Cathy didn’t know it at the time, her third daughter was soon to be embarking on divorce proceedings. Add to that Cathy’s own health issues that have left her deaf in one ear, with chronic migraines and vertigo since her brain surgery years before and it really is dizzying!

But her lunchtime delivery of this CWB-worthy laundry list was told with humor, pride and a twinkle in her eye. The way she talked about her home life, I pictured an ensemble cast, quirky family movie, where adversity is entertaining, diverse family members are loved and there’s no need for a laugh track because we’re all already having fun. “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Moonstruck,” and every John Irving novel came to mind.

Early in our friendship I asked Cathy to pose. She clearly possessed the quintessential CWB qualities…strength, courage, strong work ethic, joy, passion and a very full plate.

When she finally did come to pose, she had just finished taping an interview for “Artists at Work”, a cable show with host, Carol Medhurst, to spotlight Northeast Ohio’s Artists.

Cathy chose beach balls because her home, though not a lake house, is close to Lake Erie.

The balls are all partially deflated, I saw them as symbolic of all the people in Cathy’s life who, with their many needs, rely on her like the air they breathe. I added the extra balls around her to further symbolize the heavy load she carries…a load she bears, however, with joy, levity…air.

The firmly squished ball she sits on symbolizes her husband, Frank, who, as Cathy will readily tell you, is like gold. He married her with many of the complexities of her life already in place and is a loving rock of continuing support for the family, and for her identity as an artist.

Cathy creates this welcoming home of love so that all the people in her charge can thrive. And, in three years, when her husband retires, Cathy will move her family to a new home in Georgia, so that her patient, insightful and caring daughter, Patty can finally marry the love of HER life. 

Patty met Chris, a gifted photographer, online 14 years ago. They Skype every day, write books together, are engaged and have written a blog about their epic relationship. When they move down south, they will all live near each other and Cathy will continue to be there for her daughter and her husband, and this fairy tale romance will become real as they all make their new home in Georgia.

Home is where the love is, and I call this painting, “Cathy’s Home.”

Cathy’s Home…detail

Mark your calendars
and if you can swing it, make your plans…
Chicks with Balls is traveling to Pennsylvania!

Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács Paints Unsung Female Heroes

Schulman Gallery
Luzerne County Community College

Gallery Talk: Friday Night October 24th at 5:30

Opening Reception Immediately Follows until 8:30

And, I’m teaching a workshop at the college on
Saturday and Sunday October 25th and 26th.

Oil Painting the Figure and Face
with Personality and Grace…

two day painting workshop with instructor Judy Takács.

Luzerne County Community College
Schulman Gallery
1333 South Prospect Street
Nanticoke, PA
Show Dates October 24th through December 9th


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Kim, the reliquarian and keeper of time

Kim, the keeper of time
by Judy Takács

Kim Mettee’s home, her art and her life are reliquaries. She collects artifacts and concepts from nature, history, artisans, and the world, and incorporates them into individually and exquisitely crafted jewelry. She is also an expert photographer, and elegantly shows us the details and intimate qualities of her wearable art through her blog, Colour Stories, and facebook page.

Kim delights in the tactile design qualities of a Job’s tear seed, a sliver ornament long separated from ancient tribalwear, or a skein of handcrafted exotic fiber.

When I asked her to pose for Chicks, I had artistically selfish motivations.

First, I love the way Kim looks. She is lean, tanned and at that perfect age where her face is just beginning to become truly fascinating . I had painted her once before, and called that portrait, “The Reliquarian.” For that painting she wore a mauve and maroon Afghani wedding dress, along with her beloved selection of antique silver jewelry. 

The Reliquarian
by Judy Takács

When I showed the painting, several people commented that Kim looked like one of the ancient women in the Bible (Sarah, Rebekkah, Esther…women with names like that). Though, I wasn’t thinking “Bible”, I was happy that these viewers felt Kim’s timeless presence. And, given that our vision of what these biblical characters “looked like” was from images painted by artists like Rembrandt, Artemesia Gentileschi and Michelangelo, I felt especially complimented.

I also knew that since Kim is an artist herself, she’d come up with something fascinating and visually compelling for her ball concept. She did.

detail from Kim, the keeper of time

She had me at Alpaca Yarn Balls.

Kim took her ball choice to heart and went to the Alpaca Fiber Studio. This shop is right next to the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, where Kim has taught jewelry design for the past 15 years. She shows and sell her work at the Bell Street Gallery shop within the art center. Kim often incorporates this sumptuously designed yarn into the wearable art she creates.

detail from Kim, the keeper of time
detail from Kim, the keeper of time
The yarns she chose comes in skeins which she then had to roll into balls.

I’ve had to roll yarn into balls only a very few times in my life. When I do, though, I sit down, pull the end out of the skein and start rolling. 10 minutes later…or by the next commercial if I’m doing it in front of the TV…I have a yarn ball, and I’m on to other business.

Kim, on the other hand, because she luxuriates in the sensuous quality of all aspects of life, found herself mesmerized by the process and put herself into what I imagine was a Zenlike trance. The regular movements of her arms as she pulled and rolled became symbolic and heavy with meaning, memories and the passage of time; all of which she contemplated while she rolled.

She told me about this process using many repeated graceful arm movements. For the painting I knew two arms weren’t nearly enough to truly convey the complexity of Kim’s experience in time and space as she actually created her own balls.

I fell in love with every aspect of this portrait, the skin, the pose, the hair…and the yarn. The ordered organic quality of this handmade yarn was a joy to paint, as was Kim and her creative and timeless presence.

I call this painting, Kim, the keeper of time.

Mark your calendars
and if you can swing it, make your plans…
Chicks with Balls is traveling to Pennsylvania!

Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács Paints Unsung Female Heroes

Schulman Gallery
Luzerne County Community College

Gallery Talk: Friday Night October 24th at 5:30

Opening Reception Immediately Follows until 8:30

And, I’m teaching a workshop at the college on
Saturday and Sunday October 25th and 26th.

Oil Painting the Figure and Face
with Personality and Grace…

two day painting workshop with instructor Judy Takács.

Luzerne County Community College
Schulman Gallery
1333 South Prospect Street
Nanticoke, PA
Show Dates October 24th through December 9th



Monday, September 29, 2014

Norma knows and Norma gets it

Norma knows and Norma gets it
by Judy Takács

Norma and I wore sensible black pumps, giant shoulder pads and medium-large permed hair when we started our jobs on the same day in the mid-1980s at a big-eight public accounting firm in downtown Boston. I was a Graphics assistant in the two-woman Design Department and she was a Marketing assistant in the five-woman Marketing Department.

The first time we met, she said something about heading down to “the Cape” (Cape Cod) that weekend. I mentioned something about having gotten a sunburn recently. She said she doesn’t get sunburn much, so I asked her, “Oh, are you sensible?”

Without skipping a beat, she replied, “No, I’m Portuguese.”

By “sensible,” I meant does she use SPF 4 (remember it was the 1980s). She knew what I meant too.

By Portugese, she meant she tans easily. At the time, however, I only knew of Portugal as the tiny country tucked into the coast of Spain. I had never met someone of Portuguese descent, so I imagined they were known in Massachusetts as a foolhardy bunch. I came to find later, that many of my favorite people in Massachusetts were of Portuguese descent…they’re as common as Hungarians are in Cleveland I suppose.

This is a long and roundabout way of telling you that thirty years later, I still remember that these were some of the first words we spoke to each other and I’ve been laughing at and intensely scrutinizing minutiae with Norma ever since.

Norma was also the first Massachusetts resident to show me on her upward bent arm where she would be staying on the Cape…Hyannis being the elbow, Provincetown the extended pointer finger, Truro the wrist…get the picture?

Our work situation quickly drove us closer together. Our bosses were feuding and not speaking with each other, so the communication between marketing and graphics in this international company of thousands in Boston alone, had to be via two young assistant chicks who had just changed from their commuting Nikes and started their entry level jobs that morning.

Things ran beautifully though; efficiency and quality were unparalleled in our incredibly busy departments.  Thanks to the two of us, and despite our status as human shields to the animosity of our leaders, the combined departments never missed a deadline. And we always had SO much to talk about during stolen moments of gossip and hilarity between frustrations and injustices.

And so, over the past 30 years, Norma’s and my life have taken similar and divergent twists and turns. We both married, and still are. We both have all boys…5 between the two of us. We’ve both had very strong relationships with the women friends in our lives too.

And, though I have since moved away, each year or so, when my family visits Massachusetts to see my husband’s relatives, the highlight of the trip for me is always my four-hour breakfast at Mel’s Commonwealth Cafe in Wayland, Massachusetts with Norma. Nothing is in too poor taste or too high a level of sensitivity to finally exhale and place on the table for analysis during “four hour breakfast.” And, we tip as if we’ve rented the booth from the waitress for the morning…because that’s essentially what we’re doing.

Now, at certain points in our early friendship, Norma has talked about lacking courage. She has wished for initiative to leave a job that had not grown with her, gumption to speak up when she’s been wronged, and balls to put pen to paper and do some writing…which she is incredibly good at. Norma can really REALLY tell a story.

I have always seen her balls in a completely different light.

Norma’s balls are those of a true unsung hero. Everyone around her has an amazingly better life because Norma was there.  Norma is the Jimmy Stewart character in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (minus the angry scene where Jimmy calls his uncle a stupid old man for losing the envelope of money. Norma would never do that… not for lack of balls, but because she’s kind hearted, respectful of her elders and can use better adjectives, even when she’s angry.)

She is the rock, the organizer, the facilitator, the voice of reason and unfailing lover and greatest fan of the three men in her family. She is as loyal a friend as you might ever find, and instinctively knows what’s needed and seamlessly slides into that role, whether it’s center stage, supporting, understudy, walk-on or stage-hand…or just cleaning up the kitchen so you can sit on the couch and nurse your baby.

And for me, Norma’s becoming my friend so early (the first day actually) of grown-up post-college life was a Godsend. Her presence, her parties, her invitations, lunches with her and shared commiseration greatly eased the lonely transition from the college party life to the comparative isolation of my first job in a new city with a live-in boyfriend that worked all day and studied all night. (I ended up marrying him though)

And so I knew that Norma should pose and would pose for Chicks. But by the time I began Chicks with Balls some 20 years later, we only saw each other once a year for four-hour breakfast at Mel’s. And a chick’s shoot in Mel’s parking lot on Route 30 wasn’t going to cut it.

So Norma’s portrait was not included in the first round of paintings. She was, however, one of the first people I told about my Chicks idea (while my eye was twitching over the 7th cup of coffee during four-hour breakfast at Mel’s.) She promptly sent me a copy of Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren; a movie with the same coverage concept but with older chicks, British accents and shrubbery instead of balls.

Norma knew she would pose too. She came a day early when she traveled to Ohio for the debut showing of the Chicks show at BAYarts in August 2013. We had our photo shoot back at my studio…after four-hour breakfast at First Watch Daytime Café in Rocky River, Ohio.

She chose beach balls for fun and coverage. I chose the double pose because Norma knows, and Norma gets it. And because when we get together we laugh and laugh and laugh!

Detail from, Norma knows and Norma gets it

Thrilled to announce that Norma's portrait was curated by
Lakeland Community College Gallery Director, Mary Urbas to be included in…

Lakeland Community College
February 23 through March 27
Artist Reception:
Sunday, March 22, 2020
3:30 to 5:00

Norma's story and painting is also included in the
long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls Book.

 The book launched at the Zanesville Museum of Art
opening of the Chicks show and is now
available at the museum gift shop and on my website.

Lakeland Community College
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The F-word…and my birthday wish for Arabella

The F-word…

That’s what it says in an expert calligraphic hand on the small but rare Seb Lester print that hangs over the bed that artist Arabella Proffer shares with her husband.

Yes, THE f-word. Not one of the friendly birthday card ones like “Forty” or “Fifty”…Arabella is only in her 30s.

Now, since this is a rated PG blog, you know I wouldn’t be using that word unless I had to…and in this story, I feel I have to use it a bit… so please indulge me.

Arabella Couture…a detail of her custom silver handle cane and her amazing shoes

Think of that plaque when I tell you that Arabella has cancer. And not one of the ones you’ve heard of. She has a rare congenital kind where cancer grows here and there in your body, devastating the parts in its path, requiring surgeries and removals of affected body parts. So far it has been a leg bone, and the complete female reproductive system…so far.


See that’s why the f-word is kind of a theme with this blog story.

I hope you don’t think I’m making light of the cancer though. In my so far only vicarious experience with cancer, I have learned a few things. If you have cancer, you own it. And you don’t owe anyone the reserved and gracious cancer patient they may be expecting to see. You get to rock it, fight it, hate it, laugh at it, cry about it, confidently make it part of your identity, wear it with style and kick its ass. And if you want to, you get to say “fuck”…as many times as you G-d- please!

And that is exactly what Arabella does.

Arabella Couture by Judy Takács

Arabella first came on my radar because of her art. She paints on the fantastic fringes of the portrait-painting world. Yes, she paints people, but she doesn’t seek out real ones like I do. She makes up fictitious legendary characters. She paints them small, polished and iconic with glorious, sparkling, intricate, macabre and twisted detail…and they have stories. She creates identities for her fictitious royalty and writes about them in seductive biographical detail.

Her portraits fly in the face of the conventional Mid-western reason for not purchasing and displaying figurative work; “Why would I want to have a painting of someone I don’t know hanging on my wall?” is the refrain landlocked artists hear so often. Through her fictitious biographical book, The National Portrait Gallery of Kessa, she lets us get to know her people… in juicy, gruesome personal detail. And collectors across the globe buy them and hang them on their walls.

Arabella draws inspiration from the many medical procedures she has been subject to as part of the quest for her personal cure for her specific cancer. She also studies frightening medical procedures from medieval times and the dark ages…only to find, sardonically, that the cure for her particular ailment had changed little. Her learning epicenter for these genteel and well-meaning atrocities from days gone by is the Dittrick Medical Museum at Case Western Reserve University. She regularly frequents and extensively promotes this small quiet Cleveland museum on her blog and through social media.

I write this as I prepare to see her at the opening of her April 2014 solo show, “Ephemeral Antidotes,” in the same space where Chicks had its debut last summer, at BAYarts in Bay Village, Ohio. She feverishly (literally) finishes paintings for this show, even as she is recovering from a recent round of 21st century surgery whose complications and incompetencies almost killed her. I do, however, know she will shine tonight. Her work will be rivetingly intelligent and delightful, and she will entertain and educate.

I also hope there will be absolutely no reason to her use the f-word tonight…though somehow, I also know better.


You know how I love an epilogue.

“Ephemeral Antidotes” was a hit, Arabella did indeed shine, surrounded by her exquisitely jewel-like paintings.

In addition to her custom designed, Boris Palatnik silver handled cane, Dolce & Gabbana jacket and Prada shoes, I have never seen anyone rock a catheter bag and tube with such panache.

You think I’m kidding. I’m not. The complications of her very recent surgery left her with a torn bladder and a catheter. The tube snaked out from under her Philip Lim skirt and led into the bag of pee tastefully hidden in her vintage patent leather Chanel bag,…which she held with all the style and confidence of Coco herself.

The show was an amazing success, sales right and left and I didn’t hear the f-word uttered all night long.

Arabella Couture…a detail of crystal ball, her tattoo and her iconic skull ring.

Post-Epilogue and my birthday wish for Arabella

As I dawdled away the months waiting for the right time to post this blog article, (wanting to put some distance between the nun stories and the f-word) Arabella’s medical history continued. She is now headed to yet another surgery for her leg. Very open about her troubles and her frustrations, she wrote all about it in her blog.

Since I’m posting this on MY birthday, I’m going to dedicate my candle blowing out wish to Arabella for a speedy and uneventful recovery from this next surgery. And, yes, I know the thing about jinxing it by telling your birthday wish, but I’ve been birthday wishing for my friends and family for years now, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. And spilling the beans to the few people that actually read to the end of my blog could hardly be considered jinxing it.

But just to be sure, I'll knock on wood too.

Post-POST Epilogue

It is now 2020 and the world is in a weirder state than it ever has before, but you know all about that.

It is also the worst possible time to be diagnosed with anything.

Arabella has, only just recently had her cancer come back. Its back and its very bad, like terminal bad, like hospice bad. I'm heartsick and sad that its going this way. Today, she heads into some aggressive treatments, and I hope and pray with whatever power I may have that the treatment beats back the cancer…yet again.

Please hope and pray with me for Arabella, using whatever power you may have.

Yet another Epilogue!

It is now September 2023. Arabella has spent the past three years doing more than many do in their entire lifetime. 

Between the treatments killing her and the cancer killing her, Arabella has created work when she is able, sold many of the few paintings she has left (there are literally only four originals left for sale on her website!),  created an amazing collection of digital prints and educated herself on the world of NFTs. She is so educated in fact that she wrote a book on it! WTF are NFTs? has established Arabella Proffer as Cleveland Art Community’s authority on the creation and sale of NFTs…Non-fungable tokens. She has also lectured on NFTs…no small feat when you feel like crap between the treatments killing you and the cancer killing you. She has also managed to travel a bit with her devoted and loving husband Ben. 

It is now September 2023 though, and she has made the sad, but totally understandable and sensible decision to quit letting the chemo torture her and begin Hospice care. Hospice care is your Plan B when you decide the balance between quality of life and quantity of life should swing to the shorter quality direction. It means you want to stop feeling like crap all the time, even if it will mean less time. 

So now we'll see. Arabella writes about this in her own words. 

You can support her buy buying her art and prints.

You can support her by contributing to her go fund me.

And, I’m going to make a late birthday wish that Arabella stop suffering and just feel excellent for whatever short time she has left. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Little Coffee Talk…Michelle’s Chutzpah

Michelle’s Chutzpah
by Judy Takács

Chutzpah is one of those Yiddish words, like schlep, schtick and verklempt that has entered the English language via Woody Allen movies, Saturday Night Live skits and Seinfeld reruns. We all know what it means, and for those of you who don’t, it’s pronounced “hootzpah” and means “balls”…figurative ones.

That’s what Michelle, a college political science instructor, wanted to write on her pink and red balls to make them her own.

Michelle was an enigma. Not 15 minutes after she saw my work and chatted with me for the first time at a Valley Art Center Opening, she volunteered to pose for me.

Since her offer was so sudden and unsolicited, I wondered if she knew what she was asking to do…she did. I asked her to look at the Chicks with Balls book (which, conveniently was for sale at the Valley Art Center Shop) to make sure she really understood what Chicks with Balls was all about. So she looked at the book…and understood and stuck by her original offer to pose.

Thrilled to have a volunteer, I got her started on the “concepting your balls” time period.  Sometimes this “homework” period separates the women from the girls…so to speak. More than a few women have dropped off during this time. (If you’re reading this and recognize yourself, worry not…it’s never too late! I know we all get busy with the complexities of life…that’s what chicks with balls do. Shoot me an email at and let me know you’re ready to pose and we’ll get it on the calendar and talk balls!)

With a few months to think it over, Michelle came up with a concept and we arranged a posing session at which I was eager to hear her story, get to know her better and set up her ball idea. I also knew that sometimes there isn’t a “BIG” story, or that maybe it’s private. I never ask to hear one because, for me, the act of volunteering to pose is an act of courage in and of itself.

a detail from Michelle’s Chutzpah

During the posing session, I found out that Michelle was in the process of converting to Judaism, and she wanted to write “Chutzpah” on red and pink balls. I suggested writing it in Hebrew letters, knowing already what I would name the painting, and that I’d write a blog that left no doubt as to what the letters spelled.

As a proud heathen, by choice and not neglect, I very much respect when someone actually goes through the layered thinking process of choosing a religion, and then spends the extensive and rigorous months of learning it takes to convert to it. Much like the way a freshly naturalized citizen knows more about U.S. history than a born and bred native, a convert believes with both eyes wide open.

The other aspect of Michelle’s story that I found out during our fascinating morning together is that she lives with the complexities of a brain injury that resulted from radiation therapy for a tumor a few years ago. It left her with hearing loss and some spacial perception differences. She told me this as I was directing her hands into visually interesting positions during our photo shoot.

She apologized for misunderstanding my instructions. I reassured her that many people who have no brain injuries whatsoever also become confused when I ask them to put their fingers into a natural looking asymmetrical contropposto configuration that simultaneously shows the veins, the knuckles and the palm…while also clutching a ball.

It was my pleasure to paint Michelle, she posed naturally and beautifully, and I am ever grateful she had the Chutzpah to come out and ask me!

a detail from Michelle’s Chutzpah

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#CWBMGH…or, Chicks with Balls Multi-Generational Hell

Karen’s time to shine by Judy Takács

I have coined a new acronym phrase which will become as popular as YOLO, LOL and WTF…and possibly more useful to “our” generation.

Here are some possible ways to use it in conversation:

“Sorry I snapped at you, I’m going through some CWBMGH right now.”

“No way can I be a trustee on your board this year, I’ve got some serious CWBMGH going on.”

“I’ll get this project finished for her…the CWBMGH in her life is very intense right now.”

And online, a simple CWBMGH in your facebook status might get you all kinds of heart symbols, love, hugs, thoughts and prayers. Put a sweet picture (old or young) with it and your “likes” will go into the 3 digits. #Hashtag it and support for you may go viral.

And, with this simple acronym, you don’t have to spell out the dirty details and undermine the dignity of those you love.

CWBMGH is shorthand hashtag lingo for…

“My aging mom is in the hospital, hooked up, taped, poked and prodded, helpless and hating life while my seventeen year old is avoiding me and being secretive. His grades are falling, he’s stopped taking his meds and we have college applications to fill out.”

It’s a simple way to say…

“My dad has fallen again and broken a hip this time. It’s time to move him to nursing care from the 4 bedroom family home where he’s lived for the past 50 years. It’s also time to move my daughter into her dorm halfway across the country for the start of her freshman year.”

It’s a way to tell people…

“I just had my third baby, Three under four, and my brother is coming out of rehab …again, and my mom is going back into chemo…again! And my husband might get laid off.”

It’s many more possible worst-case scenarios multiplied and tumbling down on you from multiple generations. All the people you care about need you…now. And you fantasize about the Zen-like calm and peaceful acceptance you’d have if only you had ONE of these issues at a time. You’d be the uplifting princess of joy your people need you to be…guiltless and giddy with only ONE major job to do.

Instead you’re going through CWBMGH. And you’re perpetually torn.

Who should you be “there for”?

I got to know Karen during a very intense CWBMGH time for her. As Karen prepared to send her only child off to college, she was also facing the end of her twenty year marriage, all the while providing the sole emotional support for a mentally challenged hospitalized adult brother.  Another blow came with the unexpected death of her Mother with whom she had just started to forge a relationship, after mental illness and addiction had left her vacant during most of Karen’s childhood.

Karen is an artist and all-round creative soul who runs the absolutely delightful and expertly arranged gift shop at BAYarts. She has put together amazing silent auction offerings for many Cleveland area arts organizations; Zygote Press, CAN Journal and for BAYart’s amazing gala under the stars, Moondance.  (Tickets on sale NOW!) She is immersed in the local art scenes of Gordon Square and Collinwood and has also curated some insightful art shows, choosing and exhibiting the work of artists she selected, under the umbrella of a provocative theme. 

And she throws an amazing Oscar party every year that has become a Bay Village tradition.

During this CWBMGH time, she channeled all the loss, and painted desolate landscapes with lonely little empty houses…and sought the comfort of her loyal, supportive and wonderful network of friends.

Though, I only knew Karen from the Cleveland facebook art community at this point, I  saw how loved she was by her network of west side friends. And how, even during this terrible time for her, she was actively engaged in forcing the return of joy into her life. I could see that Karen was an energetic dynamo who doesn’t sit and wait for other people to make her happy.

Then, during the summer of 2012, I taught a portrait class at BAYarts. (I’m teaching it again actually, only two spots left, sign up now!) And, even though Karen’s work was not portrait based, she signed up for the class as a new adventure. As I got to know her over the six week course, she confirmed what I already knew; Karen was a Chick with Balls.

It was more than a year before the posing date was arranged, but well worth the wait. Karen chose disco balls because of the fabulous Oscar Party she throws and her willingness to “embarrass herself on a dance floor” (Karen’s words, not mine…I think she ROCKS) whenever the opportunity arises.  Even with her tumultuous life, she never skipped throwing the yearly gala, and has not stopped dancing.

I knew that disco balls were the perfect choice because, now that she has emerged from her year (or more) from hell, it is truly Karen’s time to shine.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Judy shows her stuff in Cincinnati!

Time for some show and tell…here’s the “tell” part.

Back in the beginning of this epic Chicks with Balls project, when I was concepting my first self-portrait entitled Judy has no balls, I described all my fears and paranoias for you…artistic and otherwise.

Judy has no balls
by Judy Takács

I had always planned a second self-portrait as a resolution, showing how, through this painting project I had developed courage and had figuratively “grown a pair”.

This second self-portrait was not meant as a perverse statement of courage enough to show a breast…that said, the painting did desperately need a breast.

Detail from, Judy finally grew a pair
by Judy Takács

Truly it is only our Puritanical-based American culture that is so titillated and obsessed with this provocative biological food delivery system. Topless grandmothers all over the world sit with inattentive sons-in-law and rowdy grandchildren on crowded international beaches and no one seems to notice, yet, Americans find ways to become offended by the innocent female nipple.

So, I had some societal baggage to contend with.

Now, those that knew me between the years of 1995 and 2001 have seen me breastfeed countless times…I was never shy about that, but somehow the permanence of paint, and the hooplah of an art show gave me pause, but I forged ahead.

During the nipple painting process I enlisted a few mantras to keep me from chickening out; it’s just a pile of paint, if I didn’t add the alizarin crimson and cerulean blue right here, it wouldn’t be a nipple anymore. I also invoked, as kindred spirits, everyone in Hollywood and art who has bared it; Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore, Sharon Stone, Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, and artists Jenny Saville, Alice Neel, Artemisia Gentileschi, Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo…proud to put my name on that elite list.

Ostensibly, the balls I have grown are artistic ones, and can be summed up with this statement:

The painting gets what the painting wants.

By this, I mean that the painting is more important than the model’s vanity, the artist’s ego or her modesty about society’s expectations. It needs to stand alone and work as a beautifully composed, profoundly painted, intimately personal vision that knocks down the viewer and then lifts her up.

Falling short of that however, the painting needs to be the best I can do with the talent I have at the time I do it. And the painting demanded a nipple; damnit it wanted two…there’s a reflection in the gazing ball.

Detail of my studio reflected in the gazing ball from Judy finally grew a pair
by Judy Takács

Also reflected in the ball is my beloved studio, embraced in a cave of my flesh. And, because so many of the women that posed for Chicks chose jewelry for its symbolism, I did so as well. My various pendants are gifts my boys have chosen or made for me over the years. And of course, I wear my 3 golden rings (engagement, wedding and 20th anniversary) to symbolize my ridiculously supportive husband who had no idea what he was getting himself into when he married me 22 years ago.

Detail of my necklace assortment from Judy finally grew a pair
by Judy Takács

So then, you may ask, where is said nipple?

Well, it’s in the Chicks book, which is available on

And it hung for a month at BAYarts last summer for the Chicks show debut.

But if you missed that, you can see it now through September 12th at the Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio as part of the “Nude” show. Being part of this show is BIG for me. I’ve been a long admirer of the Manifest Gallery and its whole Ohio-proud vibe, as well as their support of some of the best artists who paint representational figurative works today.

I’ve been sending to their calls for entry for years, been accepted to one of their International Painting Annuals and also gotten some of the most nicely worded rejection letters I’ve ever seen…they are a class act.

But, this is the first time I’ve been accepted to one of their exhibitions, and I’m excited to make the drive to Cincinnati to check out the whole show!

Friday Night, August 15th from 6:00 to 9:00

During the Walk on Woodburn ArtWalk…which I can’t wait to explore!

Manifest Gallery

2727 Woodburn Ave.

Cincinnati, Ohio

If you’re down in Southern Ohio, I’d love nothing more than to see you at the Opening Reception of “Nude”…and, since you made the drive, you’ll get to see some more of me too!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Blazine, a heart of gold

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to paint more and write less.

Being that it is July already and I haven’t posted a blog since the one about the Nuns in March, I believe I am accomplishing this goal.

In the interests of writing less, I have also expanded my social media world to Instagram, where it’s really all about the pictures, not the words, so please follow me there too…#judytakacs. I’m posting work in progress on the Chicks paintings.

And, I have finally changed my facebook fanpage name to Judy Takacs, artist and have posted selected Chicks paintings there. Please check it out and give it a “like” if you’re so inclined.

I really have been feverishly, furiously, passionately painting my next set of Chicks for my ongoing series, Chicks with Balls. And here’s the first one I am ready to present to you…“Blazine, a heart of gold”.

Blazine, a heart of gold by Judy Takács

I met Blazine on facebook, we have mutual friends and exchanged high fives in the form of likes and comments for some of our opinions about an on-going art-persecution situation  in the nearby quaint town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. (If you’re looking for more Ohio Art Persecution, sadly you will find it…read about Loren Naji  a Cleveland Gallery owner, and Karen Prasser  former director of the Solon Center for the Arts.)

One thing led to another and Blazine volunteered to pose for Chicks. When I told her that I was working on other projects and would return to the Chicks in a few months, she told me she needed to pose right away.

Now, since Chicks with Balls opened last summer at BAYarts, I’ve had more than a few women volunteer for Chicks (and a couple dudes too.) Sometimes they are eagerly awaiting my phone call, we schedule a day, do the pose and it’s all good. Other times, however, multiple emails and phone calls are exchanged and nothing materializes. So, to have a willing participant wanting to pose right away was a godsend to this “get it done” gal.

And so Blazine came to pose. Turns out she was going through chemotherapy and juggling the schedule of feeling good vs. feeling bad with her active life of caring for her people. Blazine had recently underwent a double mastectomy and would, in a month or so stop chemo, grow her hair back and go back for reconstructive surgery. The urgency was, much to my relief, not because of a bad prognosis. She said she was doing great and I was thrilled that posing for Chicks was a thing she was driven to do now. She didn’t want to let life, surgery, recovery and a rushed return to normalcy divert her from the passion of this artistic and bold decision.

I love when people feel compelled to pose like this. It means they are as driven by the art as I am, and I know that is an awesome feeling. I’m thrilled to share it with my friends and honored they have trusted me to create art using their inspiration as mine.

The balls Blazine chose, had nothing to do with her own cancer. She chose gold beach balls; the gold symbolizing childhood cancer; a cause she has been active with for years. The gold beach balls were a delight to paint, second only to Blazine’s strong, smart, stable and beautiful bald presence.

Blazine’s portrait fell together as easily as her offer to pose fell into my lap.

I call the painting, “Blazine, heart of gold”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicks books for sale at the upcoming Portrait Society Meeting!

Each year as I get ready for the Portrait Society of America meeting, I pack with an eye to leaving space in my luggage for all the new art books I’m going to buy.
Over the years I’ve amassed a small library of inspirational art books purchased at the veritable artists candy store that is the PSoA Book table.

And this year, for the first time ever, my Chicks with Balls book will also be for sale at the amazing Portrait Society book table!

Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács Paints Unsung Female Heroes
large and small format books for sale at the Portrait Society Meeting in D.C.

Portrait of Maquoketa by Rose Frantzen

I shall always remember my first Portrait Society book purchase; “Portrait of Maquoketa” by Rose Frantzen. After seeing her win the “Face-off” live portrait competition, watching her riveting oil painting demonstration, hearing her speak, meeting her and learning about her epic portrait project painting the citizens of her hometown, I snagged a copy of the book. Fortunately I got one before they sold out and lined up to have her sign it too. Since then I have had many breakfasts and late night snacks while poring over the 180 portraits it houses. Read about how Portrait of Maquoketa spurred me on to  move forward with my Chicks with Balls project and make it come to life!

Breaking the Rules of Watercolor and The Intimate Eye by Burton Silverman,
New York Creative from Raymond Everett Kinstler and
Self-Portraits and Oil Painting Secrets from a Master from David Leffel

At subsequent conferences I also discovered where Burton Silverman, Raymond Everett Kinstler, and David Lefell had been hiding since I first heard about them 30 years ago from my Portrait Painting teacher, José Cintron at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Over the next couple conferences, I bought their newer books and even dragged my 30-year-old tattered, oil-paint and coffee-stained ones from my collection at home for them to sign. It was a thrill to meet these gentlemen, who were, for me living legends from my early training.

Nelson Shanks from Nelson Shanks and Alla Prima by Richard Schmid

At the Portrait Society book table, I was also introduced to Nelson Shanks and Richard Schmid…in book format…can you believe I’d never heard of them before I came to the Portrait Society? I bought both their books and ensured another year or so of inspiring breakfast book dates.

Visions and Voyages by Susan Lyon

And then there was the incredible Susan Lyon book. When my friend bought Visions and Voyages one year, I pored through it, but was already over 50 lbs in my luggage for the return flight. I vowed to come back and buy it the following year. Fearing a sellout like Rose’s book, however, I came back the next morning and bought it anyway. I brought it home as carry-on and read it on the plane. I knew that her book as my breakfast companion would serve as a catalyst for delicious and meaningful brushwork for years to come.

The Incognito Project by Terry Strickland

Last year, I was thrilled to see The Incognito Project by Terry Strickland at the always crowded Portrait Society Book table. I had been following her project where she enticed her friends and family to reveal their secret selves and pose for her. This was of special interest to me because there were similarities in process to my own Chicks with Balls project. Lucky for me I had already ordered the book online and didn’t have to fight for one before it sold out…but I was thrilled to finally meet Terry after only talking to her on facebook.

Working South by Mary Whyte

And I’ll always remember the Portrait Society Conference where I saw Mary Whyte speak about her working south project. She bowled me over with her brilliant, quiet, thoughtful descriptions of her meticulously observed series chronicling the jobs of manual workers in vanishing fields. When she sat down with us for a glass of wine at the bar, it was confirmed I was in the company of a profoundly talented and gracious artist. Next chance I had, I made her book mine and had her sign it. Since then, I have been her groupie and have followed her shows to the Butler Institute and the National Arts Club in New York!

This year I’m looking forward to seeing what the book table has to offer. And, I am especially honored that the Portrait Society has asked me to sell my very own book, Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes, at the fabulous, famous Portrait Society of America book table.

So, please, when you come to the conference this year, leave room in your luggage…or bring a sturdy carry-on totebag! You’ll go home with inspiration to last you a lifetime… maybe you'll go home with “Chicks with Balls!”

My collection is growing…maybe yours will too!

And just for the Portrait Society, I will be introducing an abridged, smaller version of the Chicks with Balls book for $50. During the Conference in DC, it will sell for the special discounted price of $45. After that it will be available on at the full $50 price.

The complete, beautiful, large, original version is available $80 online at

And if I see you at the Portrait Society, I’ll be more than thrilled to personally sign a copy just for you or for a special Chicks with Balls in your life. Mother’s Day is coming up you know! 
I'll be sitting at the book signing table on Friday May 1st at 12:30, and look forward to meeting you!