Sunday, September 17, 2017

Debby needs Decades

Decades for Debby
Judy Takács
Sometime between kid number 2 and 3, I came up with a brilliant justification and mantra for why I was not yet a successful painter…”You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”
Sometime later, I heard Madeleine Albright say it and now she gets all the credit, but remember folks, I thought of it first in the late 90s.

For me there were three phases of my personal “having it all”.

Phase 1 (1986 or so) where I was the breadwinning graphic designer and illustrator. Phase 2, the fulltime mom phase, began late in the last millennium, with the birth of my second son. And I kicked off Phase 3 by christening my new painting studio in January of 2009…and thus began my life as a full-time professional artist. As I turn 55, I’m hoping it continues for another 40 healthy years or so.

Debby, twenty years younger than me, didn’t embrace this particular quote of mine. 

She wants to be an amazing mom to her three kids… now.
She needs to be the family breadwinner…now.
And she has a fire burning with her to paint portraits…NOW!

My Sister’s Battle
Debby Bird

She explained her impatience to me when I saw her portrait honoring the sister she lost to breast cancer at the age of 38. Debby’s gorgeous tribute had been accepted to the Portrait Society of America Members Only show, so many others saw it too.  

The death of her sister showed Debby that you may not have 40, 50, 60 years to enact the master plan and give each phase your undivided attention. 
She saw first hand how someone young was robbed of the luxury of waiting to achieve her dreams. 

For Debby, there was a justified sense of urgency to enact her dream to be a phenomenal portrait painter, though she didn’t discover this dream until she left her architect job six years ago to stay home and raise her kids. During those years, Debby hoped that she could make up the income shortfall with painting commissions, and found that she absolutely loved painting portraits and was very good at it too. 

Life however, happened, and she had to return to work as a fulltime professional architect and family breadwinner… along with raising three young kids and pursuing portraiture. Debby is now working very hard on all three of her worthy goals, but the complexity of doing her best at each has her feeling very much frustrated…as if she’s barely keeping it together. 

For her Chicks pose, Debby chose Disney balls to represent her children and wrapped them in duct tape…the universal DIY product to “fix it in a pinch.” Debby actually has a history of creative duct tape projects including creating her own duct tape shoes and a gown to wear for her school’s Annual Beaux Arts Ball. 

DYI is what Debby does, and that’s how I met her.

A few years ago, I was in charge of the Portrait Society Cecilia Beaux Forum group page on facebook. At that time it was a lively, interactive social media force, where portrait artists could gather (virtually) and discuss art and life issues as they came up. 

Debby, an aspiring portrait painter had asked about whether we could have a critique component to the page. She was painting alone at home with three preschool children and was seeking professional art guidance. I checked with Portrait Society headquarters to ask how and if this could be incorporated. By the time discussions and emails were exchanged with the higher-ups and I got my well-explained, “No,” Debby had already started a critique group page of her own. 

Check it out and ask members for a critique of your work if you’re interested!

She was also looking for kindred spirit artists who are raising children while building an art career. So she started a blog interviewing the best figurative artists working today, who are also parenting. And for those who think this is a woman-painter issue only…it’s not. Many of the painting parents she interviewed are the fathers. It is often the artist in the family who has the role of primary caregiver because of flexible schedules and unpredictable income. 

Check out her many interviews on the aptly titled, “Is it time to color? Painting Parents” blog.
And somewhere in her extra long list of projects lie the seeds of a fascinating series painting the people of Appalachia, close to where Debby lives in Kentucky. This portrait series in particular, is one I know she will execute beautifully with sensitivity and care for this hidden and misunderstood population.

A woman after my own heart, she takes the ball and runs with it…even when no one has given her a ball. I don’t worry that Debby will achieve her dreams, because she absolutely will stick with it AND keep things together. My wish for her is that she will have many many decades to build the art and live the life she so totally deserves.

And, in the American spirit of DYI, sticking with it and keeping things together, Debby’s Chicks painting was exhibited at the Southwest Artists Annual Juried Exhibition, “Art of the Heartland”.

Later in 2017, Decades for Debby was also selected as a Finalist in the Portrait Society of America's Members Only Competition.

And now, she is included in the long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls book and will be heading to the Zanesville Museum of Art as part of my first ever solo museum show!

Opening Reception:
Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
Thursday, February 13, 2020
5:00 to 7:00
The long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls
launches at the Opening Reception.

Gallery Talk:
Chicks with Balls: You, me, and every woman we know
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Guest Lecture:
Beyond Chicks with Balls: The Goddess Project
Thursday, March 19, 6:00 to 7:00

Zanesville Museum of Art
620 Military Road
Zanesville, Ohio 43701

Both first and second Chicks books will be for sale at the Opening Reception and at the ZMA Gift shop for $50 each, during the run of the show. I’ll be available all three events to personally sign books!

Museum Hours:
Wednesday thru Saturday: 10:00 to 5:00

Thursdays: 10:00 to 7:30

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Her Beloved Pride

Once upon a time, back when hair was big, shoulders pads were wide and leggings had stirrups, my BFA Thesis at the Cleveland Institute of Art was all about The Seven Deadly Sins.

Me, with my Seven Deadly Sins board game, just before my 1986 BFA Presentation.
In the foreground, my life drawing teacher Francis Meyers
in the far background I can recognize James Groman and David Jupp!

This yearlong expedition into the artistic investigation and depiction of  Sloth, Envy, Rage, Greed, Lust, Gluttony and Pride culminated with a cross-shaped board game that was as religiously irreverent, fun and satirical as this free-thinking heathen student of illustration could imagine.

My hypothesis was that the sins were simply human traits that we all have. Taken to excess, yes, they’re not the best traits we have…but, in the grand scheme, they’re also not the worst. Note, the sins don’t include murder, lying, stealing, cheating, bullying, violence, taking away the rights of others, silencing opposing voices, reneging on promises, taking away healthcare from children, the sick and the poor, letting other starve, enslavement, taking away the right to control how your body is used …you know, the really bad stuff.

No, the Seven Deadly Sins are a fun group of juicy, deliciously, compelling human traits that are open to endless interpretation…and excuses to paint people. 

I decided to revisit the Seven Deadly Sins some 30 years after my 1986 BFA and have only just started to scratch the surface. So far, I’ve painted and blogged about Sloth, using my hardworking, but sleep loving son as a model, and have, won a Best in Show for my interpretation of Greed…who protectively guards her ideals and artistic integrity… entitled, Guarded Idealist

Underlying the human nature of the Seven (not so) Deadlies is that they mostly affect the sinner herself.  And, taken in moderation, they are necessary for self-preservation (Gluttony in moderation is sustenance, Sloth is rest, Lust is procreation…see?)

Perhaps the toughest one to interpret is the “sin” of Pride.

Yes, in Medieval Catholic lore, the concept of contrition and guilt loomed large, and a healthy self-esteem warranted Hail Marys, a wearing of a sackcloth and even some self-flagellation. But nowadays just about every self-help book and internet meme since Stuart Smalley first appeared on SNL want us to have a positive self-image and feel good about ourselves. In fact, just recently the conventional wisdom has changed about telling your kids you’re proud of them. Now you’re supposed to tell them they should be proud of themselves…for how hard they’ve worked as well as for their successes. 

In other words, take ownership of your awesomeness!

So, I present my triple image of my beautiful platinum-haired model and muse, paying tribute to, and embracing her own positive self-image…Her Beloved Pride.

Her Beloved Pride, Honorable Mention at the 81st Annual Butler Midyear Exhibition
Judy Takács

And, I’m psyched to let you know that
Her Beloved Pride
will be part of a group exhibition at the 


featuring the work of
Benjy Davies, Beth Nash,
Joe Radoccia and Judy Takács
Opening Reception:
Thursday, August 30, 4:30 to 6:30

through September 28

Coburn Gallery
Ashland University
Center for the Arts, First Floor
330 College Ave.
Ashland, Ohio

Tuesday, June 13, 2017



things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time.
items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.
Ephemera Collector by Judy Takács
Best in Show at the 73rd Ohio Annual, Zanesville Museum of Art
and also Grand Prize winner of the Artists Magazine All-Media Competition
Available through 33 Contemporary in Chicago, at

Ephemera, a fleeting thing that takes its feathery place as a memory without taking up space as a reality. 

Human life is ephemeral.

My dad passed away in 2015, my mom, six months later in 2016. Having lived in the same house for the past 50 years, they amassed and produced a lot of things.

And by things, I mean writing. Both were professors. 

My dad had created mountains of notebooks, carefully penned in flawless Hungarian Cursive. Pages of equations with occasional words peppered in; “therefore,” “it can be concluded” “given” and “we can surmise” separated paragraphs of calligraphic sigmas, lambdas, x’s, y’s and equal signs.

To my artistic eye, these scripts were like Ancient Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew…so beautiful to look at, but (sorry) Greek to me.

Some of it (18 boxes actually!) went to be scanned and archived at Case Western Reserve University, (link to come) where he retired as professor emeritus in the late ’80s. My dad’s legacy as a Pioneer in Queueing Theory will be preserved and useful to generations of future mathematicians who can actually read these calculations…which, I’m told, are brilliant.

And some of the writings were absconded by me…as ephemera to incorporate into my art and to be appreciated for its visual beauty alone.

My mom’s writings were more readable.

As a professor of English Literature at Notre Dame College of Ohio, a scholar of the Irish Dramatists and Shakespeare, and a contemporary author and historian, she had mountains of beautifully organized notes for teaching, research, study and analysis. She had journals too…galore…which will be kept intact for the ages, and for me to read about who she actually was, independent of being my mom. She also sowed many seeds of ideas for novels and stories. These may some day serve as inspiration for paintings. 

I also absconded bits and pieces from her loose writings to incorporate into my art, drawing great comfort from her familiar handwriting. 

So I present to you my Ephemera Series.

Instead of posing myself yet again (some say all our portraits are really self-portraits) I chose my model as a timeless angel for the ages…collecting, defending and dispersing wispy whispers of Ephemera with luscious vintage butterfly nets and expressive hands and face.

Into my oil paintings, I collaged butterflies torn from my parents’ combined writings…floating, fleeting ephemera.

As with all the found things from my parents’ home, life and legacy, I try to pass them forward for a new life and purpose.

Ephemera Defender, included in the Manifest Gallery In Memoriam Show, 2017
Judy Takács

I have thus far given pages of these written ephemera to Alia El Bermani in the form of a cut paper snowflake to use in her painting, to Leslie Adams for her “Handwritten Dreams” project at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, to Amy Kesegich for collage work, to Karina Fassett as wallpaper inspiration, to a mathematical niece to fuel her STEM fire, and have dropped off three baskets full of everything ephemeral to Liz Maugans at Zygote Press for all manner of printmaking.

I was thrilled to see that my gold starred kindergarten math worksheet found its forever home plastered front and center in the middle of Liz Maugans' monolithic collage at the Hedge Gallery.

Five year old Judy Takács got a star on her kindergarten math worksheet

I can't seem to get organized
My worksheet featured front and center in Liz Maugans’ Multi-media print collage

I have also passed along boxes of jewelry from my mom and grandmother’s compounded collection to my favorite jewelry artist, Kim Mettee…who has fashioned them into two amazing commissioned necklaces for my sister and myself along with a host of other adornments.

Earrings and necklace by Kim Mettee Designs
inspired by pieces from my grandmothers jewelry from Istanbul

My dad’s books have found loving homes with the Math Grad Students of Case Western Reserve and with my own math-loving boys. My mom’s books on Shakespeare and Drama are the start of a library for theatre majors at Baldwin Wallace University. The Hungarian books have been carefully distributed in the U.S. and in Hungary by a good-hearted docent at the Cleveland Hungarian Museum. And a couple of Irish Fairy Tale books found their way to my Irish neighbor Teresa’s house to read to her many nieces and nephews.

Pieces of their furniture have become part of the collection of the Cleveland Playhouse prop warehouse…I’ve already seen one of their 1970s padded folding chairs in “Between Riverside and Crazy” just last month. There were no takers for their 60 year-old twice re-upholstered extra-long yellow French Provincial couch, so it now sits in my studio awaiting inspiration…and the right model. 

What I still have left, however, are many (many) writings. 

Zoom in to see the gorgeous handwriting from my parents’ ephemeral writings.

If you would like to incorporate some of these ephemeral bits of handwritten Mathematica and Literature into your art, shoot me an email with your mailing address at I will send you some to use as you choose…the ironic preservation of fleeting ephemera from one generation of creative thinkers to the next.

Ephemeral Whisper, included in the Catharine Lorillard Wolf 121st Exhibition in NYC
Judy Takács

Ephemera Collector (up top) is now available through
33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago