Judy Larson always knew she was going to be an artist. She was surrounded by them as a child, and was particularly inspired by her father, a professional illustrator. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Commercial Art from Pacific Union College in Northern California, Judy Larson then spent the next 17 years as a commercial artist, illustrator and art director. In 1988, influenced by her love of nature and animals, Judy devoted her time to wildlife art. Her primary focus in each of her paintings is the animal, with the horse and wolf as a recurring subject. Larson uses a clay-coated, Masonite backed art board called Claybord®. To produce an original drawing, she paints the subject solidly with black India ink to create a silhouette. Larson then scratches away the dried ink using hundreds of X-Acto® blades and the result is a magnificent, lifelike image. Once the subject has been totally scratched, it is a finished black and white illustration, ready for Larson to add color. Larson prefers a combination of airbrush, gouache or acrylics for adding rich layers of color, with frequent rescratching for detail. For Judy Larson, whose underlying message is always passionately ecological, her medium of scratchboard, as well as her "art of concealment™," allows her "to take the viewer with me." Explains Larson, "My desire is to engage viewers on three levels: first, by revealing the beauty of animals through intricate detail; second, by concealing a hidden image that draws the viewer to examine the painting more closely and through which I can tell a story; and third, by promoting a deeper awareness of the environment on a level that will hopefully have an impact." Larson is extremely passionate about her love of wildlife and supports a number of environmental endeavors. Two books have been published featuring her work: Hidden Spirits, Search-And-Find Scenes from the American West, a Random House children’s’ book, and The Spirit Within, a coffee table book. Larson is a member of the Society of Animal Artists. She lives and works in California.
Second in the
Forces of nature Series
Air, particularly in the form of wind, can spook even a savvy horse more than any other element. The wind provides protection to the wild horse, carrying smells of danger, and giving it time to escape to safety. The white buffalo also depends on this same protective power which the air provides. In the world of the Plains Indians, the white buffalo was revered and especially sacred. Deemed the most acceptable gift that could be obtained to offer to the Great Spirit, this rarest specimen of all buffalo, when encountered, was always killed for sacrifice. Ceremony and ritual accompanied the taking of a white buffalo. Although different tribes used the skin in various ways, all of them prized the white buffalo for its powerful spirituality. Today, when a white buffalo calf is born, it is visited by Native Americans and acknowledged as a symbol of the return to the old ways. It is a sign of answered prayers and that people are coming back to religion and spirituality.
American Horse, Oglala Sioux chief, is a study of adaptability. Although born on the Northern Plains, he became an American citizen when he was 67 years old. He fought brave battles for his people, but when he was 27 years old, lead the battle for his people in peace. He had five wives, including the daughter of war chief Red Cloud, but when only one living wife remained, joined the Episcopal church. He rode beside great chiefs in battle, including Red Cloud and He Dog, then rode briefly in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. He fought against the invaders of his land, then traveled to Washington, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue and took part in treaty delegations. He lived free on the land he loved, then spent half his life on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
"As I was researching American Horse, I found, once again, how easy it is for me to embrace the nobility, love of land and the rights of people, peace and loyalty of the Native American spirit. I see the same qualities in those who have chosen to serve today and feel that they, too, are our leaders for tomorrow."
Young colts don’t leave the herd of their own volition; they are forced out so that they do not become a challenge to the main stallion, their father. These young bachelors will band together for protection, companionship and for the opportunity to practice their fighting skills so that one day, they can challenge a herd stallion and steal away mares for their own harem.
Their years in the bachelor herd are those years between their youth and adulthood, from the “terrible twos” onward. These boys will continually act up among themselves, out for domination of this all-male band. Judy shows this group engaged in such play and has hidden in each horse’s coat a reflection of itself as the foal he once was.
Concealed imagery has long been a hallmark of Judy Larson’s intricate scratchboard art, the second part to any story she tells in a painting. But not since 2011 has she combined both this hidden story and her beloved horses. No medium demands more planning and precision in execution, yet her subjects are alive with a freedom of form that redefines those limitations. That skill combined with a passion for the wilderness and all things wild makes owning a Larson an essential part of any art collection.
“Some years ago,” said artist Judy Larson,® “I hiked alone for several days with my two dogs in the White Mountains of Arizona, home to the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The scenery was nothing short of breathtaking and I watched eagerly for wildlife. I knew that black bear, bobcats, deer, elk, coyotes, foxes, skunks and other animals were native to this area, but there were no signs of any of them. I was stunned that not once in two days did I hear a single bird, see one animal track or catch sight of even a small rodent. The wilderness was eerily silent.
"The forest trees seemed to be saying to me, “We are the only ones left to testify as to what once was, but no longer is.” So, I imagined that a number of animals were present around me, hidden just out of sight: a mountain lion, an eagle, a fox, and a wolf. And, in my mind’s eye, I saw a young grizzly padding his way softly through the first light snow of fall (the last grizzly was killed in Arizona in 1939)."