I’m Judy Watson. I’m a book illustrator and artist, working from a home studio in Frankston South, Australia. I’m lucky enough to overlook the Sweetwater Creek and my home is a peaceful place. I share my house with my husband and two teenage children and I have trees, birds, insects, lizards and frogs on my doorstep. I have chickens in the front garden, a three-legged dog on the couch, and a changing array of foster cats who come for a little while before being adopted into their new homes.
I enjoy visiting schools, especially when I can work with the students on a creative project. Some of the topics I’ve covered on past school visits have included:
Character Development, with reference to the Prime Minister’s Literary Award winning book Goodnight, Mice!
Visually interpreting a story arc, with reference to Leonard Doesn’t Dance
Creating a collaborative artwork inspired by a local setting with reference to When You’re Older. (This is a whole day or two half day workshop, requiring staff assistance.)
I’m also very happy to work with you to adapt a workshop to suit your current unity of enquiry.
If your school would like a workshop or talk you can
email me at the following address (please insert @ instead of AT) judy.thumbprintATgmail.com
or contact me via my social media channels.
2022 has been quite a year so far, with the launch of When You’re Older, written by Sofie Laguna and illustrated by me over a number of years, including those two Covid lockdown years. As an introvert, it has seemed strange to not only be coming out of a very quiet home-bound existence into the community again, but to be coming out in such a public way with many and various public engagements to celebrate the book. It has received great reviews so far, and I wish it well on its journey. I hope that many families get enjoyment from its pages.
A brief biography of my life as an illustrator in the 3rd person
While working as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in the 1990s, producing work mostly for councils and not-for-profit organisations with a focus on environmental issues, Judy began seeking work as a children’s book illustrator. After taking her folio to Melbourne’s publishing houses, connecting with Books Illustrated at the Gasworks Arts Park and putting some sample work into their pre-web Style File, Judy found her first opportunities through educational publishing.
Grateful to learn on the job, she produced illustrations for Yucky Poo by Kim Caraher (Macmillan Education 1998), Scare and Dare by Jenny Feely (Eleanor Curtin Publishing 1998), Cassie’s Castle by Jane Langford (Rigby Literacy 2000), Project X and A Friend in Need by Carol Jones (Pearson Education 2000 and 2001), Where’s Tom? by Craig Christie (Pearson Education 2001) and The Bird by Carmel Reilly (Harcourt Achieve 2005). Illustrations from this period are listed under Judy’s maiden name (Spittle) and are to varying degrees embarrassing and occasionally pleasing!
Judy’s first experience with trade publishers came via Little Hare, with a lift-the-flap novelty book and two board books, after which she found work with Pearson again, doing black and white line art for the wonderful Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites series. These books, along with a connection from Little Hare, led to her first work with Frances Watts on the Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud four book series. It was with these books, and the nurturing support from both author and publisher, that Judy finally began to hit her stride. Although the books didn’t do well financially, they remain some of Judy’s favourite work.
After this, Judy found her way into picture books, where the full colour format led to an ongoing experimentation with mixed media. Digital techniques have allowed her more freedom to take risks, because mistakes can be more easily remedied. Judy finds that each picture book seems to call for its own unique treatment, and hence there is no one consistent, single style in her work. However, the common threads include a love of expressive line work, rough printmaking techniques, collage and unusual colour harmonies.
She has been published by Penguin, HarperCollins, Walker Books, and Allen and Unwin. Her picture book Goodnight, Mice! (author, Frances Watts) won a Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2012. Searching for Cicadas (auth. Lesley Gibbes) was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award in 2020. Leonard Doesn’t Dance (auth. Frances Watts) was selected by the International Youth Library for inclusion in the White Ravens Catalogue 2020. Her latest book When You’re Older was written by Miles Franklin award winning author Sofie Laguna and was published by Allen and Unwin in March 2022.
Judy lives and works in Frankston South, on a property backing onto a wildlife reserve and the Sweetwater Creek. She is currently plotting many writing adventures and future books.
A brief biography of my life as an artist in the 3rd person!
Judy Watson was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1966. She grew up surrounded by animals, in a home attached to her father’s veterinary clinic, spending many weeks each year on a family farm. From a young age she walked to the nearby public library and devoured books, and her grandmother, a painter encouraged her to create large paintings for display on the veterinary waiting room wall.
Judy’s love of reading, drawing and the visual arts led her to a degree in Fine Arts at Melbourne University. Animals, particularly dogs, continued to be an integral part of her personal life. She lived in London in the late 1980s, working in the box office of the Aldwych Theatre in London’s West End. In her time there she painted the people she met and developed a love of theatre culture which later fed into her visual language.
Returning to Australia, she began work at Greening Australia Victoria, promoting sustainable farming techniques through the illustration and design of educational materials. Her time there re-opened her eyes to Australia’s natural beauty, and shortly after this she moved naturally into children’s book illustration which combined her interests in the visual arts, animals, nature, people, stage and costume, and books. Her art practice and book illustration have travelled along side by side, feeding into one another since then.
Along with books, I’ve had the pleasure of illustrating many educational resources. Some of my work has been with Melbourne Museum who always challenge me with fascinating and wide-ranging subjects. I’ve drawn dinosaurs, markets in ancient Pompeii, Chinese opera, solar systems, Phar Lap, archeological digs, and many other things. For a while I worked on the Museum Victoria members’ magazine Kids Page which was a lot of fun.
Photos from my childhood, usually outdoors, and often with an animal
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