A bit about me


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.

I know there are a few Judy Watsons out there producing art. So this is what I look like.
Photo by Melisa Savickas http://melisasavickas.com/


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.

Sofie Laguna (left) and Judy Watson (right) at the launch of When You’re Older.
Photo by Melisa Savickas http://melisasavickas.com/
launch of When You’re Older Photo by Melisa Savickas
This is me speaking at the launch of When You’re Older, March 2022. Photo by Melisa Savickas

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.

I was happy to contribute two illustrations to this wonderful children’s poetry collection.
From Moonfish.
thunderstorm-dancing-cover Notable
19 print 15cm wide image area
Ernie and Maud page 50
It’s not easy being a superhero but it can be rewarding.
I’ve illustrated several other chapter books for primary school aged readers, many of them in the Aussie Nibbles or Aussie Bites series for Penguin Books. I’ve also done a few cover illustrations, including covers for Emily Rodda’s Fairy Realm series.

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

Country holidays. My very naughty pony Tom Thumb and I, in the front paddock with Snowy the steer. We used to drop out of trees onto the steer’s backs when they wandered underneath us. Apparently Tom threw me off so often at this point, that I rarely got on his back any more. (Everything changed when we found a way to keep me on his back more often than not.)
After a kite festival at Greythorn Primary School. My kite didn’t win any prizes. Ha ha.
Learning to ride at age 4. I think I was pretty scared.
The cottage and veggie garden on our holiday block.
veggie garden again.
With Red, the kelpie Dad picked up at the cattle market after somebody left him behind.
Drawing as usual
Here I am in the middle of my two brothers in 1966. It looks like Robert is aware that his world is collapsing around him. Peter is too young to have a clue yet, and still thinks I’m funny.

If you’d like to read the occasional post about my illustrating adventures, subscribe to my blog to have blog posts delivered to your email. I’d be so happy to have you here.

25 thoughts on “A bit about me

    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks GE :-) much obliged. My response to the questions will have to wait a little however, as I am up to my neck with picture book deadlines. If this causes a problem, you can pick somebody else if you like. Otherwise I’ll get to it as soon as I can. Cheers, Judy


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy Ernie & Maud. I ordered a copy of Hildafolk on your recommendation last night. I love a good graphic novel. Have you read ‘Jane, the Fox & Me’ by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault?


  1. lisajaynemurray

    Hi Judy…Saying a little hello from just up the road in Beaumaris and also a big thank you for sharing your creative process online. I hope you know how very helpful and encouraging it is to us wannabee’s who are tentatively dipping our toes in the scary ocean of professional illustration. Thanks Muchly LjM


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Hi Lisa Jayne. Sorry I’ve taken a while to get back to you. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Not sure why you should say wannabe when you are so successful already! I will have to catch up with you in person so you can teach me a thing or two. You are indeed not far away at all in Beaumaris. After I get back from Italy in April we should meet for a cup of tea.


  2. Pingback: Thunderstorm Dancing | Katrina Germein

  3. Elaine Rogers

    Hello- are you selling prints of your greyhound illustration “diamonds”? I have a few greyhounds and saw this illustration of yours recently. Many thanks- Ellen


  4. Judy Watson Post author

    Hi Elaine, Thanks for your enquiry.

    Are you referring to the illustration from Thunderstorm Dancing that has been going around on social media? It has the little girl with her arm around the whippet/greyhound (it turned out in-between size!) She is wearing red bathers. The dog is in a red bandana. If so, I can get high resolution archival quality digital prints made to order.

    The version on the internet has been cropped down just to the dog and girl, but the original includes the sunset and the beach and horizon. Please feel free to email me to discuss what you have in mind. Cheers, Judy

    My email address is judydotthumbprintatgmaildotcom. You just need to replace the dots and ats with .s and @s. :-)


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Hi Martin, thanks for tour message. I can get it printed if you’d like to order a print. If you tell me what size you want I will give you a quote. Somewhere, in fact, the original will be on file if you are interested in that? Cheers, Judy (Judy dot thumbprint at gmail dot com)


  5. Rach

    I was introduced to your work through Cicadas, which I purchased because our adult daughter was attracted to the illustrations. Grandchildren – 8 months old and 3 years old find the text and illustrations engaging. I loved your work so much that I had to search you up to find out more. My printing on fabric experience is limited and does nothing to help me to understand the process of how you have created these incredible illustrations.
    They are very inspiring and as these 2 little people grow we will be referring to them for inspiration.
    Thank you for your work which has enriched our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Judy Watson Post author

    Hi Rach, How nice of you to leave such a wonderful comment! Thank you so much. That’s a lovely message to start the day. As to my technique, I was interviewed by Megan Daley about Searching for Cicadas a while back, so you might get a bit more information about the process by checking out the interview on this link. https://childrensbooksdaily.com/searching-for-cicadas-narrative-non-fiction/ (Or if the link doesn’t work in the comments section, just search for ‘Megan Daley Searching for Cicadas’ and it will come up.) In short, the illustration is all hand drawn or hand printed, but I combine it on the computer in PhotoShop, which is the only way I have yet found to produce that particular style of illustration. But I would love to print on fabric, so I’m sure there’s a lot you could teach me. Thank you again.


  7. Pingback: When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna, illustrated Judy Watson

  8. Pingback: 2020 Eve Pownall Award – IDTL Book Week

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