THE BIOGRAPHICAL photo on Judy Walters’ website shows her standing against a vintage truck and wearing a wide-brimmed hat and outdoorsy clothing. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine her with a palette in hand, wearing a painter’s smock and with an easel in front of her rather than a truck with many miles traveled.
Both images, the one captured and the one imagined, are part of her life’s story—as an artist, as a businesswoman, mom, grandmother and child of the Appalachians of Eastern Kentucky.
Walters grew up on a farm, the daughter of a coal miner dad and homemaker mom. Life on the farm was always busy, with nature close at hand and the myriad activities of working the land front and center. Walters says she draws on these happy memories as she creates her art. Think sunny landscapes, tides, country scenes, pets and more.
In her bio Walters writes: “I can remember how beautiful the jars of red tomatoes looked as we canned them every summer, and the morning dew glistening off the newly mowed hay in the fall. I loved my Daddy’s beautiful white smile when he returned from work, blackened with coal dust. The reflected colors of the swirling creek water caught my eye whenever Daddy baptized someone. My Kentucky homeland was filled with color.”
As a child, becoming an artist wasn’t on Walters’ horizon. She earned a business degree and had a first career as a real estate appraiser. Art “had been a passion, but I didn’t start exploring it until 2009,” says the mother of three adult children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
After she retired in 2008, she started taking art workshops and traveled to Europe to study with artists and to hone her plein air skills. She dipped her toe in the world of galleries and sales in 2017. “I decided to put some paintings out there, and I’ve painted more in the past two or three years than I have in my whole life,” says Walters. “At age 72, it’s definitely a second career.”
Walters lives with her husband in Orlando, Florida, and has a studio in her home as well as one in Daniel Island, South Carolina. She is represented by the Charleston Artist Guild Gallery and Perspective Gallery in Mount Pleasant.
The turn her professional life has taken has surprised Walters most of all. “I was shocked when I sold my first painting,” she says. “It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever tried to do. There’s something new to learn every day.”
And like any new job, Walters is still finding her way.
“It is difficult to convey to the viewer the blessings felt while painting each sunset or marsh,” she says. “I paint what I love and hope others also will love it. I love the waterways of coastal Carolina. Much of my inspiration comes from traveling on those waters.”
Her goal: To refine a style all her own so that people say, “That’s Judy’s painting.”
Whether it’s a country lane, a waterscape or children holding hands at water’s edge, she’s not too far away from painting that dream into reality.*
Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.