Unlocking Artistic Intuition: A Conversation with Judith Weber
By Michelle Costanza
What does it mean to make art “intuitively”? How does one discover the voice of their own unique creativity? To Judith Weber, the answers to these questions emerge from a place of playful abandon that abides in every person. Guiding individuals through the process of artistic self-discovery has become integral to Judith’s ethos as an artist and educator, as she instructs students in various art spaces and communities in the Westchester/Connecticut area. Her upcoming workshop at Pelham Art Center, Intuitive Printing & Collage, is a series geared toward both technical exploration and self-expression. In two workshops comprising 4 sessions each, Judith takes students through an experience that is spontaneous yet supportive, technical yet whimsical, unexpected yet inexplicably familiar. Judith’s reflections on teaching, art, and intuition bring us to the heart of what her intuitive process is all about, and why her workshop is a transformative experience for people of all backgrounds and artistic levels.
A Call to Creative Leadership
Judith Weber describes the makings of her Intuitive workshops as a culmination of decades of her own experimentation and creative risk-taking. She first gravitated to ceramic arts 60 years ago, and has been an artist ever since. Her career has taken her from studio work, to working with children, being a product designer, doing loft development, wholesale business and more. “My focus has always been on a combination of making art, earning a living, and creating an environment where people of a similar orientation could come together spontaneously and do things together.”
Along the way, Judith’s understanding of her purpose in art and in life expanded as she began to wonder about her “footprint” –how her daily and long-term work could reflect her mission to be of real service to others, and to have fun doing so.
A turning point occurred in 2010, when Judith–then a member of the New Rochelle Council of the Arts–was asked by the NRCA Board to step up as President. At the time, she shares, “I was a studio person…always in the studio, or building studios and managing studios. I was a kind of closet artist–who was doing all this good work–but I never came out of my building, and there was a lot that really scared me.” That year, she enrolled in the Leadership Westchester program, and believes it is what helped her “to trust who I was as a person and my own mission as a human being; to know and trust that we all have a mission. That really changed things for me.”
From there, Judith began shifting her focus toward developing art workshops. In contrast to a more traditional art class geared towards taking a student from level one, to two, then three, Judith’s workshops aim to engage students in the pure, lighthearted experience of creativity itself. With this shift came a transformation in Judith’s self-perception, as not just an artist or an educator, but a leader and a facilitator.
“Leadership doesn’t mean telling other people what to do. Leadership means helping others develop their voice. To think of yourself as being a leader in whatever it is that you do is not just to be at the head of the table, but to be fully committed to seeing growth around you.”
No Failure, No Fear, Just Play
To what does Judith attribute the growth she has achieved as an artist and as a person? Intuition. She thinks of intuition as an innate curiosity–the instinct to figure things out, to find what feels good in the moment. By embracing intuition, one builds an inner trust to carry them through all of life’s “what-if’s.” Art can be a means and method to cultivate intuition, but many who join Judith’s workshop will show up with a disconnection from their intuition. “People always underestimate what they’re capable of doing. It can be intimidating to feel like you have to make things look a certain way, but if you tap into that artistic, imaginative place in you, you’d be surprised what you can do.” In fact, Judith admits she prefers working with those students who enter the studio thinking they “don’t” or they “can’t”–often times, our doubts and fears point toward what needs creative expression. Judith reassures students, “You can’t fail…There’s nothing to achieve here. This is all surprise.”
How does one begin to free the inner artist? Distancing oneself from the intellectual, linear mind that seeks to analyze and achieve, Judith believes, can happen when you approach things like a child. She encourages this approach through a combination of exercises that build on spontaneity. “I give everyone squares of paper, a bunch of tools, and tell them just make marks! Play!” Before this, however, Judith always invites students to introduce themselves and share their experience with artmaking–even if it’s none at all. With a classroom environment that is supportive and personal from the start, students can relax into the exercises and feel comfortable conversing throughout the session.
As the workshop continues, initial mark-making is collaged together, covered with tissue paper, followed by more gestural marks. Judith instructs the process of transfe
rring and layering, and finally the addition of color and other finishing elements. “By the time you’ve finished,
you’ve really thought about who you are…because the focus is not on making ‘good work,’ but telling a good story–your story.” No matter where they started, each student walks away with a stronger attunement to their instincts and a deep sense of freedom. The artwork that is produced is just a byproduct, a souvenir of the experience. Hanging on a wall, it is a reminder to trust your natural intuition as the roadmap to your deepest purpose and greatest joys.
Want to dive into intuitive artmaking? Sign up for Intuitive Printing & Collage with Judith Weber this fall at Pelham Art Center: