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Sipping coffee, she sits in her breakfast room. She opens her blinds, and she observes. With observation comes an appreciation, and with an appreciation comes a unique outlook — an eagerness to travel, a desire to express, a yearning to create. Framed by vision and perception, she recreates memories, experiences and time. She inspires, she instructs, and she impresses. This is her journey.
Judy Rider’s story is inspiring. Though most would guess she has painted her entire life, it took Rider many years to recognize her talent and passion for art. She never anticipated winning national honors for her work in watercolor. With patience and dedication, her talent and acclaim unraveled.
Rider grew up in Minden, La. As many students who go to college do, Rider chose a career path that would lead to a specific job and then retirement.
She graduated from Louisiana Technical University with a bachelor's degree in English. After she earned a graduate degree in education from West Virginia University, she taught for four years.
Rider developed an initial interest in art in college. Her roommate studied art education, and Rider helped her create art using potato shapes. Though she didn’t realize it then, her artistic talent was natural.
“Growing up, (students) were given the option of band, chorus or art. I didn’t think I was like the students taking art, so I chose band,” Rider said.
She recognized her talent years later — after marriage and time off from work to raise children.
During this time, Rider stopped teaching English and began to take classes in pen and ink, and watercolor.
After a watercolor workshop with Fred Graff in 1987, Rider’s emphasis turned to watercolor.
“I was a member of a group called Greenbrier Artists in West Virginia that met weekly and painted in an open studio format,” she said. “During that time, I began exhibiting in yearly showings and entered local art competitions.”
In 1991, Rider moved to Hickory, and was asked to join the Piedmont Painters, who met monthly and critiqued members’ art. As her passion for art grew, so did her dedication. Rider took studio and plein air workshops, and she took art classes at Caldwell Community College.
In 2000, Rider began to teach art at Catawba Valley Community College, and it was during this time that she grew an immense devotion and love for art.
Watercolor became a medium that she used to express memories, photographs and her imagination.
“Trips I have taken have been my inspiration for the last few years,” she said.
Rider constantly challenges herself. Occasionally, she will paint something and notice a breakthrough in technique and style.
Recently, Rider earned national recognition for her talent.
In October 2010, Rider achieved her biggest award. The National Watercolor Society granted her the Utrecht Art Supply Award. Out of 1,000 entries, she won one of 14 awards.
“(Competitions) are all about chance,” Rider said. “You continue to work hard and practice what you love, and occasionally the time will come when you win, and you know that you got it right.”
Her message and testimony speaks to persistence — aim high and never give up. And, in the meantime, you will find beauty all around.
Rider accepts commissions on house portraits, child portraits and pet portraits.
She has exhibits and classes in Catawba and Caldwell counties. An exhibit for the Caldwell Arts Council is scheduled in April, along with a “Lunch and Learn” demonstration and a beginner’s watercolor workshop.
A lot of Rider’s work can be found at The Sally Company on Union Square in Hickory. For more information, visit www.judyarts.com.