Meet Our Members: Judy Swallow

Judy Swallow is a visual artist/illustrator living in Alameda with her husband Glenn. They have two children and five grandchildren.

Judy has a strong connection to nature, creating a body of work entitled “The Vanishing Valley”. She has published Limited Edition Prints, Art Cards and Note Cards as well as two children’s picture Books and numerous magazine and book covers.

Judy especially loves children book illustration and working with children of all ages. She invites you to view her website at:


Describe your workspace.






My former studio was a tiny 7×7 foot rounded corner in our veranda. (Proving art can happen anywhere) It was cozy and I loved everything about it except the size. Recently we built a studio off the breezeway in our home. There are many large windows, providing loads of welcome light and a fireplace providing warmth and coziness. I have space for all kinds of art classes and workshops that I provide and tons of room to create. I absolutely love it!


Describe a typical workday.

I work full time as an artist/illustrator. My typical workday begins around 9 in the morning and ends at 7 pm. I take a half hour at lunch to get out of my studio and small breaks throughout the day before starting the after school and evening art programs.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I have a lot of favorite, meaningful things in my studio. My books transport me to my creative world, my nature items, rocks, feathers, wood pieces, are my inspiration and nature connection and the little stuffed characters on their rockers are reminders to the child within, imagination and playfulness.


Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

I can find a thousand things to distract me, so I like to develop a pattern of habits that encourage and coax me. What I find works well for me is to begin my day by journaling. It centers me and helps me to dump any negative stuff. I then like to take a walk. It clears my head and I feel ready to go to work. When I get in my studio, I bring along a cup of black coffee and a tall glass of water. I usually take a minute or two to sit and look out my studio windows. I have a huge evergreen right next to the windows and the birds and squirrels provide me inspiration. This is my daydream state and I come up with all kinds of ideas for illustrations. Then I begin working on my latest art project. Some mornings are filled with taking care of business, I brainstorm ideas for art classes and create and plan workshops.


What do you listen to while you work?

Most often it is silence. I find noise distracting and it seems to pollute and dissolve any creative thought and ideas. I do sometimes however, love to listen to classical music and jazz.


What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I drink water and black coffee. I try to avoid food as it seems to stop my creating and I am prone to making a mess.


How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

My muse is my Pied Piper. Often my story ideas come in the form of visual thought first and often dialogue. So I do lots of thumbnail sketches. When developing story ideas in written form, I love brainstorming, then ideas, thoughts, phrases and words are jotted down and I draw connections. I have journal booklets, which I make, filled with ideas and sketches.


If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I share the studio with my husband! Glenn and I write stories together and we both love the space we have created for these times.

I share my workspace daily with children and adults of all ages. This is awesome!


What media do you use and which is your favourite?

Picking one is too hard! My favorite mediums are acrylic, ink and prismacolor. I do love watercolor too. It seems to depend on the project I am working on. I do find pen and ink relaxing and will often ‘doodle’ in the evening with ink. I create pieces and urge myself to never destroy anything I create, just work with it.


What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

There are many words of advice that resonate for me but the one that I keep coming back to is… ‘Don’t judge it, just do it!’


Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

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