""I pulled up that picture, Googled your website and looked into your work. Your images leapt off the screen - your eye/voice is unique, the emotional content is immediately evident and powerful, and I was simply captivated." ~Collector
Judy McSween is a Charleston based artist who paints familiar abstracts to document inspiring life experiences. A native of Warren Ohio, and a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a BFA specialization in painting, McSween also taught elementary and middle school art in Ohio and South Carolina for over twenty years. She credits her students with teaching her to interpret her surroundings with fresh eyes and to instill joy in her work.
McSween’s paintings transcend ordinary perspectives, transporting viewers to dreamlike places. She works from realism, taking an image and deconstructing the composition into sweeping curves of color, unexpected angles, and smooth planes. Painting lines and scraping through layers of color to find pathways, arteries or roots, she leads viewers through her paintings to spaces infused with light and joy. That light— just beyond the horizon, spilling into a field, or captured for a split second along an edge, is McSween’s signature. Her style combines delicately blended brushwork with bold intuitive palette knife marks, making her paintings fresh, lively, and familiar.
Influenced by the underwater abstracts of Bob Mazur, her painting professor at Bowling Green State University, McSween draws inspiration for her own work from the places she’s lived, from her childhood home in Northeast Ohio to her current home in Charleston, SC. An explorer of the National Parks and outdoor spaces, she brings the serenity and power of nature into her paintings:
“Everybody needs beauty—places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” —John Muir
Her awards include Second Place in SC Chapter of NAWA's We See: Painting From Verse April 2023, Honorable Mention in Amethyst International Juried Exhibit April 2023, Best Painting in Piccolo Spoleto Juried Art Exhibit at Charleston's City Gallery 2022, Honorable Mention for her paintings at the 2019 Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit In Charleston, SC, Honorable Mentions in North Charleston’s Festival of the Arts both in oils and acrylics, second prize in South Haven Michigan’s 2018 Art of the Sea, and an Award of Excellence in Clermont Florida’s Champions for the Arts 2016.
In 2017, she was selected as the Design Winner of the The City of North Charleston Arts Fest Design Competition. As the winner of the statewide contest, McSween’s abstract oil painting, titled Scraping the Sky II, was used to promote the 2017 North Charleston Arts Fest, and the painting became part of the City’s permanent Public Art Collection.
McSween advocates for art to educate and uplift. Her collectors and fans enjoy videos of her painting process and photos of work in progress as well as her reflective and educational monthly newsletters. She is represented by the Dare Gallery in downtown Charleston SC, the Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan's Island, SC. She is a member of the National Association of Women Artists.
Transformation is exhilarating. My launching point for it is realism— I take an image and deconstruct the composition into sweeping curves of color, unexpected angles, and smooth planes. Painting lines and scraping through layers of color to find pathways, arteries or roots, I lead viewers through my paintings to spaces infused with light and joy. That light — just beyond the horizon, spilling into a field or captured for a split second along an edge, is my signature. When I’m painting, I’m in “my zone,” a timeless space where my mind reimagines memories and places or invents new worlds. I’m transported. The energy of light, line, and color that mark my starting point take me to wonderful new places. And sometimes, the work transports me back to savor a special time or place. It’s the movement and opportunity to go somewhere in a painting that is so incredible to me. My paintings pay tribute to art’s amazing ability to carry us away.