Connecting with Nature

By Robert L. Ramsay

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Comox Valley watercolour artist Judi Pedder relishes a challenge, an advantage, since her life has been full of adversity. Born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, the youngest of seven children, Judi's first unwanted challenge came at age eight when she had to deal with the death of her father who was a dentist. Deprived of his support, the family purchased a hotel in Felixstowe, a town on the North Sea coast. It was only a few years after the war and rationing was still in effect, which made operating a hotel difficult; young Judi was obliged to help the family make ends meet by working as greeter, waitress and cleaner.

Once married, she met the challenge of being an army wife. She created homes for her growing family in faraway posts such as Singapore, and tried to provide them with the necessities of life on the low pay allotted to British army personnel. Hoping for a better life, the family moved to Canada, but her husband found only low-paying jobs in the Toronto area. Eventually, they purchased the Kitchener Day Care Centre, which Judi renamed The Pumpkin House, and using newly honed administrative skills, transformed it into the city’s most sought-after day care facility.

Following the breakup of her first marriage, Judi had to meet the challenge of heading up a single-parent family. This left her with no time to practise the artistic skills acquired at the Ipswich School of Art, which she had attended on a four-year scholarship following secondary school.

She’d received training in a wide range of media, eventually specializing in sculpture, weaving and calligraphy, but she’d always been interested in painting. Two of the artists who inspired her with their landscapes were John Constable and, later, Canadian Jack Reid. It wasn’t until the 1990s, when her family had grown up and left home, that she found the time to take more art courses.

“I wasn’t very pleased when I first dusted off my paint box,” says Judi, “but I persevered and began entering my work in shows.”

Her inspiration comes from scenes of her travels in Canada and England.

“My work reflects a strong connection to earth and its natural beauty, and my need and love for wide-open, peaceful spaces,” she says.

A fine example hangs on the wall in her spacious studio in Comox. *Summer Evening, Haliburton* captures the mood of a quiet summer evening along the lakeshore, where cooling shadows are cast by the trees and hills bordering the shoreline (see the gallery on her website

Today, Judi works mainly in watercolours, and some of her methods are inventive.

“I keep thinking of new ways to work,” she says, “and that gives me the challenge of experimenting until I find just the right method for the current piece.”

One of her techniques is to paint on Masa paper. She first sketches the image, then wets and crumples the paper, spreads it out and applies a wash to the back. While still wet, it is glued to a piece of watercolour paper, coloured side down. Once dry she paints on the front side, completing the image she had drawn earlier. An example of this type of painting is Cox Bay, Tofino, in which the background colours and patterns suggest a scene of great movement, perhaps high winds and a brief shower, despite blue patches in the sky.

“I am experimenting with gluing Masa paper to canvas,” says Judi. “To my surprise, I find that the canvas renders the colours more vibrant.”

Houseplants and gardening inspire much of her work. “I like to fill my florals with details,” she says, “but I don’t aim for photographic realism.” She points to a painting of an azalea with a cool apricot blush on each flower. “I saw these blooms at Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens,” she says, “and I fell in love with the delicate apricot hues. It was a challenge to find just the right colour.”

Judi’s learned not to frame her work as soon it’s finished. “I did that in my early days and often found myself dismantling the frame so that I could make some changes. Now I take a finished work upstairs and live with it for a while. Quite often, I see a way to improve it. I value comments from other painters, too. Often, an artist can have a blind spot to her own work, but a visiting artist will notice something immediately, and I’m always grateful when they make suggestions.”

Since moving to the Comox Valley in 2006, Judi has shown her work in many exhibitions sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Artists and the Nanaimo Arts Council. Her next solo show will be at Comox’s Filberg Lodge on May 15 and 16, 2010. She has taught workshops in watercolour painting at art galleries in the valley and surrounding areas. She also offers instruction in her studio, and sometimes has as many as 10 students sitting at the tables, her own paintings lining the walls as inspiration.

When not painting or tending to her home and garden, Judi and her husband Jim enjoy Scottish Country Dancing. “We met in 1994 while ballroom dancing,” she says, “and while he doesn’t know a lot about art, he is very supportive.”

Judi also finds time, usually in the evenings after dinner, to knit blankets for Project Linus (see sidebar). Currently she is working on her 59th blanket, and a recent article she wrote for the *Comox Valley Echo* resulted in several more people signing up to become Blanketeers.

“I may not be able to give large cash donations to charities,” says Judi, “but knitting these blankets is something I can do to give comfort to children on Vancouver Island who are having to meet some of life’s more difficult challenges, just as I had to do when I was a little girl.”

Judi’s upcoming shows are listed on her website: or she may be contacted at her studio in Comox 250-339-7081.




Project Linus, named after the security blanket-carrying character from the Peanuts comic strip, endeavours to provide children who are seriously ill or have been traumatized with a sense of love, security, warmth and comfort. Children are presented with a small blanket crafted by volunteers known as Blanketeers. The blankets, made from new materials, may be quilted, sewn, knitted or crocheted in child-friendly colours.

For further information about Project Linus, check their international website at A list of Canadian chapters can be found at The Vancouver Island Co-ordinator is Evelyn McNabb of Nanaimo, Telephone: 250-390-0822 or e-mail:



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