Judith Walker- Comedian, Cartoonist and Fine Artist
Born in Leeds, Judith grew up in Rawdon and Guiseley in West Yorkshire always with an awareness of her father’s Scottish heritage. From a young age developed a fascination with colour, painting, collage and textiles. She also always had a keen sense of humour and enjoyed comedy and reading comics.
After leaving Guiseley School she went to Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), initially to study institutional management. However, the cultural buzz of the art department lured her to a foundation course at the Jacob Kramer College, Leeds. Whilst in Leeds she met cartoonist Tom Johnston who was her partner for the next 20 years. She then moved to London in 1974 to do a BA in Fine Art at Central St Martins London, where she won prestigious student awards. This was followed by two years at New Mexico State University, where in addition to her studies for a master’s degree in art she worked as a teaching assistant and in the university archives as a curator of photography.
Following graduation in 1980 she returned to London and lived there since then but also spent time during the eighties and nineties at a house she owned house in Cushendall on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. She has had studios in Covent Garden, Borough Market and Deptford, and has continually worked in fine art in paint, drawing, ceramics and print. In this time she exhibited her work widely in group and solo exhibitions in the UK particularly in London including The Royal Academy Summer show, the New Contemporaries, the Watermans Art Centre and Gallery 106 and in her native Yorkshire including Bradford University and internationally in the US and Poland, and has produced artworks for two major public buildings: the South Bank University Library and the widely renowned Peckham Library. Her work is included in private and institutional collections such as The Cartoon Museum, Art UK and Rank Xerox.
Alongside this she has worked as a cartoonist (Originally under the name Judy Walker), beginning with the 1980’s cult magazine Duck Soup – of which she was also managing editor – and including periods producing a regular strip for The Sun from the late eighties to early nineties entitled Men! and as editorial cartoonist to New Humanist magazine for seven years up to 2013 . She was cartoonist in residence at University College London Hospital in 2015, was featured in the 2017 exhibition of British female cartoonists, The Inking Women, at The Cartoon Museum, London, and in the book of the same title published in 2018.
The combination has led to her bringing her fine art and cartoon skills together in 2017, producing a series of work that blend painting with the cartoons form to produce a brash mixture of images and words reflecting the anxieties within contemporary society.
Interesting developments in her work came when she took a second master’s degree in cultural enquiry over 2013-15 at Birkbeck College, University of London. Working alongside people from the other areas of the arts – including opera singers and ballet dancers – she was inspired to think about how people could interact with her work in a specific space. This has led to working with textiles and paper on installations, performance and video.
In addition, she has studied art therapy, run art workshops in schools and hospitals, and annually takes part in The Guardian’s Family Art and cartoon Day.Judith’s probing for new forms of expression, and her experience as a cartoonist, has also led her to stand-up comedy. Since 2017 she has regularly been performing on the open mic circuit around London, writing her own material and honing her skills as a performer.
She has also has a radio show with two friends – Julia Collier and Joy Campbell – who branded themselves as The 3Js on a regular show title Open Discussion on Women’s Radio Station. This has involved discussions on everyday and ‘big issue’ subjects, and has proved popular with young women, providing a specifically feminine perspective on the world.
Alongside her artwork Judith has considerable experience in the business side of magazine publishing, having worked for publications including the environmental journal ENDS, and in charity governance and fundraising, for the Rationalist Association and The Camden Society (a charity for people with learning disabilities). She has worked in various roles in the arts for the Royal Academy, the Science Gallery, London.
For the past 20 years Judith has lived in Rotherhithe, London with her husband, the journalist and writer Mark Say.