When Judy Verhoeven decided to pursue art full time following two decades split between being a graphic designer and a stay-at-home home schooling mom, she revisited an art form that had been a staple of her adolescence.
“I’ve been doing collage for a lot longer than I thought,” Verhoeven says. “When I was a kid – I would say about 13, 14, 15 – I had my friends save gum wrappers, and I did a huge collage using gum wrappers.”
And a few weeks prior to speaking with the Greenville Journal, she adds, a former art teacher from Mauldin High School returned to her a collage she had completed during her time as a student.
“For some reason, the idea of including paper in my work has been something I just do, and I’m not really sure why,” Verhoeven says.
The paper used in her collages is almost all recycled and mainly sourced from secondhand books and maps. Verhoeven has even made use of her son’s old homework from his courses in Clemson University’s engineering program. “That math looks like a foreign language to me, and it makes an interesting painted paper when you see the symbols and things,” she says.
When Verhoeven paints and stains her papers — the first step in making a collage — she mixes acrylics with water so that whatever imagery or text is on the paper remains preserved and visible. “I sometimes make stamps or stamp a simple pattern on it. I have several techniques I use to create pattern and texture,” she says. “It’s not physical texture. It doesn’t feel any different; it just looks different.”
Once that process is finished, Verhoeven stores her newly painted papers in files, picking out pieces and cutting and gluing when she’s ready to begin a new work.
Verhoeven’s collages often depict landscapes and animals, particularly birds, owls, and dogs.
“I adore dogs. There’s the expression, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I sometimes think, ‘What would dogs do?’” she says. “They embody the spirit of love. When I’m working with dogs specifically, there’s kind of a spiritual thing going on.”
Working in the “absolutely gorgeous” city of Greenville and having an attic studio both provide Verhoeven with a vantage point that constantly provides new inspiration.
“I’m seeing the treetops and the bones of the trees in the winter and the bright green in the spring. I’m seeing birds,” she says. “I can’t help but be inspired by what I see every single day. There’s so much beauty everywhere I look.”