By Joe Zagorski


“I’ve always loved to draw,” says Judy Wilder-Dalton, artist, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

As local artist, Judy Wilder-Dalton, approaches another blank canvas, voices of past art teachers swim through her head. As she washes on the first layer of color, she may encounter the guidance of an early mentor, private tutor or workshop instructor. Lessons learned, passed on through generations of teachers, find fresh expression at the tip of Judy’s brush.

Born in Tyler, Texas, Judy and her sister, Jane Wilder-Lee, were raised by Theo and Inez Wilder in Quitman. Judy developed a love for drawing early on. She remembers one classroom assignment having particular impact: copying illustrations from a biology textbook. “I was so taken by the experience, I began copying images from encyclopedias and beauty magazines, too,” Judy said.

Judy’s “Summer Lake,” pastel on sanded paper

Before long, she married and established a home in Longview, Texas. There, she gave birth to three children, Tania, Matt and Patrick, and continued exploring the artist’s way. She took classes and workshops and became active in local art guilds, meeting some of her best, lifelong friends among the artists she encountered.

In 1975, Judy received her first formal, artistic recognition, a Reese Kennedy Award from the Gregg Art Guild in Longview. The following year, she won another Guild award and began to fetch serious attention winning national and international competitions.

As her family grew, so did her responsibilities. Judy enrolled in a beauty school as a hair stylist. “Contributing to the household income was one thing, but in truth, I had to pay for my growing assortment of art supplies,” she said. “The study of beauty presented a practical way for me to keep my hand in the creative world, while also earning extra income.”

By the late 1980s, William Herring, a nationally recognized artist from El Paso, known for his drawing, watercolor and pastel work, invited Judy to attend an apprenticeship. Under his tutelage, Judy learned to take ownership of her talent and began to stretch her grasp of all media and styles.

More awards came, and as the 1990s unfolded, Judy was invited to attend another art atelier, this one by Kay Polk, a successful portrait artist. Here, Judy discovered the earning potential of commissioned portraits and continued to refine her craft. She placed an ad in Southern Accents Magazine and was soon receiving requests for pet portraits.

“Blustery Day,” by artist Judy Wilder-Dalton, oil on smooth, primed, artist panel

Like most artists, however, Judy hit a lull in her career, paring her output after the divorce of her first husband. It wasn’t until she married her current husband, Mike Dalton, in 1998, that she reclaimed her groove and began breaking new ground.

Photographing her work for submission to exhibitions, and learning to take good reference photos for art, Judy pursued the art of photography. All the while, she continued immersing herself in her favorite media, pastel, oil and acrylic. In addition, Judy built a strong following as an art teacher, hosting private and small group classes and workshops at her own Wilder Art Studio in Holly Lake Ranch, Texas, as well as at venues statewide.

Judy photographs her subjects as a way to gain reference.

From creating art with childhood friends, through the ups and downs of a career that has taken her into national and international galleries, award competitions and artistic circles, Judy remains true to her personal credo, “to find art in life and life in art.”

Today, she defines her style as somewhere between expressionism, characterized by open, emotional use of color, line and texture, to impressionism, striving to convey the essence of a subject without being literal in interpretation.

Landscapes have always been a keen interest to her. “I start with a layer of color and then add on as I go, allowing the work to evolve as light, color and shape take form on the canvas,” she said.

Whether she’s painting in her studio alone or working with students to refine their craft, the voices of past teachers stream through her work, extending the continuum of art and art knowledge that connects artist to teacher to the very nature of color, structure and design. Through Judy, the circle of art continues.

To view Judy’s work or inquire about upcoming classes, please visit