Judith Edwards-White. ‘Portrait in Pastel.’ Reference photo by Judith Edwards-White.

Artist Watch

The Artist

Judith Edwards-White

‘Scratchboard art was, and still is, a relatively unknown art medium, especially here in Australia, and with no one here to teach me I “jumped in the deep end” and taught myself.’


Judith Edwards-White is a master of Scratchboard Art, an art form not particularly well known in Australia, but very much admired in many other countries. If you love animals, birds, and wildlife generally, you will be delighted with Judith’s enchanting portraits, which portray not only the form but the spirit of animals and birds as they interact with the world around them.

In July 2011, Judith became one of Australia's only two Master Scratchboard Artists (MSA) when a set of initial Master members were juried into the ISSA (International Society of Scratchboard Artists) by a panel of three outside jurors, who were themselves all highly regarded professional artists. There are still only four Australian Master members in the ISSA, but a growing number of Australians are becoming Associate, Active and Signature members as the scratchboard medium becomes better known and increasingly popular.

Judith’s experience in experimenting with oils, acrylics and decorative art has given her insight and, most of all, the patience, to work in this most exacting of mediums.

‘I am a self-taught painter and have had no formal training whatsoever,’ Judith says. ‘I started painting in oils because that was the medium I had to hand at the time. I loved using them, although the drying time was something I wasn’t too keen on. It was really quite by accident that I switched to acrylics after a friend introduced me to them by telling me that they were what I needed to use on ceramics. Huge mistake!

‘Since I had quite a few tubes left over from this disastrous experiment, I decided to do some painting with them. I found the drying time was so different to oils that it took some getting used to. Now, however, acrylics are probably my favourite medium for painting due to their quick drying time.

‘Many years ago I was inspired to do paintings of my two oldest grandchildren Jordie and her brother Isaac when they were very young. One of these, “Rose Perfume” shows Isaac breathing in the scent of a rose being held under his nose by older sister Jordie. That rose was grown from a cutting taken from their Great, Great Grandmother’s garden and painting the children taking an interest in it was one way of preserving the memories.

‘I have two sons and three grandchildren, but I don’t think that any of them take much of an interest in my artwork because they all lead such very full lives. Both Jordie and Isaac are now in their 20s and have flourishing careers.’

‘Painting was my passion until I discovered Scratchboard Art in February 2008 and I am now totally addicted to this art form. Scratchboard art was, and still is, a relatively unknown art medium, especially here in Australia, and with no one here to teach me I “jumped in the deep end” and taught myself.

‘I have been asked many times what scratchboard art is exactly, and how it is done. For my work I use Ampersand Claybord, a masonite board covered with white Kaolin clay, which is then covered with India Ink. Briefly, the artwork is created by hand with thousands of tiny scratches. Lines and dots are scratched with a craft knife or other sharp instrument, with the finest detail produced by using the tip of a craft knife, to remove the black ink in order to show the white clay underneath.

‘I wouldn’t say that anything in particular inspires me – inspiration just hits me when I see or read something I like. The scratchboards I create are from photographs that appeal to me. I take some of the photographs myself and if I travel anywhere I always take my camera just in case I see something that I would like to create as an artwork. I have a Canon camera plus a small Olympus SP-510UZ, which is small enough for me to carry in my shoulder bag.

‘I also have a photographer friend who takes photographs especially for me to use. If I see something I really like, I ask for permission from the photographer to use it for my scratchboard art. Although dogs are my favourite subject, I like “scratching” other animals as well.

‘These days I’m retired and my main interest is my scratchboard art, although if time permits I do like to crochet, and I have also done some pretty extensive family history research. Unfortunately I have very little time to do gardening because I spend far too much of it doing scratch art. I have some potted plants such as miniature roses and geraniums, and roses have always been my favourite flower to paint.

‘In the past I’ve had work exhibited and published under the name of Judith or Judy White, although it’s always submitted under the name of Edwards-White to honour a promise I made to my dad to use my maiden name for my artwork. My scratchboard artwork of a working horse, “Ready for Work”, was created in memory of my late father, who had one of these magnificent animals on the property where he grew up. It’s one of my most prized artworks and one that I treasure.’

Judy was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, the eldest of two children, with a younger brother who now lives on the Sunshine Coast. Judy’s father, a boilermaker, was working as an aircraft fitter with the Australian Air Force in Wagga Wagga at the time, and her mother was a traditional ‘housewife’ who did occasional casual work.

‘I was too young to remember exactly when we came to Brisbane to live but I guess that it was after my Father completed his six years in the Air Force. I grew up in Brisbane and have lived here all of my life apart from living in Penang, Malayasia for seven months when my children were very young and their father was in the Australian Army.

‘My parents had their first home built on a 32 perch block in the Brisbane suburb of Salisbury. It was a Queenslander on cement stumps, although not the type which had verandas all around.

‘I have travelled to the United Kingdom, mainly to areas just outside London such as Stonehenge and I also took a trip around Europe for five weeks. In the US I drove from New York to Florida with a friend I met on the trip around Europe, and stayed in Atlanta, Georgia as well as visiting Cape Kennedy and New Orleans. Closer to home, I’ve been to New Zealand a couple of times. But I have never lived in another Australian city. Brisbane is my home and it always will be.

‘I have always loved animals and there have always been dogs in my life. When I was growing up we had two blue cattle dogs, Rover and Bluey. After I had children of my own, we had a German Shepherd named Tasha and in later years I owned a boxer dog, Jess, and then a rescued boxer called Luke. I loved them all and it’s not surprising that dogs feature strongly in my work.

‘When my brother and I were children, we were always “colouring in” and drawing. I remember my mother keeping the plain white butcher’s paper so that we could use it for drawing. As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in art.

‘I went to school in Salisbury and had a teacher in the lower grades who put my drawings on the wall in the classroom but, apart from that, I don’t remember anybody outside the family encouraging me to draw or paint.

‘My mother was the first to give me encouragement with my artwork and was my most avid supporter. In fact, after my mother’s passing, I found that she had kept a drawing I did at the age of nine and I couldn’t believe that she had kept it for all those years.

‘My first job after leaving Business College at the age of fifteen was working in a real estate office for a few months. I applied for a position with an air conditioning company as a shorthand typist/switchboard operator and later moved on from that position to work for the engineers, typing up contracts for the air conditioning of buildings et cetera. I worked for this company up until the time I married and shortly after I was expecting my first child.

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‘Yukichi (snow leopard) by Judith Edwards-White from Wild Animals. ‘Yukichi features in my calendar set for 2015 (see my profile under Artist Watch for more). She won 1st Place – Animal Category, at the Kenilworth LGI Trophy Art Competition in September 2013.’ Reference image is credited to Steve Tracey. (Scratchboard Art) © Artwork courtesy of Judith Edwards-White.