Art with an Air Brush and Needle



Art with an Air Brush and Needle
Profile and Collector
Art with an Air
Brush and Needle
Judi Paul of Luxembears talks about her art and her collection.
udi Paul has always loved creating
art. Starting at age seven she was
knitting and sewing her own animal
toys. Throughout the years she has
drawn, painted and tried many crafts
until the lifelong love of teddy bears
and general stuffed toys recaptured
her interest in 1999. Judi started out
by recycling furs into bears but then
discovered mohair in all its glorious
diversity and a true love affair was born.
Judi’s grandmother knitted toys for
her, and her mother sewed toys for
her as a child and therefore it is not
surprising that the first mohair bear
she sewed from a kit was given to her
mother, who still proudly displays the
bear. Judi however found the process
of the kit bear unsatisfying and was
soon immersed in designing and
creating her own concept of bears.
Snow Leopard
“I have learnt so much from diving in and just doing it.
For me the process is just so much fun! In the beginning I
bought a lot of books on bear-making to get techniques and
skills but now I tend to experiment myself,” she explains.
I ask her if she has a favourite book “Not anymore,
now I tend to devour books with photos of animals, as
they are my real inspiration. Animals in nature and in the
wild give me wonderful ideas. I often design, process
and finish in my head before starting a new bear or
animal in the fur.”
I make the mistake of thinking I understand until Judi’s
next comment catches me out. “I see bears in piles of
leaves, my laundry basket, in a tree and in my children.
I’ll just catch an idea and I make mental notes until I can
dash into my workroom and start making my latest vision.
People tell me that they can see me or my children’s eyes in
my bears. My children do name my bears, so a little bit of
me and my family will be in all my bears.”
So if Judi has made the bear in her head, does the bearmaking flow smoothly? “Oh no. I do work on my designs
until I am completely satisfied. They need to ‘speak’ to
me as if they are alive. They need to pull at my heart
strings before I show them to the world. Often I will set
an unfinished bear on my kitchen counter so I can see it
often throughout the day. Eventually it will be finished,
when the thoughts enter my head about what I need to do
to finish the bear. I have one on my counter now that has
been there for more than two months. He’ll tell me when
it’s time to finish him.”
Bear Creations
Bear Creations
Unknown artists
Bear Creations
I know that Judi lives with her husband and
children on a working dairy farm, so I have to wonder
how much time she really has to make bears and sell
them. “I make less than one hundred. I sell my bears
on eBay, Bid 4 Bears (a bear auction site), on my
own website, and at The Toy Shoppe in Richmond,
Virginia, USA. I find it difficult to travel to trade
shows at this point. I have done a very limited amount
and would like to do more in the future. I do find it
hard to part with certain creations though, as I know
I will never again create the same bear. Also, my
children guilt trip me into keeping many of them. “Oh
Mom! You can’t sell this one!!!” or “Oh Mom, I love
this one, can’t I have him?”
Judi has won many prestigious awards and she tells
me about the bear that won her first award in 2004.
“In August of 2004 I lost three family members, my
sister, nephew, and brother-in-law, suddenly and
unexpectedly. As part of my healing process I created
a bear in loving memory of my nine year-old nephew
Hayden. I called this bear ‘Hayden’s Cub’. I knitted a
blue sweater and hat and gave this bear the sparking
eyes of my little nephew. Hayden’s Cub was created
in loving memory of a little boy who will never
grow old. It represents the child in us all who will
never outgrow the warmth of a teddy bear. It just so
Merrythought bears
happened that Steiff was holding a bear
artist contest and I debated whether or
not to enter this bear. I almost missed
the deadline, as I really wanted to
keep him. Well, he won first place in
the Steiff North American Bear Artist
Contest in 2004.”
Her bears are renowned for their
faces and airbrush detail so I ask if she
tweaks many of her patterns to perfect
the design and detail. “I have so many
styles and patterns I cannot even count
them. Many designs I have only done
once and then I move onto the next. I
do not like repeating designs as there is
no excitement in what will emerge if I
already know the outcome. I really like
adding firmly felted details to my bears’
faces and paws and I create animals
ranging in size from 6” to 26”.
The colours I prefer are natural bear
colours, all shades of browns and
sometimes white and cream. Mohair is
my fabric of choice but I am currently
experimenting with some beautiful
French woven back plush to make a
huge white tiger.”
As Judi generally makes realistic
style bears and other animals I wonder
about her opinion on dressed bears.
“Once in a while I like to dress or make
a character bear. I have used pre-made
clothes in the past but I feel that to
truly be an artist design, it needs to be
designed and made by the artist. So
now I make all the clothing/costuming
Anjo Noiji bears
Various artists’ bears
Bear Creations
Nadia Jacobs’ bears
myself. It’s labour intensive to create
costuming as sometimes I have travelled
to several fabric stores to find just the
right fabrics and trims to make just the
right outfit that I have in mind.”
Apart from her expertise as a
Certified Air Brush artist of 22 years,
I ask her if she has any tips to pass on
to those starting out. “The best bear
making tip I learned was to hold a bear
in the mirror to check the ear placement.
The best tip I could offer would be
that when using eyes with pupils make
sure the pupils are looking in the same
direction. This gives bears a real or
human-like gaze and avoids the walleyed or ‘blank’ stare. This could mean
the difference between a good bear and
a great bear.”
Previously in our conversation, Judi
had told me that as a child she slept on
a ‘bed of soft toys’ sewn and knitted
by her mother and grandmother. She
even confessed to still having a soft
spot for knitted animals and Mickey
Mouse today.
Not to be distracted, I have to know
what bears an accomplished artist
would collect and if her own knowledge
of bear-making has changed her
collecting style.
“I have acquired my collection
mainly from the internet, via eBay,
and bear websites. There are so
many artists that I admire, but if I
am to name any, I think I’d name the
artists who I have the most bear from
Nadia Jacobs, Anjio Noji, Deborah
Beardsley and Dennis Shaw. My
all time favourite manufacturer has
to be Merrythought. I have more
Merrythought than any other kind
of bear in my collection. In my
bedroom I have more than 65 bears.
Then in other parts of my house I
have cabinets and shelves with lots
of happy faces peering at me. I have
always collected soft animals, and
mohair bears since around 2000. It’s
Bear Creations
looking back at me from every room in
my house. It makes me feel like I am
surrounded by my friends.”
I can’t argue with that as I know
I’d love a Luxembear looking down
at me too!!
Judi teachers an online class
Judi Paul of Luxembears
can be contacted at
Email - [email protected]
Website - ❧
Quick Tips for Airbrushing
As Judi has spent 22 years air-brushing I asked her for some quick tips.
Equipment and Paints
• Judi’s recommendation is a single
action air brush as they do the
mixing of air and paint for you.
Much of her own fabulous work is
done using a Passche H.
• She uses a CO2 tank as a compressor
set at 28psi.
• Judi finds acrylic paints work
well on both real fur and mohair because they are a plastic base they
flow on soft and flexible. She sets
the paint with a quick pass of the
hair dryer. It has been suggested that
a shoe shelf in the clothes dryer is
also effective; the bear is stable and
being heated evenly.
• Judi uses Createx and Liquitex
acrylic paints
• She does thin the acrylic paints
slightly even although the
manufacturer suggests this is
not needed.
• Permanent inks are used
occasionally by Judi.
• Fabric dyes need to have the
residue rinsed out and as this
cannot be done on a completed
bear, Judi is wary of the dye
coming off with handling,
smudging and losing definition.
• Grade your colours, start with the
lighter one first and build up to
darker colours.
• To avoid areas such as felt eye
whites while working Judi suggests:
very nice when I know the artist but
it has no bearing on what I will buy.
It solely depends on the bear itself.
It needs to ‘speak’ to me before I will
adopt any bear.
“I would have to say that even though
my work has changed drastically over
the years, my taste in collecting has not.
I tend to collect bears very different
from what I create. I don’t know why. I
do, however, always like to keep several
of my own pieces in my personal
collection. I like to see my own work
– Use a finer needle and turn the
psi of the compressor down to
diminish overspray.
– Point the brush paint flow away
from the area
– Work closer to the surface
– Try masking the area but still work
with flow pointed away.
– Work with light strokes
• Judi uses the overspray to blend
her colours and area of work.
As an example she only ever
shades paw pads once they are
sewn in and stuffed. She feels
the overspray onto the mohair
blends and leads into the shading,
adding depth and realism to
her work.
Bear Creations