Art on the Sidelines
Judy Seay has built a side career of making Ole Miss- and Oxford-inspired pottery and paintings that are enjoyed by fans both in the Grove and in their homes.
Written by Andi Sherrill Bedsworth | Artwork by Judy Seay
How does a Texas art teacher end up creating artwork inspired by Ole Miss Rebels football and the Grove?
It all started when Texas natives Judy and David Seay and their two young children spent five years living in Brentwood, Tennessee. Their neighbor, David Gregory, was an Ole Miss alum and an avid sports fan. The Gregorys started taking the Seays’ kids, Jessica and Andrew, to Ole Miss games in Oxford when they were in kindergarten. They would also watch the away games at the Gregorys’ home.
“So, basically David Gregory brainwashed my children,” Seay said. “He taught them ‘Hotty Toddy’ without the bad words.”
Seay, who grew up with sisters and played softball and tennis, had never even heard of Ole Miss before they met Gregory. She assured him she would never send her kids all the way to Oxford for college. But the early exposure to the Rebels had taken hold.
Though the family was back in Texas by that time, in 2006 Seay’s son entered the University of Mississippi. In 2008, her daughter followed in his footsteps. At first, Seay wasn’t happy about them being in school so far from home. But she was won over by the people of Oxford and Ole Miss, whom she found were so welcoming and gracious.
And on game weekend visits, Seay also found an unexpected inspiration for her art.
“I was amazed at my first trip to the Grove,” Seay said. “The decor of the tents was breathtaking. I looked around and thought ‘game on!’ So, I started making my own tailgate pottery. I also bought a couple of chandeliers for my tent. People would stop by and asked where they could buy pottery like mine. I proudly told them that they were my own designs.”
Back in Texas, Seay missed her kids, but visits to Oxford inspired her to paint their favorite places on the Square. Jessica would hang the artwork in her apartment, where friends and sorority sisters noticed the charmingly accurate depictions of favorite locales. A few of the pieces were actually purchased right off her walls, but Jessica refused to part with “Old Venice,” “City Grocery” and “The Courthouse.” Andrew, however, requested that she create something a little more masculine — so Seay took up her brushes, this time with something very different in mind.
“My son decided I needed to create the football paintings,” Seay said. “He felt I needed to create some ‘man’ art.”
The acrylic paintings are dynamic and full of movement and conjure the excitement of the game as you look at them. They are also uniquely colorful; Seay’s use of reflected hues and shadows lends stunning dimension to her interpretations of the action on the field.
“I majored in art, so I am crazy about color theory,” Seay said. “I like using ‘nonlocal’ color (a shading technique using varying colors) to create realistic images. I avoid black because black flattens out the images. Most of my shading is created in purples.”
Seay uses about 20 source images for each painting in order to get the look she is after. After consulting her images, she makes sketches. Part of the process involves laying on multiple layers of paint to build up complex color combinations. She finds painting the helmets to be the most challenging — it’s hard to get the angles just right.
Seay, a full-time art teacher in Celina, Texas, also spends her free time making art. In addition to pottery and the football paintings, she also paints in watercolor, uses her kiln to create fused glass compositions and makes her own jewelry and paper.
Despite the appeal and popularity among family and friends, it took a little convincing to get Seay to actually commit to displaying her work for sale in public.
“In 2008 both my children went to Double Decker and came back home going on and on about the art,” Seay said. “They were really after me to put in my application. I was lollygagging about it, so they submitted an application for me. When I got in, I was an anxious mess. Selling your artwork is kind of like standing on the sidewalk naked, you feel pretty exposed.”
Seay needn’t have worried — she sold out that day in 2009 and has continued to sell at the Double Decker Arts Festival every year since. Even though Jessica and Andrew have graduated and moved on, Seay continues to love Oxford, and as season ticket holders, the entire family continues to make going to the games a family affair.
For more information on Seay and her artwork, can be found on her website atvisit https://artbyjudyseay.weebly.com/.
Judy Seay's Artwork: