Disney ‘Fairy’ Artist Reimagines Life in Texas
Church Member Puts Faith Before Pen in Each Project
Judith Clarke, a Disney artist who created the sketches for the ‘Fairy Friends’ series, joined the church as a young adult and loves to use her artistic gift to serve others.
A Disney Master artist who created the ‘Fairies’ series, she recently retired to North Texas where her imagination in our scenery grows as she “sees the world as a cartoon.”
While at Disney, Clarke was asked to design the ‘Fairy’ world for Tinkerbell’s friends. She drew up a treehouse where each Fairy had a house that represented their talent or personality.
“I helped design Tinkerbell’s friends, their personalities, and the interiors and exteriors of their homes. We gave each Fairy a particular talent and personality and then the writers developed a story based on these descriptions,” she said.
Clarke had hoped to be able to work in animation. Instead, she got a job in publishing. The beautiful thing, she says, is Disney ended up animating the Fairy books she worked on that offered her endless imagination in their worlds.
“Indeed, this body of art offers almost unlimited story potential for DVDs, features and product lines in toys, furniture, books, and magazines,” Clarke said.
The popularity of Tinkerbell and the Fairy friends is that “they are dreamers, kind, happy and open imagination for kids. They are often doing good.” Clarke says there’s “a part of myself in each of the Fairies.”
Working on the Fairy world, she usually had about a one-week turnaround time to create it at Disney. Many of her sketches she turned out in just 2-3 days. There are only about 20 Disney Master artists in the world.
“I communicate with visuals,” Clarke said. “There’s a reason God gave this gift to me. I say a prayer before picking up my pen and my mind comes alive with stories and ideas.”
Her father worked at Disney in animation in the 1930s. “Because my father was a Disney artist, I grew up with the Disney characters in my home, whether it be ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Snow White,’ art and sculptures in the living room or murals throughout the home done by my dad.”
“Looking over his shoulder as a youngster, I watched as he created and animated new characters and ideas for Disney stories,” she said.
Her mother was a portrait artist and painter. She grew up listening to them imagine worlds and stories. “I lived in an artist’s world,” Clarke said. She says her artistic style, however, is not like either of her parents.
Her ability to see objects come alive started when she was about 8 years old. She said she opened a book of her father’s and saw “inanimate objects such as books and chairs were animated,” Clarke said. “That did it for me, I never saw anything the same way again.”
“Ideas flow the minute my brain stirs in the morning,” Clarke said.
“When I can’t verbally explain something, I usually can always draw it,” Clarke said. “Not unlike an actor, I can perform on paper energy and exuberance or subtlety and simplicity. I love to watch children’s responses when a story is read and visually drawn before them.”
As a mother of seven children, Clarke even paid her kids for ideas as an artist. She’d ask them to share their imagination or ideas.
Clarke, a recent widow, speaks of what her husband taught her about her gifts. “He had the gift of gab and conversation, while I could draw the experiences or lessons,” she said.
They met as young adults in California where she was invited by her brother to attend a church activity. Their eyes locked and they “fell in love over an egg toss!”
Clarke started attending church activities as a young adult and was invited to paint sets for the Youth Road Show. She hadn’t yet joined the LDS church when a friend of another faith invited her to be on a radio show he hosted. After listening to them talk some anti-LDS rhetoric, she stood up and shared her feelings about the LDS church.
“The Spirit enveloped me and I knew it was true as I defended it,” Clarke said. Shortly after, she joined the church and married Dick Clarke in the temple.
God often answers her prayers in visual ways. When she was delivering her 5th child, she asked God what was in store for her next. She then had a clear picture of two beautiful women waiting and reaching out to her. She knew she’d have two more children.
Although she says supporting seven children was never easy, she said “Don’t turn down opportunities to have a child.”
Clarke often feels visual promptings when she has difficulty expressing her faith In words. She’s used her sketches in a variety of callings and church lessons.
While genealogy is her next focus, she does always have a few more ideas swirling in her head to sketch. When she heard First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency Michelle D. Craig’s talk ‘Divine Discontent,’ she started drawing what she calls “Nudgies” or spiritual nudges to do good in this world. “I’d love to create a world for these “Nudgies.”’
What does she tell young people looking to create? “Observe the details of life and look up from your phones,” she says. “They need to observe the world around them.” To create much of her work, she observed books and beauty in the world around her. “Youth need to have visual experience, they are missing the world around them,” she said.