How does a woman who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago end up in northwest Iowa as an artist painting the Great Plains? Judy Thompson might be able to answer that.

“Everybody thinks I’m a farm girl,” she says with a laugh. “But I’m really a city girl who just loved the outdoors.”

Thompson’s pursuit of an art career started early in life, but was put on the back burner for many years. As a high school student, she excelled in art and was even awarded a scholarship to study it in college.

But Thompson says her parents were scared of the whole "starving artist"...