The Modern Spirit of George Morrison

6 Jun
Katie Turner after George Morrison, watercolor, digital manipulations

George Morrison was an artist I hadn’t heard of before and the US Post Office has some new stamps out featuring his artwork.  They are very colorful!

Morrison (1919-2000) was a Native American (Ojibwe) landscape painter from Minnesota.  His Ojibwe name was Wah Wah Teh Go Nay Ga Bo which means Standing in the Northern Lights.  What a fabulous name!  He was known for his colorful abstract landscapes and modernist style and for his wood collage sculptures.

He grew up poor with many siblings.  After a childhood surgery, he spent time in a full body cast and that is when he started drawing.  He studied at the Art Students League in NYC and became part of the abstract expressionist circle where he explored cubism and surrealism.  He studied for a year in Paris on scholarship.  He learned all the Western representational methods early on but moved to a more modernist and abstract style after his time in NYC.

Morrison used mosaic patterns in his paintings and challenged what people thought Native American art should be.  I find it inspirational that he developed his own very unique artistic style that broke the boundaries for Native American and American art.  I can understand why the Post Office selected this artist for their new art stamps.

I wonder how many other artists feel they are limited to certain styles.  If you are an artist, do you feel constrained by rules or boundaries or do you feel free to explore all kinds of artistic endeavors?

I’d love to hear what you think!

To view some of his landscapes go to Minnesota Museum of American Art:

Here are a couple of interesting videos about him:

To order USPS stamps (sheet of 20 for $11.60) link here:

Inspiring Patterns in Nature

23 May

The patterns and shapes I see in nature, the physical world are full of inspiration.   I am fascinated and often curious about the strange things around me – fossils, feathers, mushrooms, seaweed, botanical shapes, shells, snowflakes, etc.  I’m sure you have a list of your own interests that inspire you.

Re-creating these patterns is a great way to explore.  The more excited I am and curious about a thing the better I am able to express it through my art. 

Are you inspired by particular items in nature?  How do you respond to these weird and wonderful things?  I’d love to hear from others.  Thanks for reading!


Overlapping Boundaries: Writing as Visual Art

10 May
Katie Turner “Calligraphy Tree” 2022

I have a couple of dear elderly friends that love to receive handwritten letters.  They even go so far as to specifically request I write to them, “and not one of those computer typed letters” they remark to me. 

There is something calming about sitting down to write a hand written letter.  I am not a calligrapher and my handwriting looks closer to chicken scratches than art, but the exercise of creating a handwritten note is inspiring.  Physical writing, the graphic form, like graffiti, can exist on the edge of abstraction.  There are so many ways to express ourselves through writing and art but I find it even more interesting when these two art forms enhance each other.

November and December of 2021, Mirus Gallery Denver (San Francisco, CA) held an exhibition called “ImageText”

The exhibition featured a wonderful array of artwork based on letterforms.   Juxtapoz Art & Culture featured an article about the show.  To view some of the images from the show and read about this kind of art form click here:

One of the artists that was in the Mirus Gallery Denver was Usugrow, an artist based in Tokoyo, Japan.  I was inspired by his unique combination of calligraphy and figure.  He has an interesting youtube video of how he works:  and his website:

Do you enjoy handwritten letters and notes?  Have you ever tried calligraphy?  Do you add your own drawings or art to your letters?   I’d love to hear from you.


Organizing the Studio

22 Apr
Painters brushes hang on hooks on the wall.
My favorite brushes hang from hooks above my painting desk.

In my last blog post I mentioned having some kind of organization or system in the studio to help the artist.  Of course, everyone can benefit from being organized, whether he or she is a writer, dancer, musician, student, boss, employee, etc.  In my opinion, there can be too much of a good thing and the creative needs to have balance with a comfortable level of mess and tidy.  Everyone must figure out for themselves what level of tidy works best for them.  Don’t be guilted into trying to be something you are not otherwise you will find your inspiration and creativity will be affected!

Clearing clutter in Spring feels so good… even spending a little bit of time and money to make your studio beautiful can be a great way to clear the clutter in your mind as well.  Sorting and organizing your stash can help you figure out how much of your supplies you are duplicating or have run low on.

I challenge you to organize your stash in an environmentally friendly way.  What do I mean?  How about upcycling old coffee cans, mugs and canning jars to hold your brushes?  Can you find old cigar boxes for the pens and pen nibs? How about mint tins for stamps, buttons or charcoal bits and old baskets for rollers, scraping tools or rags?  I’ve even seen old candle jars and vintage muffin tins hold pastels, watercolors and inks!

Remember to donate items you don’t use or things you have duplicated that you can share.  Don’t be afraid of a deep clean, but if it feels too overwhelming, keep it small and easy.  I still prefer the 15 minute time limit to most of my projects, that way I am not overwhelmed.

I’d love to hear from others who are doing a Spring clean in their studios or creative spaces… what is working for you?  Do you feel inspired to create afterwards?  Have you figured out how you work best with your supplies?  Please feel free to share!


In The Artist Studio: Where The Magic Happens

31 Mar
Watercolor painting of artists studio with chair, desk, shelves and black cat, blue rug
Katie Turner, “My Studio & Cat” 2022

David Hockney is not the only artist that painted his living space or studio, but one of many.  Hockney used cubist perspectives to deconstruct his living room for his painting.  He also picked up the idea for composition from Chinese scrolls that show landscapes in different spaces and from different points of view .  Hockney includes a bust of Pablo Picasso above the fireplace.  You can view the painting here:

Gustave Courbet, ‘The Painter’s Studio: A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life‘ (1855) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet and Monet also gave viewers a glimpse into their workspace.  Some were simple, some elaborate but all tend to draw our interest.  Why so much interest?  This is where the magic happens!  Courbet said his studio is the place “the world comes to be painted.”

Claude Monet, ‘The Studio Boat’ (1876) (Photo: ErgSap via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

Where ever the artist sets up to create is where the studio is and where the magic really happens.  Monet would often be in a boat or near the water happily painting his waterlilies.  Van Gogh painted from his hospital room while he was being treated for mental health issues. 

Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Window in the Studio’ (1889) (Photo: Van Gogh Museum Fair Use)

In fact, we are so taken in by creators’ studios there is a popular magazine titled “In Her Studio” which highlights various creative spaces and lives of female artists, designers, writers and makers.

But is the studio really a magical place?  It’s the place where inspiration meets the tools and ideas that materialize into something fabulous!  The studio could be anywhere, but finding the perfect working space can be the key that opens the door to organization.  Without some kind of organization or system a creative may struggle and end up with a disappointing space full of half-finished masterpieces.  But is this just an excuse?  Only the artist himself would be able to answer!

If you enjoy looking at more studio spaces, go to Google Arts & Culture to see an editorial feature with a LIFE Photo Collection by Gjon Mili, click here:

Thanks for reading.  I’d love to hear from you – be sure to share your thoughts! Where is your studio? Does magic happen there?


What Do Old Drawings Tell Me?

18 Mar
KTurner after Vincent Van Gogh “Landscape in Stormy Weather 1885”, pastel and graphite.

When I look through the piles of old drawings I have from years ago, I wonder if I should have a great bonfire or shredding event.  How important are these drawings?  What role do they play in artistic development? Why should I save them?

It’s true that early career drawings can give clues of an artist’s interests and inspiration and we can see that in art history! 

Taking a look at Vincent Van Gogh’s early drawings, I can see how his signature style may have developed.  These early drawings tell me what inspired him, his favorite type of line, how he tested out composition, even how he saw his world.

Most of us focus on Vincent Van Gogh’s famous paintings, and who wouldn’t – they are fabulous!  But his drawings remain relatively unfamiliar to most of us.  His drawings offer a glimpse into his creative expression.

Van Gogh was largely self-taught and believed that drawing was important.  Drawing materials were easy to come by and affordable compared to oil paint and canvases that needed to be imported from Paris.  It was easy for Van Gogh to tack a sheet of paper to a board and head out to draw in windy weather.   Van Gogh used drawing to practice interesting subjects and capture impressions before putting it on canvas.  At times he would make drawings of the paintings he was currently working on to share in letters with his brother and friends.

Here is a fabulous drawing of a marsh with water lilies

The Marsh drawing dates 1881 and is grouped with some of his earliest works and already you can see his high horizon line and his familiar mark making.  Looking over many of his drawings it’s remarkable to see some interesting developments:

The Santa Barbara Art Museum  has  a new Vincent Van Gogh show that runs until mid-May that you might enjoy if you are in the area.  This show includes some of his lesser known works in mediums other than oil and really helps the viewer to better understand this artist.  “Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources” strives to correct the stereotype of the crazy artist genius and helps us to view him as the sophisticated knowledgeable master- artist with a heart for the marginalized and downtrodden.  The show also includes 17 novels that Van Gogh liked (Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Victor Hugo, Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc.) helping the viewer to connect these authors to the artists of that era.

If you’d like to view more Vincent Van Gogh artwork online, click here:

As to that bonfire… I’ve decided to gesso over the least favorite drawings and save my other drawings and re-visit my decision again in a few years.  Do you have a pile of old drawings you want to discard?  Are you familiar with many of Vincent Van Gogh’s drawings?  I’d love to hear your comments.  Thanks for reading (


An Unconventional Artist, Agnes Martin

24 Feb
Katie Turner after Agnes Martin 2022 Acrylic on paper

“An artist’s life is an unconventional life… it struggles painfully against its own conditioning.  It appears to rebel but in reality it is an inspired way of life.”

~Agnes Martin

I just finished reading a couple of essays about Agnes Martin, the American abstract painter who was also known as a minimalist.  I find it interesting how one can have certain ideas about a piece of art but after reading about it and listening to the artist’s vision, one can have a whole new idea about the same piece. 

Agnes Martin started out painting narrative themes but eventually developed her own signature style of hand-painted grids.  Her colors were mostly muted background colors in tan, grey, browns, yellows.  The thing about her grid paintings is that they actually seem to vibrate, which I think is due to her use of slightly contrasting colors.  Blue next to yellow has a push/pull relationship since they are opposite on the color wheel.

Did you know that her painting “Untitled #44” sold in 2021 for $17.7M at Sotheby’s New York?

Another quote from Agnes Martin that I find interesting: “The great and fatal pitfall in the art field and in life is dependence on the intellect rather than inspiration.”

I tried my own grid style painting just for fun and found it a fun, yet time consuming exercise.  Maybe you’d like to read more about Agnes Martin or watch one of the available videos about her here:


Doing It All

29 Jan
Turner, K 2022 “Her Circles” watercolor, acrylic, digital painting

I was inspired by a MoMA video on the art of Sophie Taeuber-Arp.  She was an abstract artist and designer from the 1920-30s who started out in embroidery art growing into textile design, painting, sculpture, tapestry, paintings and more.  She was originally from Switzerland and studied design and fine art in Munich.  The MoMA video explains how Sophie Taeuber-Arp explored shape, line, meaning in her art and continued to grow into new and unique ways of expression.  Her work was de-constructing and re-constructing various shapes, lines and concepts.  She was an important influence in art history. 

What I like the best about Sophie Taeuber-Arp was her ability to combine traditional crafts with modernist abstraction which really is all about challenging boundaries.  Craft and fine art are often kept divided.  Combining these was a radical avant-garde thing.  Unfortunately, she died in an accident, but I think if she had lived, maybe she would have lead the art world into several new and unique art movements. 

To view the video by MoMA or to view her art, click here:

Sophie Taeuber-Arp Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs 1922

Creativity Coaching by Book

7 Jan
picture of book titled "Coaching the Artist Within" by Eric Maisel

This is one of many books written by Dr. Eric Maisel.  I’ve read many of his articles over the years but this book is a good resource with writing exercises at the end of each chapter.

Even though it was published in 2005 I feel it’s still relevant today.  It covers topics such as perfectionism, planning, anxiety, self-coaching, mission statements, goal setting and more.

I’m sure the various exercises would be helpful to anyone – not just visual artists, writers or musicians, but anyone that gets sidelined with their goals or has trouble dealing with anxiety.

A helpful book can be a real treasure.  I’d love to hear from others if they have found this book or another book helpful in staying on track with their goals.  Do you have a treasured book?


watercolor painting of landscape with dark clouds rolling in over land

Still Inspired by Flowers

21 Dec

It’s during these cold and darker days of winter that I find painting flowers an absolute joy.  Flowers are a much anticipated delight of spring and summer but I find I appreciate them even more now.

The blooming fruit tree of spring, the tulips, and trilliums along the woodland trail supplies the bursts of beauty, but what about now?  The dormancy has begun – they are all gone.

Thank goodness for florists and master gardeners who know how to force plants into blooming for a winter holiday!  A dear friend brought me a lovely large poinsettia.  I know the bright reds will disappear soon, so I must make good use of time and get painting.

Sometimes the simple act of painting flowers on a dark cloudy day can bring joy.

Have you been inspired by something simple lately?  Do you enjoy flowers?  I’d love to hear where your inspiration comes from.

“What seems to me to be one of the most important things about our movement is that we have freed painting from the tyranny of subject matter.  I am free to paint flowers and call them flowers, without having to weave a story round them.”                  -Pierre-Auguste Renoir