The Rhythm of a Book

27 Jan
Milton Glaser book

I recently found inspiration in a book “Milton Glaser: Drawing is Thinking”.  The book, published in 2005, is chock full of drawings, sketches and paintings.  Glaser’s two earlier books are helpful to students and cover more of the thinking process while this book flows more like a musical experience without the explanations.  Glaser describes designing the book to be a non-descriptive experience.  He wants the viewer to experience a sort of meditation that leads the mind to action.

Interestingly enough, he explains in an interview that the reader who tries to read this book in a traditional sense will be disappointed.

The ten page interview in the beginning of the book is very inspiring. I encourage you to take the time to read it before diving into the art part of the book.

I was amazed at the volume and variety of his art.  The way the book has been laid out is absorbing.  He pairs sketches with more complete works, sometimes grouping colors, sometimes shapes or themes.  It’s an intriguing concept that I would probably enjoy trying out in a zine format.

If you have read this book, be sure to comment here and share your experience.



Staying Creative Despite Challenges

5 Jan
three figures, watercolor after Serge Hollerbach
Three Figures, Watercolor after Serge Hollerbach, Katie Turner.

I was inspired when reading about Serge Hollerbach, an artist from Manhattan who lost his vision but was determined to keep painting. 

Serge Hollerback (1923-2021) was born in Russia, studied Fine Art in West Germany.  As a child he was encouraged by his parents and his uncle to develop his artistic talents.  He was able to view art as a youth at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad until the war.  The Nazi’s attacked Russia, he was sent to a refugee camp in Germany to work as Laborer.  After the war, an opportunity came for him to continue his art studies in the US. He moved to New York City in 1951 and began a career as a professional artist.  He began teaching and doing workshops.  He felt it was the instructor’s job to find out the student’s strengths and guide them to their potential.

Hollerbach started to lose his vision to macular degeneration in 1994 and continued to paint right through his vision loss.  His work shifted from realism to more abstract, defining shapes in a loose way, while shifting to brighter colors.  He felt not being able to see well had freed him from details – so he could concentrate on shapes, expression and be more daring with his painting.

When discussing how his later paintings changed, he said, “There is such a thing as a second childhood.  To be playful, you have nothing to lose.  Nothing to lose is a kind of new freedom.”

His later works are wonderful and his optimism was refreshing.  He has several articles and books published in the 80’s that you can find available online.

Here is a piece that ran in the American Watercolor

And an interesting demonstration by Hollerbach


New Year’s Resolutions For The Artist

29 Dec
abstract watercolor with fishermen

Is it that time again? Time to make some New Year’s Resolutions?  Is that a groan, I hear?  Wait a minute. It’s okay.  I’m talking about some goals for your art… 

Yes! Your creative life deserves as much attention as the rest of it, so why not contemplate some New Year’s Resolutions for your art practice?

Here are some ideas for your list:

  • Buy really expensive watercolor paint in favorite colors
  • Make a book of ideas
  • Create a new portfolio
  • Buy new brushes
  • Try painting on a new surface/substrate
  • Paint in the park
  • Buy a new palette
  • Stick to a schedule
  • Take a break from the schedule
  • Give yourself permission to paint some REALLY bad paintings
  • Clean the studio _____ times per month
  • Make a new music playlist for painting time
  • Complete ____  number of paintings this year
  • Share your art on social media _____ times per month
  • Revamp your website (or start one if you don’t have one)
  • Paint your emotions for the day
  • Try a 30 day painting challenge (see my past two blogs about this)
  • Read an art book
  • Quiet that doubt in your head
  • Watch an art movie
  • Throw your own paint-night at home with friends or family
  • Take a workshop
  • Finish those abandoned paintings
  • Adopt a new studio cat (or dog)
  • Make the most of family time by bringing along a sketchbook

New Year’s is a great starting point where one can separate the past from the future and sum up the outgoing year.  Think about all the fun and useful ways you can inspire your artistic practice this year!  If you have some creative resolutions, be sure to comment below and share them with me!  Happy New Year!


The Challenge of Working in a Series

16 Dec

One of the many things that helped me personally grow as an artist was the challenge of working in a series.  Disciplining yourself to explore a subject or idea in depth can carry you past the standard “yawn” and “seen-it-all-before” paintings.  Doing a series can provide tons of inspiration and help you to develop your own unique style.

Even using everyday subjects, such as a coffee mug can offer a new world of insight.  For me it was the way through repetition that brought me to new exciting ideas.  Painting this way will also strengthen your paintings skills.  It will improve your visual perspective and understanding of the subject and help your design capabilities.

If you haven’t worked on a series before maybe you’d like to try it?  You can begin with making a list of things that interest you.  Then identify why you are attracted to it… is it the lighting? The shadows? The color? The shape? The location?

If you’re not quite ready to paint 30+ paintings yet, consider a smaller scale – a series of postcards or mini pictures.  Try it and see what happens.  You just might enjoy it!

If you have worked in a series before, what tricks and tips do you have? Please share.


coffee mug
coffee mug
coffee mug

What’s in a Challenge?

30 Nov
“Fences” watercolor by Katie Turner 2022

Yes, it’s true that 30 day challenges have been all over social media for years now but have you considered how one could help push you quickly into a new wave of creative exploration?

Many of us are heading into a busy season so considering another project right now might not be on your mind but consider exploring a 30 day challenge in the New Year, once things subside.

These can be self-imposed or something you do in a group.  You can choose to share your work or keep it purely for yourself. You can come up with your own structure and rules based on what you want to get out of the short-term challenge.

If you are someone who needs peer pressure then posting on social media or in a group might be a good rule.  If consistency is your goal, then think about setting aside a certain time of day and prepping your supplies prior to the start so you are ready to create.  You could even order some pre-cut mats and sleeves so you are able to see your day-to-day painting progress as finished pieces.

When you are thinking about what rules to apply to yourself consider these:

  1. Subject Matter
  2. Size
  3. Substrate or painting surface
  4. Medium
  5. Tools & Brushes
  6. Time Limits
  7. Rules (to break)

The rules are your choice.  You can make it as easy or as challenging as you want.  Remember that if something isn’t working for you, then change it up.  The most important goal is to explore your creativity.

After you’ve completed your 30 day challenge, consider journaling about your experience.  What did you learn about yourself from it?  What was the biggest challenge?  What was something that was a pleasant surprise?

Did you recently complete a 30-day challenge?  Please feel free to share below.


Color Inspiration

29 Nov

“The Secret Lives of Color” (by Kassia St. Clair) covers 75 shades from white to imperial purple with the most interesting and unusual stories to pique your interest.  I found this book to be a quick read and inspirational.  I looked up my favorite colors to read about them.  I never thought about colors having a history and background.  I can look at my paint palette with new insight.

If you’ve read this book, let me know if you enjoyed it as well.


Spirit Mountains

11 Oct
“Glacial Changes” watercolor 23″x30″ Katie Turner 2022

Mountains have provided refuge to hermits, truth-seekers and daring men.  Their beauty, mystery and preeminence lift our lives above the common ruts of the plains below.  Conquering a mountain is still seen as a spiritual feat even today.  Mountains are inspiring.

It’s true that mountains are often seen as metaphors for life.  We each have our own mountains to climb and challenges to overcome.  I found hours of painting inspiration in the shapes, colors, ridges, lines, textures, structure of the mountains I’ve examined. 

Mountains are one of the Chinese Taoist element symbols and Chinese artists often traditionally feature mountains somewhere in their landscape paintings.  The Taoist mountain symbols are viewed as a gateway to a spiritual place.  They are full of sacred power and are a source of vital energy from the earth.  The Chinese mountains are traditionally painted from imagination as a spiritual act.

I’ve painted more than 200 mountain paintings, with some of my favorites making it into my “Confetti Mountain” Series.  My paintings are done from imagination yet I find the Adirondacks as well as several other mountain ranges I’ve experienced were creeping into my paintings.  My hope is for the viewer to be inspired to a more spiritual place while enjoying my paintings.

If you are in the Syracuse, NY area, please stop by to view my art show and join me at a reception on Oct. 19th, 2022.  Information and location below:

Confetti Mountain Series: Watercolors by Katie Turner

Betts Branch Library (4862 S Salina St., Syracuse, NY  13205)

September 1 through October 31.

Reception held October 19 at 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Negative Shapes

1 Oct
floral watercolor painting
Katie Turner, “Floral Connection” 2021, watercolor 30”x23”

Being negative is normally a bad thing and most folks I know avoid negativity.  What I’m really talking about is negative painting. 

Negative painting is a vital technique for watercolor painters.  It’s a simple technique in which the artist concentrates on painting the negative space around a lighter object.  Saving the white of the paper in watercolor is important and negative painting helps make this possible.  

I often use this technique with my floral paintings, as you can see in the painting above and again in the Hops painting below.  I used negative painting to carve out the shape of the red flowers and also with carving out the shape of the Hops flowers.

There are many great teaching artists who have created helpful instructions on negative painting.  One artist that comes to mind is Linda Kemp.  She even has a book on negative painting in watercolor.

Perhaps being negative with watercolor is a positive thing!  Whether you’re an artist or an art aficionado do you have a favorite technique?  I’d love to hear from you.


watercolor painting of hops
Katie Turner, “Garden Hops” 2021, watercolor 23”x30”

Death and the Maiden: Discovering Marianne Stokes

19 Sep
By Marianne Stokes – Rama, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr,

I came across a striking painting while researching various French museums online.  It’s titled “Death and the Maiden” and it’s painted by Marianne Stokes.  The painting subject seems to be a popular one from my online search.

Marianne Stokes was an Austrian artist born in 1855.  She had artistic ambitions from early on and even won a scholarship to study in Munich and France.  She was very much an independent and ambitious woman of her time.  She married another artist, Adrian Stokes. They had no children and traveled extensively.

Marianne Stokes focused her interests mainly on portraits.  It’s interesting to see how her paintings started out with rustic subjects, but changed over time to include the medieval and biblical themes.  Her husband focused on landscapes with themes like hay-harvesting and cottages.  She used her portraits to show the fine detail of garments. Several of the paintings provide a valuable historic record of the Slovak culture.

She moved away from oils and worked in tempera and gesso which give the impression of being frescoes on plaster surfaces with the flat compositions.

She won many awards for her paintings and was in several very important exhibits.  She was even given an associate membership to the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1923.

Art history can be a great place to find inspiration.  There seems to be an almost endless supply of artist stories, artwork and creativity.  My research takes me to new places and allows me to discover artists I’ve never heard of before, learn of styles I don’t really understand and help me grow in appreciation.

Have you found inspiration from art history?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Confetti Mountain Series

9 Sep
Abstract style mountain landscape with pulsating colors, textures and line

For those who live near Syracuse, New York, I’d love for you to stop in and see my library show at the Betts Library during Sept and Oct. I’m displaying many of my new “Confetti Mountain” Landscapes.
Save the date: Reception Oct 19 at 2:00.
See press release below:

Confetti Mountain Series: Watercolors by Katie Turner

Betts Branch Library (4862 S Salina St., Syracuse, NY  13205)

September 1 through October 31.

Reception held October 19 at 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Paintings from Katie Turner’s “Confetti Mountain” series incorporate an abstract approach with her loose style.  The paintings display valleys, hilltops and mountains in unique artistic flavor.  Turner has been developing this series since 2018.  Her paintings exhibit a delicate flow that has become her trademark design.    

Her mountains, inspired by the Adirondacks, but drawn from the imagination, encourage the viewer to take a journey through a dynamic landscape.  Turner’s concept coaxes line and color and texture to bring people into a more spiritual place.

Parking and admission is free.

315-435-1940     Betts Branch Library