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Something is Better than Nothing

16 Oct
Purple Pole Beans

“Purple Pole Beans”, Watercolor on Yupo paper, Katie Turner

A fellow artist approached me recently bemoaning that his drawing wasn’t as he would have liked it.  When I asked him why he didn’t like his drawing he explained that it had been done using a photo reference rather than sketching it “en plein air”.

In my opinion, drawing from a photo is certainly better than not drawing at all.  But without the right approach it can be a sad experience with drawings and paintings that look flat, lifeless and soulless.

So how do you keep your drawing or painting from lacking soul? First, have a positive attitude and then an open mind. What are you feeling as you draw this?  What senses are affecting you during the drawing process?  What is it about this particular subject that you want to communicate to the viewer in your drawing?

Another thing to consider is what the photographer has already done in the photo.  How have they already edited the scene and what can you do to make it your scene rather than just a repeat of what the photographer created?  What else can you bring to this drawing that would make it fresh and spice it up?

Remember that your art tells your story and you get to choose what you want to say and how to say it.   Happy creating. ♦


Chromatic Interaction

29 Aug

There are many methods for organizing colors in the world of art and science.  Having a visual model can help an artist see the relationships colors have with each other. A color wheel, developed by Albert Munsell in 1905, assigned a numbering system to colors and became a useful and common tool artists and designers could use for planning color ideas.  Johannes Itten also developed a three-dimensional model, integrating the color wheel into a globe.

Using a sketchbook to study colors can help an artist examine the relationships between warmer and cooler colors as well as between analogous and complementary colors.  As a watercolorist, I can gain an understanding of how the various watercolors work together, but may find changes as I experiment with different brands.

Testing chromatic interaction doesn’t have to be boring at all – try this exercise for fun:

  1. Draw several free-hand circles in various sizes.  Allow them to overlap.  This first step is optional, since you could just create your circles with the brush.
  2. Start with the largest circle, painting one color into the circle.
  3. Clean the brush with water before adding a second color. Paint the new color into the adjoining circle on the first circle.  Watch the colors bleed, paying attention to how the colors are interacting.
  4. Continue painting circles with different colors.
  5. This is only one way to paint the circles. You could also wait for each circle to dry before painting the next, so there would be no “bleeding” of colors.

Have fun!

To read more about color theory, click here:

The Munsell Color System:

Itten Color:

An art & design duo from Milan have chromatic interaction art:

Inspired Mandalas

31 Oct
fruit and logo

Simple Shapes to Inspire Mandala Drawing

madala flower with logo

Mandala Drawing

Mandala Fruit with logo

Fruit Inspired Mandals Drawing, Ink & Watercolor

Mandala flower with logo

Mandala Drawing using stencils

Mandala means “circle” in Sanskrit.  It signifies wholeness and usually begins with a central point with patterns that radiate outward.  Louise Gale (Mandala For the Inspired Artist by Walter Foster Publishing) explains that we are “to think of a mandala as a sacred space.”

Mandalas can occur in nature and are seen in flowers, the moon, the sun, and more.  Although Mandalas are specifically associated with Hindu, Buddhist and Tibetan artwork the geometric patterns can be seen in other cultures.  Often you will see them on buildings, in various art forms, and in religious text and religious items around the world.

I photographed some fruit I had in my home.  The kiwi, clementine and tomato were sliced in half and have some very interesting shapes within.  They gave me a creative starting point for my drawings.  I found the process very relaxing, giving me time to reflect on the intricate beauty of simple things.  Take a look around your home or office and see if you can find simple items to inspire your own Mandala drawing.

Traveling Watercolor Kits

14 Jun



When I prepare my travel art bag, I’m always struggling with the desire to bring every art supply from my studio.  By trial and error I’ve figured out what my bare necessities are.  The picture above shows my two favorite traveling watercolor kits.  The white one is made by Sakura Color Products Corporation and it’s called a “Koi Watercolors Pocket Field Sketch Box”.  It has a removable mixing tray, 24 colors, a nice space for brushes or pens and it even has a pop-out thumb hole on the bottom making it very easy to hold.  My second traveling watercolor set is by Lukas and originally came with tubes of watercolor paint.  Those tubes of paint have been used and now I use the plastic tray to squeeze my own favorite colors into.  Underneath the tray there is room for more brushes or a few paper towels or a small tube of paint.  I have a small blue handle brush on the side of the plastic tray, as you can see in the photo.  The lid makes a great spot for mixing colors.

My favorite sketchbooks have heavier watercolor paper inside but sometimes I just use regular light weight sketchbooks to paint or sketch.  It’s nice if the sketchbook has a heavy cover and a rubber-band to hold it closed.  It will be less likely to fall apart from wear and tear if it’s bound.  I usually throw a pencil and pen into my bag for sketching and a Sakura Aqua-brush.  I also use Pentel Arts brand Aquash water brushes.  The water brushes have a refillable water chamber which makes it possible for me to pull out the brush and immediately start painting.

Making art every day is important for me and bringing supplies along makes it possible.  Travel doesn’t mean I have to give up painting – I can just bring the studio with me.   Painting while traveling is a great way to remember the event and it always makes me smile.


It’s Not All in Your Head

3 Oct
A sketch painting in Katie Turner's art journal.

A couple of pages out of one of my art journals.

Concept is a key part of the creative process.  A lot of times I come up with the concept in my head.   Inspiration can be fleeting sometimes though … and that’s why I keep many of my concepts in my art journals.


Wolves Don’t Lose Sleep

25 Apr
Charcoal Sketch of female angel

“Angel #5″, Charcoal 20″x16”, Katie Turner


“Wolves Don’t Lose Sleep over the Opinions of Sheep” was a phrase Samuel Wolfe Connelly used in a video documentary by Kristin Taylor on YouTube from 2013.  In this video he explains this is a phrase he uses to encourage himself to keep on doing great art and not to be discouraged by opinions or comments of others. That’s something we all can keep in mind, particularly if we create art.

I had the chance to meet this artist on Friday at a Business Luncheon sponsored by the State University of New York at Fredonia. It was held at Fredonia’s Technology Incubator Office in Dunkirk where there is also a small gallery down the hall. Sam spoke about his art, how he handles galleries, commissions and problems. He encouraged students not to give up. After his talk I was able to visit the current Art Exhibit featuring some very talented Fredonia college students (Michael Fridmann & Heather Radford were the featured students). A new Art show of the Dunkirk High School students will begin May 31st.

Sam Wolfe Connelly is a New York City based artist and illustrator. Although he is fairly young, he has accomplished a lot in a short time since he finished his schooling at Savannah College of Art and Design. His illustrations have appeared on covers of books published by Penguin and the London Folio Society editions of “The Great Gatsby” and “Emma”. He also designed a movie poster for Natalie Portman drama “Black Swan” and SpectreVision’s “The Boy” as well as album cover for Howard Shore score for the David Cronenberg film “Scanners”. His list of publication credits includes Scientific American, the New York Times and Marvel Comics. He is represented by Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco and Arcadia Contemporary in New York City.

With all of these accomplishments as a fine artist and commercial artist, I actually was most impressed with how modest he came across and how candid he was with his presentation. I hold firm to the belief that I can learn something from each artist, no matter their background, medium, subject or age. He was very approachable and hung out for a while after to meet the students and answer more questions.

Sam Wolfe Connelly was an inspiration to me and I am so glad I took the time to attend this event and meet him.

If you’d like to check out the video from 2013:
His website:
And a YouTube video of him demonstrating his graphite technique at Syracuse University:



How Artists Index Their Inspiration

9 Nov
stack of art sketchbooks

Stack of my sketchbooks.

open sketchbook

Pages from one of my sketchbooks.


I finished reading a craft article titled “Indexing Your Inspiration” which described the many ways crafters could invest in organizing their supplies and various examples of ideas for later use.  It seemed more of an advertisement pushing their system as the cure to lack of inspiration, not just another expensive organizational item.

I thought about how I store my inspirational ideas and how I retrieve them for paintings.  I do use photographs, taken by my husband, daughters, myself and others (with permission of course) but rarely print them out anymore.  Most of my pictures are on my computer these days – no more boxes of prints.  I don’t do much more than organize these pictures by year.

I also use my sketchbooks for inspiration.  I didn’t even realize how many I had until I started to pull them off my bookshelf.  The picture above only shows part of my collection.  About half of them are full.  Some contain pencil or ink sketches, some painted with watercolor or acrylic, used indoors or out.  I even use these books to make notes during a workshop, a demo or a presentation.  Drawing the speaker, the scene or room helps me remember the event.  It quickly brings me back to the instruction they were giving.

I don’t really have a formal index of my inspiration.  I’m not sure this would help me as many of my ideas remain in my head!  This would make an interesting subject at an art gathering.   I’d love to hear how other artists organize their inspiration.