Tag Archives: art

Collage History

8 Sep

The earliest records report  Japanese artists, from over 800 years ago, may have been the first people to paste descriptive poetry onto paper backgrounds.  Over time collage has appeared on valentines, all kinds of backgrounds, on furniture and lampshades and more.  It really wasn’t until 1912 that collage appeared in the fine arts world with Picasso and George Braque who used collage to embellish their canvases.

Many French cubists and Italian Futurists experimented with collage, expanding its popularity.  The surrealists began combining realistic visual images with collage in unnatural combinations to express their dream-like ideas.

In 1960 Elmers (Elmers & Willhold at the time) invented the polymer emulsion glues which vastly improved this new medium.  The photocopier was another invention that greatly improved this medium.

Assemblage, which is the art of gluing three dimensional objects to the canvas, was a new interesting direction that emerged from collage art.  Technology made it possible for artists to include lights and sound with the addition of electricity.  Some artists produced kinetic art (moving sculpture).

De’collage was a process where a glue piece was torn off giving the old and aged look to an art piece.  Other techniques included stencils, transfers, collagraph( a low relief print of collaged paper) and photo montage.

Artists continue to develop new collage techniques even today. 

Have you used collage in your art?  What is your favorite collage process?


3. The Third Wife, mixed media (includes collage & assemblage) by Katie Turner

Inspiration from Anselm Kiefer

20 Aug

Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) is a German painter and sculptor who is known for his confrontational art.  He has lived and worked in France since 1992.  Much of Kiefer’s artwork is inspired by Paul Celan (b.1920 d.1970) who was a Romanian Poet originally born Paul Antschel to a Jewish family.  He was a major German language poet from the post WWII era.  His parents died in Nazi labor camps and he spent 18 months in one before escaping.

Reading the book “Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein (Publisher Thames & Hudson) I learned how Paul Celan’s poetry is so incredibly influential in Anselm Kiefer’s work.  Sometimes Kiefer will use a word or fragment or theme from Celan’s poetry as his title. Other times Kiefer will write the text itself on his canvas.  Often, Kiefer translates the concepts using straw, ashes, sand and hair on his canvases.

Anselm Kiefer’s works feel like a visual memory – a shimmery unsettling poetic image.  Prior to 1980’s Kiefer’s work was concerned with German origins – the history of the Jews, consequences of Nazism, using German codes of identification and the viewpoint of the generation of executions.  Kiefer undertook the difficult task of decoding different ideas.  His art often references German national iconography which has been poisoned by historical events.

After the 1980s Kiefer’s work turned to focus more on Paul Celan’s poetry, moving from political to poetical – yet the poems he references in his work are still full of historical context.

Paul Celan’s  poetry allowed Anselm Kiefer to escape the cycle of fascination and disgust of the Third Reich – moving to confront memories of Holocaust, Kabbalah and traditions.  Kiefer’s art examines the myths of German identity and Jewish Identity putting them in opposition yet pointing out their interdependence and reciprocity.

Kiefer’s art takes the position of confronting the German viewer with their own history during a time when many wanted to forget.  The art world in Germany after the war had substituted Western art for German art but Kiefer denounced contemporary artistic trends.  He felt that importing formal art design was reformulating German history whereas cultural individuality was vital.  He didn’t want art to purge every hint of tragedy but to allow complexity and restoration through his compositions.

“My thought is vertical and one of its planes was fascism. But I see all its layers.  In my paintings I tell stories in order to show what lies behind history.  I make a hole and I go through.”  Kiefer explains.

Your Ashen Hair Shulamith, 1981, Watercolor, gouache & charcoal on paper 18″x22″ Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer’s conviction was that German maimed itself and its civilization by destroying its Jewish members.  He doesn’t regularly include the human figure in his works – only occasionally.  Some of his pieces that include figures are symbolic of those who died in the concentration camps with the painting showing properties of destruction.  There are also clear elements of these pieces that represent a hope that is part of the soul.

Kiefer creates spontaneously and uses all kinds of unusual materials in his art which has created issues with stability – a concern that is shared by collectors, dealers and curators.  He acknowledges the issue but explains that change, transformation and deterioration is part of the process and the art pieces essence will stay the same.  He likes the properties of lead and metals, heating and melting them in his process.  He also is fond of oxidation of white on lead and tries to create artificial oxidation using acid.  He has used straw in his work and explains that the color gives off energy, heat and warmth when it’s burned.

Nuremberg 1982 Acrylic emulsion & straw on canvas. 110 1/2″x149 5/8″ Anselm Kiefer

It’s recorded that Christie’s auction house set a worldwide record in 2011 of $3.6 million for Kiefer’s piece “To the Unknown Painter” to a private American collector.

If you’d like to read more about Anselm Kiefer and view some of his art at the MET: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kief/hd_kief.htm

His art is in many more museums and galleries. Links:

 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; the Tate Modern, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Albertina, Vienna. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns 20 of the artist’s rare watercolors. Notable private collectors include Eli Broad and Andrew J. Hall.[53]

“Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein

Poet Paul Celan

Kandinsky Abstraction

14 Jul
colorful abstract art
My Version of Kandinsky’s Improvisation 26, Watercolor & Watercolor crayon by Katie Turner

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) a Russian painter and art theorist was one of the first artists to move into non-objective painting.  He based his content on emotions and used his materials to trigger like-minded response from those viewing it.

He took what once had been material subjects for a painting, such as a motif from nature or, as the Impressionists did, painting a perception and moved on to painting the absence of object, subject or representation.  Kandinsky focused primarily on spiritual reality he termed “pure painting”.  His art is non-objective abstract art that conveys universal emotion or ideas.  He felt it his mission to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.

As a spiritual, intuitive creator he experimented and investigated all the tools, finally coming to a whole new form of abstract art. 

After reading several books about Kandinsky and learning about his development, I zeroed in on his theoretical writing concerning the spiritual side of art.  In my own simple understanding, he defines three types of painting: impressions, improvisations and compositions.  He compares the spiritual world to a pyramid with the artist having the responsibility to lead others to the top through their art.  The theories are very interesting and go into the physical and spiritual effects of colors which I found fascinating.  Of course there were others who had written about color theory, such as Johann Goethe who wrote “Theory of Colors” in 1810.  I read there also was a possibility that Kandinsky had some form of autism that might have contributed to his artistic abilities.

Although I wasn’t impressed with his personal life choices, I did admire his dedication to his art and his exploration of theories.  An updated version of his book is available if not at your local library, then on www.bookdepository.com.  In fact, they have many different books covering Kandinsky at reasonable prices and they even carry stickers and cards with Kandinsky art.

There are many online resources if you’re interested in reading about Kandinsky here:







“Vasily Kandinsky” by Thomas M. Messer, 1997 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, NY

“Kandinsky: The Journey to Abstraction”, 2007 Taschen, CA

“Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction”, 2006 Tate Publishing, London

Mary Cassatt: American Qualities

4 Feb

Little Girl in Blue Armchair
My watercolor sketchbook version of “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” by Mary Cassatt, 1878, oil on canvas

I’ve been slowly reading through a very large pile of old art books that I’ve had in my studio for years and was inspired by a 1970s Swiss paperback by Jay Roudebush, “Cassatt”.  This thin book is wonderful with full pages of color prints and inspiring stories of Cassatt’s life.

Mary Cassatt has been listed as one of the three greatest female impressionist painters.  (The other two: Bracquemond & Morisot)  Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, PA which is now the North Side of Pittsburgh, in 1844.   She spent most of her adult life in France where she met with other Impressionist painters, including Edgar Degas. 

Cassatt came from a wealthy family which enabled her to travel and receive her art education in Europe.  Her father had actually objected to her artistic career choice early on as an unorthodox and scandalous thing during the Victorian times.  “I would rather see you dead,” he once told her before he later relented.

Cassatt’s mother served as an escort to Paris, enabling her to begin her formal art studies.  But she found her teacher to be a bland academic painter and abandoned the training, choosing instead to study independently at the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

“One does not need to follow the lessons of an instructor”, Cassatt said, “The teaching of museums is sufficient.”

Cassatt sounds like she was a very determined and strong-willed artist with a serious focus.  This book explains these as “American qualities”.   I’m looking forward to sharing more from this old book.  Have you ever considered what “American qualities” you have that may influence your creativity?  I’d love to hear what you think!

More about Mary Cassatt .

Mary Cassatt Information.

Web Museum


Making a Muddy Mess

22 Jan
landscape with lanky trees in foreground
“Small Trees”, Watercolor on paper by Katie Turner

It really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been painting, mistakes still happen.  As time goes on and I become more familiar with painting, I’ve become more fearless when I face those inevitable mistakes.  Some creative people would even go as far as calling these mistakes “great opportunities”!

Still, there are times when I’d much rather avoid creating that muddy mess that I’m talking about. 

Here are some ideas that may help to avoid the muddy mess.

  1.  Stop overworking.  Sometimes called “fussing” or “niggling” leads to flat, dead, lifeless paintings.  Try to avoid correcting – lay down your paint stroke and leave it.  Try not to focus on too many details.  Setting a time limit – maybe 15 to 30 minutes – is a great way to keep from overworking a piece of art.
  2. Wait for it to dry.  Muddy colors can happen when you paint on top of another damp layer.  Try waiting until the area is dry before layering.  Limit the number of paints you use and avoid adding a new color at the last minute.
  3. Stay positive.  When you are excited to get started and things are going well, its easy to stay positive.  When things get complicated or start to go wrong, it’s very hard to stay motivated.  If you feel you are hitting a low spot, maybe it’s time to stop.
  4. Working on something else.  Switching back and forth between different paintings or different crafts can help to stay objective.  I like to work on painting art journals or making zines. Sometimes when our mind switches to a fresh new project, it figures a way to solve the problem.
  5. Come back tomorrow.  No, I’m not saying to give up but simply come back later.  It can be quite amazing what a difference a day makes.  If you are starting to make a mess take a break – sleep on it – overnight may provide a clear perspective.
  6. Stop when the painting speaks to you.  Paul Klee, the prolific Swiss German artists, said “A painting is finished when it looks at you”.  (Klee created over 9,000 works of art, so he must have had a good idea about finished paintings!)  If you see the painting developing and it comes to that point it harmonizes and it is communicating an emotion to you, then you can say “It’s done”.  Sometimes we are much too busy applying more and more paint to hear it talking to us.

There are so many ways creative people can respond to mistakes.  This can be a great opportunity to learn.  Many years ago I recall Barbara Nechis spending an entire afternoon teaching workshop attendees how to fix mistakes.  Her fearless approach to fixing messes was an absolute inspiration.  Don’t let it get you down, just try some of these ideas to help.   Do you have your own way of dealing with the mistakes?  If so, I’d love for you to share them with me!

(Check out Paul Klee art at the MET online.)

And if you’d like to check out my artwork: KTArtStudio


Three Kinds of Line

2 Nov

Three Kinds of Line

One of the most basic and fundamental exercises in creating art is drawing.  Drawing is simply the act of making an image with a writing utensil.  That could be a stick of charcoal, an ink pen, the tip of a sharp pencil or even a crayon.  Just about every art book I’ve seen starts with a drawing exercise.

The contour line drawing is when you use a long, thin mark that divides an object from the empty space around it and is usually the first thing an artist learns.  In time an artist will learn that line can express emotion, action and suggest volume as well as shape.

In addition to contour line there are two other methods of drawing I’d like to share.  They are linear tension and something called tonal outline.  Both are line but not in the traditional way.  Each produces different visual results that require a little different way of observing the 3-D form.

Here is a photograph of some apples in a bowl.

Photo of apples in a bowl.
Drawing 1: Contour Line

The first drawing (contour line) is done in a traditional way as an observational drawing.  I can measure it by extending a vertical pencil in my hand and compare shapes.  Then I can sketch in lightly, compare the shapes, make adjustments and finish with ink.  Drawing this way includes long contour lines to describe the overall shapes and I can use broken or dotted lines to suggest volume.  It’s a basic way to transcribe.

Drawing 2: Linear tension

The second sketch shows linear tension, which is a cross-contour technique.  Instead of a line circling around the apple shape following the outside edge, I’ve drawn a continuous line that moves back and forth across the form.  I can use this style of drawing to describe volume without shading.  This is more like bas-relief and can sometimes make the subject look like its projecting from the page.

Drawing 3: Tonal outline

The third way I’ve used line here is called tonal outline.  This is when I isolate and fill in shadows or mid-tones.  There will be gaps in the imagery but with imagination, the mind can finish the picture.  In my opinion this way of drawing shapes creates a more abstract and interesting piece of art.

It’s great to have these different ways of conveying form but many artists combine more than one in a drawing.   There are more types of drawing to investigate.  Just a few would include planar analysis drawing, sculpture line drawing, stippling, hatching and scribbled line, which I may write about sometime.  With so many interesting ways to draw, I believe each artist will find their own unique way to express what they see.  What is your favorite way to sketch or draw?  I’d love it if you share with me.

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Art As Communication

1 Nov
Art by Banksy

There are so many forms of communication but my favorite today is storytelling through art.  Art is one of the ways people can connect without using words.  It’s one way to express an idea in a way that’s more universal than speaking.

Although it’s not as important as basic needs, food, water, shelter, and such… communication does fill a need.  For an artist, there is an overwhelming desire to show what they see and feel.  Painting, sculpture, music, dance are all creative arts that connect people.  It’s a great way to express an idea regardless of what language you speak.

Art has three primary functions: for art to change the recipient, for art to change the artist and for its own aesthetic value.

Art is impactful, sometimes providing us with beauty and joy, bringing us peace and at other times it brings us to outrage, anger or fear to push towards transformation or action.  Take a look at Banksy’s art to see an interesting commentary on war, politics, people and compassion. Banksy, the modern graffiti artist, who is sort of a mystery man… he never appears in person.

Artists are storytellers.  Telling the story to the public or to a select group who react to the art.  Art is an open ended language – often left to the viewer’s interpretation. 

For instance, this snapshot tells me specific information – it is conveying captured information. 

Picture of Wisteria from one of my favorite garden catalogs.

This painting, on the other hand, includes subjective information through manipulation of color, light, composition, abstraction. 

Watercolor Painting “Wisteria” by Katie Turner

When comes to writing, poetry can also add meaning to ideas, using different methods to add unique meaning to words.

The only problem that seems to arise from these more creative forms of communication are mis-interpretations.  Sometimes meaning is misconstrued or even vague but still, there is no perfect form of communication – each form and style of communicating has its place and value.

Some folks say art is the ultimate language – the language of images.  Hey, even our dreams at night make use of this visual language!  Images are universal, some timeless and erase language barriers – even those who aren’t artistic can recognize line, shape, color and symbols.  It requires no previous knowledge or personal experience and maybe that is why some people say of a painting “I don’t know, it just speaks to me”…

Communicating through art is one of my deep interests.  My desire is to become a better communicator as well as a better artist! 

Have you thought about how you prefer to communicate?  Do you have a favorite way to communicate with other?  Feel free to share!


Free Inspiration with Virtual Tours

6 Aug

Summer Flowers at 1200 with logo

“Summer Flowers” Watercolor on Rice Paper by Katie Turner

The past few months have been challenging for all of us.  Even professionals like writers or artists, who are solitary workers by nature, are finding it difficult.  Of course, being confined to your studio due to a pandemic is different from being there because you actually want to be.

Some of us were able to enjoy a frenzied production time and some of us struggled with the anxiety draining our creativity.  Where ever you are right now, you can always find inspiration by enjoying other artists work.  Viewing art can inspire creativity.  It can give you a new ideas; such as a different color palette or a new idea on how to define a particular shape.  Looking at art can be a great way to refresh yourself.  Here is a list of online resources that are now providing free virtual tours.


The Louvre  https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum  https://www.guggenheim.org/collection-online

The National Gallery of Art  https://www.nga.gov/

The British Museum  https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features

The Dali Theatre-Museum https://www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/dali-theatre-museum-in-figueres/visita-virtual/

NASA  https://www.nasa.gov/glennvirtualtours  https://oh.larc.nasa.gov/oh/

The Vatican Museums  http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html

The National Women’s History Museum  https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/online-exhibits

The National Museum of the United States Air Force  https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Virtual-Tour/


Another resource I came across was Google Arts and Culture.   Google partnered with over 1200 cultural institutions from around the world to document art and provide virtual tours using their famous Google Street View technology.

You can view art at the White House, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, Sao Paulo street art in Brazil and more.  (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner)  Google even has unique ways to help you learn about art with art puzzles, art coloring book and crossword puzzles.  It’s called Google Arts & Culture Experiments. Here is the link:  https://artsandculture.google.com/project/games


I hope you can take some time to check out some of these free tours and be inspired!


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Marvelous Mess

15 Jul

Mess and clutter are two words that have fallen out of favor for Americans.  Popular shows on hoarding, storage and reducing mess continue to fan the flames of organizational dreams.  Clutter control is great for Americans but how does this work for the creative person?

I used to think that if my creative area was tidy, that it would free me up to be more efficient and eventually produce more art.  It’s true that creating art does take space and for painting larger paintings, I appreciate having a large clear space.  But there are times that the mess feels more comfortable.  I’ve also noticed that if I’m struggling to come up with a unique and dynamic design for my paintings having interesting things out and about my studio can sometimes help.  Am I fooling myself?  Do I need a crash course in KonMari Cleaning or am I on to something?

After reading Kathleen Vohs study (University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management) I learned that a cluttered area can help increase creativity AND efficiency!  I couldn’t believe it!  Was this actually true?

 Vohs says: “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries and societies want more of: Creativity.  Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.  Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

As an artist I need more fresh insight.  This kind of creativity can give my art that extra pop– just what it needs.  Can I reject the societal pressure to minimalistic straight-laced order and embrace my own style of unstructured, chaotic order?

After thinking about it for a while, I figured that even when it looks messy, there are some forms of organization that do appear.  For example, I store all of my colored pencils, PITT pens, Charcoal sets, and watercolor crayons in one drawer.  The contents of the drawer are messy but still my favorite pencils are at the top of the drawer.  I know where to find them when I need them.

Another way I do this is to stack my paintings in a certain order, using giant sheets of cardboard or foam core to separate them.  I keep them in groups of 10 – one bunch is waiting to be framed, another group in near completion but I am holding them for a short period of time to see if they truly are “ready” – I may do just a little bit more work on them.  Another bunch of paintings are partially completed and need a very large dose of TLC before I can go any further.   This is my messy way of organizing.

Contrary to the popular minimalism ideals, embracing the mess can help the creative person’s mind come up with new ideas and increase creativity.  Seeing items out of place, books piled around, art supplies sitting at the ready – it’s all so inviting to me.  I’m comfortable and I love it.  Although I still believe each person has their own level of mess which they can tolerate – the perfect place of inspiration for them.

Have you found your perfect level of organizational balance?  I’d love it if you share with me.

APS Article: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/tidy-desk-or-messy-desk-each-has-its-benefits.html#.WWJ_j9PyuWY

Marvelous Mess picture 2

Courage to Create

28 May

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?  These words of Vincent VanGogh ran through my mind as I read about Zarina Hashmi last week.

Zarina Hashmi was an American artist who went by only her first name, Zarina.  She recently passed away in April from Alzheimers.  Born in India, she used Islamic type decoration as visual elements in her art.  Her geometic style is similar to the minimalist style of the 1970s.

According to Gallery Espace in New Delhi, India, Zarina has a unique “ability to distil emotion down to its most essential and expressive forms.”   To view some of her artwork at Gallery Espace, click here: www.galleryespace.com She has many pieces from a 2007 show that are unique paper cast sculptures.

After doing a lot of travel, she began incorporating maps into her art work.  She expanded her ideas to include topographical details of cities that had been altered by political turmoil, such as India, NY, Baghdad, Kabul, and others.

MoMA has 43 Zarina works online that you can view on their website.  www.moma.org    She has a lot of interesting art but her prints are what interest me the most.  In an interview with editors of the 1970 issue of Vrishchik, she states that she didn’t have a lot of space or money when she first moved to NYC, so she devised her own paper casting mold by drilling holes in plastic.

In 1980 she was invited to co-curate an exhibition and design the catalog for the A.I.R. Gallery in NYC but they didn’t want her to show in it because of her race.  They just wanted her to do the work of curating and making the catalog.  In the end, things worked out and she did end up participating.

Zarina created many woodcut prints as well as her own paper, sculpture, drawing and often paired writing or words printed in Urdu, her native language from India.  She taught in several universities, NY-FAI, NYU and Cornell.  Her work was important to the art world because she explored home, displacement, and memory in a profound way through her prints.

Courtney Stewart with the Met Museum Research Department of Islamic Art questioned Zarina about the role of an artist in society.

“I think we are witnesses to the times we are living in.” stated Zarina.  She went on to explain how she saw Aligarh, her hometown, divided by a politically drawn line separated into India and Pakistan.  1947 was a tragic time where she saw villages burning with the British partition.

When asked “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”, she said “Keep on working.  Just keep on working.  You will find a language for yourself.”

She reminisced “Everybody can draw, you know – skills don’t make art.  That is the least important part.  I’ve been a teacher for 25 years in this country, so I can teach the skills.  Ideas make art.  There are lots of people who can’t draw but they can make big art – great art, because it comes from ideas.  You can teach skills but you can’t teach ideas.”

Despite her not attending art school she had a long and successful art career.  The Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Gallery in Paris, writes that Zarina became more and more convinced that a superior force guided her life.  In accepting this light, she began using gold leaf the past few years, as she considered her artistic voyage as more of a universal spiritual destination.

To read Zarina’s biography, go to zarina-hashmi.com or the artist’s official website at www.zarina.work

Video: Zarina YouTube Video by Tate