Tag Archives: Inspiration

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

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


Questions for the New Year

31 Dec
busy and colorful brush with leaves

I have a dear friend who does a personal and professional end of year review.  Again this year she has pushed me to ask myself questions.  The questions help with reviewing past goals and gaining a vision for the future.  What is a friend for, if not to encourage us to be our best selves?

Needless to say, I wasn’t too excited to look back at this year.  There was so much loss, discouragement and disappointment.  I think it’d be easier to just not look but there is always something I can be grateful for, right?  I realize that I have many things to be thankful for, including just being here, alive, today.  I know many will remember 2020 for its dreadfulness, but maybe it helps to focus on the blessings. 

Now let me share my dear friend’s questions.  Warning: these questions usually require some in-depth writing.  Taking the time to write out your thoughts can really help with formulating a direction or vision for the New Year.  Although we really don’t know what the future holds we can be hopeful and plan for our precious time here. 

  1. What are your summary/thoughts about the year?
  2. What challenges did you face?
  3. What surprises did you come across?
  4. What books did you read to improve your career?
  5. What virtual seminars/workshops did you attend?
  6. What did you try that was uncomfortable but helped you to grow?
  7. What medium or skill did you attempt or master this year?
  8. What did you try that was completely new?
  9. How did you improve your studio habits?
  10. What submissions did you make?
  11. What honors or awards did you receive?
  12. Where did you save a lot of money?
  13. When did fear hold you back?
  14. When did you practice bravery?
  15. What techniques or skills did you learn or improve?
  16. Who were the top influential people you met this year?
  17. What art events, galleries or museums did you visit (virtually)?
  18. What resources did you discover?
  19. Have you done any good deeds?
  20. What did you discontinue?
  21. What did you discover about yourself?
  22. What organizations were you involved with?
  23. What are your accomplishments for the year?
  24. What are you grateful for?
  25. What goals do you have the coming year?

If you have found these questions to be helpful or if you have your own set of review questions that you use annually, I’d love for you to share with me.  Meanwhile, enjoy the process and may the future be brighter!


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


Gold Leaf & Spirit Art

13 Mar

Delita Martin, a printmaker from Texas, inspired me with her rich patterns and deep colored paintings.  Martin uses reference photos from models and creates what she calls “spirit women” that are artistic composites in her work.

In a recent article by Lyric Prince (https://bmoreart.com)  she explains that her figures have identities and attitudes that could be anyone’s. “They are us, they are all of us.”, she states.

Martin’s solo exhibition is at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Calling down the Spirits”, located in Washington, D.C.  (https://nmwa.org/)  through April 19, 2020.   To read her artist statement or watch a short video interview, click here: https://vimeo.com or obsidianlit project  Her website: blackboxpressstudio.com

Her techniques were very interesting to me, particularly with how she combined gelatin prints, acrylic, fabric and hand stitching heavyweight papers, layering them upon each other.  The pieces have the feel of a quilt and also of a print at the same time.  The dark blues are present throughout several of her pieces which I like very much, along with circular patterns and stitching that helps unify the pieces.  Her use of gold leaf reminds me a little of Gustav Klimt yet it’s not overwhelming and feels just right.

She makes connections of spiritual and social movements from the past and into today’s world with her distinctive art providing a sacred connection.  When I look at the patterns, shapes and figures, I contemplate the influences, attitudes, and thoughts of these people.  I think of the colorful layers to a person’s life, and consider what influences have helped to build the patterns of their life.  Then I ponder what kinds of patterns dominate mine…  Have you thought about patterns in your own life and art?  Please share with me your insight.


Modern Art Pioneer

18 Feb

I was asked about a pioneer who I admire and immediately thought of Edgar Whitney.  I felt he was a modern art pioneer because of how he shared his great talent through teaching.  Many of his students went on to become great painters and teachers, influencing modern watercolor painting in a positive way.

Edgar Whitney was born 1891 and died 1987.  He worked 25 years in Commercial Art, then 5 years as an Art Director before becoming a full time artist and teacher.  The American Watercolor Society lists him as a Master Watercolorist and has an annual award in his honor.  His dedication to American Watercolor greatly influenced our modern day art.

“There are only 2 things that matter in life – your friends and your art.  Everything else is worthless.”  ~ Edgar Whitney

How did I come across Edgar Whitney, my friend asked.  I was interested in finding an artist that painted in a similar way to my mother.  When I came across Whitney’s art, I knew this was it.  His paintings were what I was really looking for – very impressionistic and loose with lots of movement, spontaneity and texture.

Since he was no longer alive, I realized the only way I could learn from him was to learn from his students.  I spent about 10 months researching who his students were and even located some classes from them.  Some of his students were Cheng Khee Chee, Barbara Nechis, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, and of course there are many, many more.

I realized I could learn a lot from his books and for the next five years I dove into studying and practicing his way of painting.  Every class that came up with any of his famous students, I attended.

“No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” ~ Edgar Whitney

I admire the way he was able to share his style and technique and had some students who went on to become famous painters and teachers.  From what I heard, he had a tendency to push his students and he was quite an interesting character.

“You have chosen to spend your time and money on esthetics.  Others can cheat you, a craft cannot.  It’s the only area in life where you get back what you’ve put in.”  ~Edgar Whitney.

Who do you admire as a pioneer?  What pioneer qualities do you possess or desire?  I’d love to hear some comments.