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places, bold brushwork and delicate 
details—so it’s important to have a combination of 
brushes,” she says. “If you invest in the right watercolor 
brush with the right snap that comes to a point, it will 
last for so long.”
42 Watercolor artist | OCTOBER 2018
One tool that Turner relies on is a large hand-held
mirror. She picks it up often and views a painting
through it, turning the painting upside-down to spot
laws in the composition and inform her next move.
“If the composition will work upside-down and in
reverse, then it’ll work right-side up,” she says.
Turner has been applying her less-is-more approach
to color lately as well, working within a limited palette.
She uses just four colors—ultramarine blue, yellow
Rodin’s Hose 
(watercolor on 
paper, 8x19)
Willow (watercolor 
on paper, 8x8)
ochre, burnt umber and burnt 
sienna—for her crane paintings,
adding just a dash of cadmium red for 
the cap. Because the amount of colors 
available can be overwhelming, Turner 
says taking time to do color charts and 
color gradations has been important 
in helping her learn how each color 
behaves and interacts with others. 
ArtistsNetwork.com 43
Meet the Artist
Kathryn Mapes Turner (turnerfineart.com) is the fourth 
generation to be raised on the Triangle X Ranch in 
Grand Teton National Park. She began studying art
in her teens from noted local painters near Grand Teton 
National Park. She attended the University of Notre 
Dame, majoring in studio arts. She studied at the 
Corcoran School of Art, in Washington D.C., and
earned a master’s degree from the University of 
Virginia. She’s nationally recognized with top honors 
from the American Impressionist Society and the 
National Academy of Equine Art. Her work has been exhibited in the 
National Museum of Wildlife Art, the C.M. Russell Museum and the Leigh 
Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. She has been recognized as “Wyoming’s Best 
Watercolor Artist” in 2001 by the Wyoming Watercolor Society and was 
included in Southwest Art magazine’s annual profile of young artists with 
promising careers. Turner owns and features her work at Turner Fine Art 
Gallery, in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Turner’s favorite paper is Fabriano
140-lb. cold-pressed, and she uses a
watercolor block when painting en
plein air. She used to stretch the
paper, but now she just lattens her
paintings when they’re inished. After
getting the back of a painting really
wet, she positions it under glass with
blotted paper and places a lot of
weight on top of it.
Turner feels grateful to have had
the privilege of growing up in Grand 
Teton National Park. Now she’s in
a position to use her art to give back
by serving wildlife conservation and 
habitat protection groups. 
“We’re at a turning point in that
we all need to care more about the
natural world,” she says. “Animal
conservation is always good for
people, because animals are such an 
indicator of the health of the planet.
If we can save space for the animals, 
then we also save space for trees,
making for a cleaner, healthier planet.”
he artist is involved with her
local land trust organization, and
she also partners with the Inter-
national Crane Foundation, which
has helped to save 11 of the 15 crane
species from extinction.
“Cranes are undeniably beautiful
birds, and when they dance, with
their long legs, broad wings and crazy
necks, they create all these incredible 
shapes,” Turner says. 
She combines and recombines 
those shapes in her compositions and 
has yet to tire of playing with the pos-
sibilities. She has created more than
50 crane paintings in the last three 
years and donates many of them for 
fundraising ef orts. 
“I think the world needs beauty 
now more than ever, and I support all 
artists l ooding the world with it,” she 
says. “For someone who’s struggling 
with what to paint, my advice is to 
i nd something you love and take it as 
far as you can.” WA
Amy Leibrock is a Cincinnati-based 
freelance writer and content manager.
“The eyes are so special; they’re 
so alive, there’s so much soul in 
them. If I don’t get them right, 
I might as well just start over.”
44 Watercolor artist | OCTOBER 2018
Just Paint
Study of Roman Light 
(watercolor on paper, 10x14)
In the Deep Midwinter, NYC 
(watercolor on paper, 30x22)
By Thomas W Schaller
ArtistsNetwork.com 45
“Ideas are like fi sh. If you want to catch little fi sh, you can stay 
in shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fi sh, you have 
to go deeper. Down deep, the fi sh are more powerful and more 
pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
Some years ago, I heard those words from the i lmmaker David Lynch, and 
they never left me. At the time, I was struggling with my work. It had stalled. 
I had improved a good bit technically, and yet too often my work seemed a bit 
remote, impersonal. After working so long in the realm of commercial design 
art, I began to understand what was missing. It was me. My paintings often 
had some of the academic in them, but not much of the poet, not much from 
the heart. It was a particularly uncomfortable discovery.
To a degree, I fell into a trap that so many others have. Subconsciously,
I believed that all I had to do to become a better artist was to continue to 
work at improving my technical skills. I’m not dismissing the importance
of better technique. We always should strive to improve our abilities to draw 
and paint, but technical proi ciency alone is insui cient. Anything approach-
ing art asks for more.
“Don’t rely on a veil
of technique.”
My i rst instructor in watercolor, the 
great Jeanne Dobie, said so many 
powerful things to us students in her 
painting groups. At the time, I wasn’t 
ready to hear or fully understand, but 
that’s the power of an outstanding 
instructor. h ings she told me long ago 
slept in the back of my mind and now, 
when I’m ready, they’ll often speak up 
and make themselves known. 
What a powerful message. h ere are 
so many gimmicks that watercolorists 
can use as a crutch or as window 
dressing. Overwhelming expertise 
and technical gymnastics aren’t auto-
matically wrong, but I’ve come, over 
time, to understand what Jeanne was 
saying. On the one hand, technique 
can distract from the fact that a paint-
ing doesn’t have much to say. But, on 
the other hand, it can mask or mul e 
what a painting does have to of er. 
More often than not, the most power-
ful paintings are those that dare to 
tell their stories simply, directly and 
with a minimum of fanfare. 
h ree times I saw the retrospective 
of John Singer Sargent—giant and 
hero to so many of us. I had seen 
most of these particular watercolors 
before, either in books or on exhibit 
elsewhere. But owing to the brilliant 
curation, what most impressed me in 
this exhibition was the directness 
with which Sargent seemed to work. 
He didn’t shy away from using any-
thing that was at hand—bits of 
opaque, pencil or charcoal—and the 
scraping and scrubbing that he 
employed. h e point to me isn’t that 
he used any one of these as a gimmick 
or crutch, but that what seemed most 
important to him was the story each 
of his works had to tell.
No matter how many times I 
looked at each painting, Sargent’s 
heart seemed to jump of the surface. 
I was largely unaware of and uncon-
cerned with his technique, because 
the story was entirely front and 
center. It wasn’t his choice of subject 
matter, palette, paper, brushes or 
technique that most impressed me; it 
was his intent and clarity of purpose.
46 Watercolor artist | OCTOBER 2018
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Great Insights
This article is excerpted from 
Thomas W. Schaller, Architect of 
Light (North Light Books,