Fractal Season

Hi friends, I've started migrating the blog over to a new location since the spam volume on this website has gotten rather overwhelming and discouraging.
So if you'd like a new sketchblog post about fractals and pesky scanners, head for my new sketchblog: katura-art.blogspot.com!

Lobsters in progress

Lobster mushrooms, that is! Work in progress for Mount Pisgah Arboretum's 30th annual Mushroom Festival poster & t-shirts.


(Wow, apologies for not having updated this journal since spring. It's been busy--and I swear I've been sketching plenty--I just haven't had a lot of time to scan and narrate. Maybe if I wasn't so determined to blab about drawing so much, I could just post quickie pictures with no pressure on a more regular basis...Hmmm.)

Layers and layers: Mimulus & Bombus

I was delighted to be invited to do the poster art for the 2011 Wildflower Festival at Mount Pisgah Arboretum. It's exciting to see the posters going up all around town in preparation for the big event on Sunday, May 15!

I drew this large poster composition directly in Photoshop. There are a few advantages to this approach. You don't have to worry about scanning in a very large original on paper, to start with--the full-size file is already in the computer, ready to send to the printers. As you work, you can also turn layers on & off, or play with the transparency, so you can look back at your original drawings and compare how the final work is turning out in relation to that. (I did a lot of the rough drawings on paper this time, when it came to refining the pose of the bee and the flowers, then scanned those in and got them into scale with each other as the basis for the final computerized art.)  Finally, when when each element is on its own layer in the computer, you can re-arrange the relationships of the critters to fit new formats. For example, the re-arranged version below makes a banner on the Arboretum's website as we get closer to the big day of the event:

An amusing side effect of this work process is that viewing the layers of the original Photoshop file provides fun clues as to how I thought my way through the drawing process. Here's a slideshow of how those layers all interact to make the final product.

(I've done similar slideshows for my past festival posters too: 2010 Wildflower Festival, and 2010 Mushroom Festival).

Mucha and the Monkeyflowers

Did I mention that I went to Europe this past winter? I've been itching to share the doodles that I did abroad, but on my return I've been so busy preparing for spring and summer events (the Wildflower Festival and the GNSI Annual Conference, respectively) that I haven't found as much time for blogging as I would have hoped. However, the very short visit that we had to the city of Prague had a nice impact on my Wildflower Festival work, so I'll start off with that story.

February, 2011: Jack, Chris, and I have just spent almost a week visiting friends in Slovakia, and we stumble off of the train in the grand city of Prague, in the Czech Republic. We only have about 4 hours before our flight leaves to the next stop, and I have one "official" destination in mind to compliment our general sight-seeing wander: The Mucha Museum.


I've been a sucker for the art of Alphonse Mucha since I was a kid. I was worried that it would be less impressive in person, but man--it was way better. He worked very large, with his poster portraits of Sarah Bernhardt and other glamorous ladies being about life-size! Seeing the linework in his lithographs and sketches blew me away, too. The daring transitions from fine lines to huge thick ones, and the lovely sepia-tone inks, were just stunning in person.

So when I returned to the States and found myself charged with designing the artwork for the Wildflower Festival poster, I was carrying all this Mucha excitement in my head. I didn't want to work exactly in his style, but I wanted to incorporate some of his magic somehow...And I found myself very drawn to his circular composition style (such as in this Sarah Berhardt poster).

Which means that I didn't just sketch bees and flowers...

...I also sketched bees & flowers in a Mucha-like frame of ornamental circles.

So while the final poster doesn't look like a Mucha work, I nonetheless stared at his posters quite a bit when I was playing with the composition of all the pieces. I'll post a slideshow of all the digital layers of the poster soon, but here's a teaser of how it came out until then.


I love using my travel watercolor kit to paint on the road, or on a hike, or just out and about in general. I recently concocted a funny little device to help me keep my favorite brushes and a paint rag on hand, so that when I grab the kit, all of the tools I want are ready and waiting. Behold my new "watercolor cozy!"


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Muse Arts, and the way my brain ticks

So it turns out that, every Monday night the charming town of Eugene, it's Muse Arts Night at a local coffee shop. Musicians come out to play and a gaggle of artists drop in to sketch them as they perform. Got wind of it because one of my favorite local bands, Aeon Now, was performing this past Monday and put the word out on their mailing list. I threw some pens and a sketchbook in a bag and biked on over!

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Have been pet-sitting for some friends who are traveling. Had almost forgotten how fun it is to have critters on hand when the mood to doodle strikes.

Grooming cat.

Dignified dog.

And the vast network of possible dog walks!

Quick change in the weather

Remarkable number of clear days smiling upon us this winter in Oregon. (Which makes it colder, but the Vitamin D is still much appreciated.) Late this afternoon, the mostly-clear day was transformed by a passing rainstorm. I tried to catch some of the effects of the clouds and light with my watercolors.


Most of the work was done with a bigger, mop-like watercolor brush, but for the fine details of branches of the dark tree in the foreground, I pulled out a brush with a more delicate tip. Luckily by that point it was starting to get significantly dark out, so I didn't have the time to worry about the details of the tree--just time sketch in the rough concept before I couldn't see it any more!


I needed a little tiny bit of something to balance out the big tree on the right. Ah look, the fine-tipped brush would be perfect for adding the detail of the radio towers on the distant hilltop, whose blinking red lights are starting to show up as the sky gets darker. Doesn't take much to give the eye just a little bit more specific detail to work with on the other side of the spread.

How do you draw the rain?

Here’s another look at the recent project oak tree project for TreePeople. The overall story was that rain falling on a tree gets captured in the canopy and funneled down to the aquifer as it drips down the branches and trunk to the roots—essentially, that trees function as water-storage tanks during a rainstorm.

Excellent, really dynamic ideas to work with here. Only, wait…how do you draw rain?

Being a literal-minded gal, I looked up photos from an especially rainy bike ride: the first ever Tweed Ride in Eugene. We’re talking, sopping wet, head to toe, bowties drooping with the weight of the water. (Thank goodness we were all wearing so much wool!) What did the rain look like on that day?


Oh. Not terribly helpful, that. (And other photos of rain I scared up, while sometimes being quite beautiful, were about as helpful.)

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Searching for the Ideal Oak

One of the things I love about being an illustrator is that it gives me an opportunity to look at my everyday surroundings with new eyes. This past September, I was invited to work on a project for TreePeople, a wonderful non-profit urban forestry organization in Los Angeles. The central image of the illustration was an oak tree—not a specific tree, but a classic, iconic, Jungian ideal of an oak.


Let me tell you, between my bike ride to work and my lunch breaks on the arboretum site, I had such a good time scrutinizing the oaks that I saw every day and searching for the elements that would make a “classic” oak tree.


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