Amy S. Turner - AckLfee Artworks - Art Licensing, Graphic Design, Illustration, Colored Pencil Art, Childrens Book Illustration, Art Blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ode to Itty Bitty Art....

You have probably noticed if you have wandered through my personal, online galleries that there are quite a few pages of itty bitty artworks called "Artist Trading Cards" or ATCs. They are a phenomenon that came about when a few artists in Europe in 1996 decided that they were tired of not being able to afford to own full sized art from other artists. They began creating small pieces which they mailed to each other in trade.

See here for a little more info:

I was introduced to ATCs in early 2007 when our Chicago Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America had it’s own little demo on the topic. We eventually had a terrifically fun swap a month or two later with some marvelous artwork swapping hands amongst the members. That was it...I was hooked!

I joined an ATC online swap site called and soon I was off and trading. So far, I’ve traded all over the US and Canada, Mexico also, and as far away as New Zealand, Europe and Japan (with cards owed to a marvelous artist/trader in South Africa). If you get a chance to check out the site, I think you’d really enjoy seeing all the different styles as these are not only for drawings or painting but collage and other forms as well.

It’s probably very obvious from the subject matter that different swaps have different themes. But one doesn’t have to join large can also trade one on one if you have a favorite artist or wish to swap for more than a regular swap (which is either 3 or 6 cards relating to the swap theme). I’ve had my cards featured in magazines and in books on the subject (one will be coming out soon - I’ll let y’all know when it’s available) and have won a few awards for them.

The best thing about these cards are that they don’t take as much time as trying to finish a larger scale piece. Not only do they allow you to loosen up artistically, but they allow you to change techniques and subject matter quickly from piece to piece. You just can’t get bored doing these!

If you get the chance, I would suggest creating a few ATCs yourself and see how much fun you’ll have. I bet you get hooked too! Pre-made ATC cards are available through most online art supply stores (I shop for both blank cards and little envelopes to send them off in).

Any questions on ATCs or where to get materials? Just drop me a note!
Have a wonderful week!
~ Amy


Patience, Patience, Patience!!!

It seems that the one thing that I am constantly reminded to have is patience. Patience with people, patience with myself, patience with circumstances, patience with creating art. Obviously, my chosen creative medium, colored pencils, demands much patience; layer upon layer, inch upon inch to cover, detail upon detail. Beyond the technicalities which I can control, patience, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear, is always just out of reach but you know it’s there somewhere!
The hard part for me is to finish a project, probably one that has taken me quite a bit of time and effort, only to have progress stall once it leaves my hands. This instant gratification world probably has more than a bit to do with that, but more often it’s the enthusiasm I have for the project which gets the better of my patience.
Take in point the children’s book I have been working on. It has been quite a learning experience for me in that I have read all of the guidelines needed, mastered certain techniques and took the project from an idea straight through to production in one fell swoop...with no errors so far. I’m very proud of myself and hope to do this many more times with my own picture books. That said however, now I must wait for the large company I am dealing with to grind through it’s process and here’s where the patience must be applied.

As of today, I am still waiting for a proof which was supposedly mailed a week ago (my mail gets to Japan faster - I know, quit crabbing). Then I gauge to proof, see if everything is to my liking. If all is well, another proof goes out to the story’s creator (another week, two). Finally, when everyone agrees, the book goes live on Amazon. We’re actually in the home stretch but it feels like forever.

I actually began the project back in February 2010 with an email from the author, Lindie Racz. She gave me a rough outline and I was off to the races. Roughs to lay out the action, illustrations made, then text written to match the illustrations...when I finished all this, then the fun of scanning, design, layout and pre-press. Last week, all was uploaded and voila, okayed for print.

So like I said, the waiting is the hardest part (isn’t that a song?), but makes the whole thing worth it in the end. So patience it is! Ah, elusive patience!

Thanks for reading! Have a terrific week!
~ Amy


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Acknowledging The Small Things - Am I Just Goofy?

Now you may think I’m crazy but I wanted to throw something out there that has been rolling around in my mind for a while now. I hope you’ll indulge me here....

I’m sure we’ve all spent some time admiring garden flowers, sunsets, mountains, things of beauty in general, maybe even regarding things that are not so beautiful. We may just give things a passing glance, study them a bit more closely or some of us may even put them under a microscope. We might pay some cursory attention during our day to all that surrounds us or simply ignore most of our surroundings as we rush to make deadlines. Am I right in making the general assumption that all of us bypass the vast majority of all that surrounds us?

Well, call me goofy, but something hit me a while back that kinda changed me a bit, deep inside. This might not be a revelation to more enlightened souls but it struck a poignant chord with me. It has even crept into my artwork as of late and it all started with a trip to a gas station, of all places!

So I’m sitting in the car, gassing up, staring off into my own thoughts. When my mind came back to the task at hand, I was staring at a small, scraggly bush that had been apparently thrown behind a cement block wall but had managed to root itself on it’s side and survive, despite the neglect. I thought to myself, “Wow...what a resilient little soul... lucky it’s hiding from the world behind that wall...hope no one sees it or they’ll just dump it in the burn pile.”

This got me thinking as I sat there. This little bush actually had someone who took care of it, at least as it was maturing. It was chosen, loaded on a truck, sent out to be used in landscaping then someone discarded it behind a wall as trash, but it survived. It was lucky...and it’s still attempting to fulfill its purpose despite being discarded. There’s a complex little story there that no one cares about, let alone ever thought about. For a moment, I was glad to have regarded the scraggly little bush and acknowledge its story, knowing that I’d be the only one who, in all likelihood, ever would.

OK...have you ever glanced out your car window on your way home and regarded a single blade of grass in the median and come to the realization that you’ll probably be the only person EVER to acknowledge that blade of grass? Am I freaking you out? LOL Or do you just think I’m a bit goofy? Well, I’m probably guilty as charged there, but it’s the same thought process as with the discarded bush. Almost like it existed for you in that moment and all it wants is a fleeting acknowledgment of its reality and purpose. If you take the thought out further, all things seem to want this same acknowledgment. - Isn’t it funny that only we humans, it seems, have the capacity to perform a thought process such as this? We are pieces of work, aren’t we? LOL

This may all just be the rantings of an off-the-wall artist, but if you take a look at my piece, “Transcendent Flight,” you might recognize this line of thinking there, along with other familiar undercurrents. I’m not sure if my explanation has made any sense, but I’ll leave it to you to come to your own conclusions about it all.

Thanks for stopping by!    :)     ~ Amy

PS - I bet you start looking at the grass in the median in a whole new way!!! LOL

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why Colored Pencils?

“Why colored pencils Ame? Have ya ever tried any other mediums?”

Well, the long and short of it is yes, I’ve tried other mediums...oils, acrylics, watercolor, clay, print-making, pastel, scratch-board, pen & ink and so on. What always happened though is that I’d become frustrated at the difficulty/inability to produce small detail with most of these and would eventually move on to something else (unless, of course, it was needed for a class).

Pen & ink, ebony pencil were my favorite mediums during my school years even though I was knee-deep in all of them for my degree in Graphic Communications/Fine Art. These seemed to give me the detail, sharp edges and high contrast that I used to crave. The subtleties I could elicit from the Ebony pencil really “floated my boat.” - Am I dating myself there???

I was enamored with photo realism back then...still am as it takes a special hand to recreate something to fool the eye in that way. The artistic athleticism involved to perfect one’s mastery of a medium to that degree continues to stun and amaze me every time I see it! And the Ebony pencils, pen & ink, were perfect fits (for me) when attempting this style.

As the years have gone by though, my taste for black and white has given way to more and more color, much like my taste for photo realism has softened a bit. Don’t get me realism rocks...but, although I can thoroughly appreciate the technical expertise involved, just copying a photo of fruit, or flowers, or a street scene, or whatever kinda leaves me bored, especially if fruit is all that artist seems to produce. LOL I’m getting picky...I need a storyline! But you’ll probably still see some fruit or flowers or street scenes coming out of me sometime because these seem to most often win the laurels. I’m hoping to change that up a bit though!

So, I’ve always been DRAWN to pencils for various reasons. Guess it wasn’t a stretch that I’d go for colored pencils next, huh? Maybe as I have to cross my eyes harder to see my drawing board, I’ll get into the “looser” mediums again. And, for the record, I have to blame this “detail gene” on my artistically inclined father who spent much of his work life at a drafting table in various design oriented jobs. Thanks a BUNCH Pops!!!! LOL But really...thanks Pops. :)

Thanks for taking a peek!
~ Amy

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Where Did You Get THAT Idea?" - Dream Inspiration

As artists, I'm sure we all get questions about how we integrate our passions and ideas into our finished works.  And oftentimes we're asked what motivated or inspired certain designs/compositions. So, for anyone who has ever looked at my portfolio and thought, "I wonder how she came up with THAT one,"  here's my attempt at an answer.  :)

I guess one really has to start with the basics, like how and where you were raised.  Sometimes heritage plays a big part in molding our creative talents, or family traditions.  Then there are the influential moments in our lives...maybe as big as a man walking on the moon or as small as receiving a special book on your fifth birthday or picking flowers in your mother's garden.  Obviously we are all made up of countless experiences which shape our spirits and guide us along our way.  Well, me too!

Some of my favorite memories as a child were being out in the garden with Mom -  helping plant, listening for birds, studying the flowers and animals.  Whether on family vacations to lakeside cabins or National Parks, going to camp, fishing in the Ozarks or throwing snowballs in July atop a Rocky Mountain ridgeline, the beauty of the natural world has always been a piece/peace of my soul.  This connectiveness probably drove my interest in Native American cultures as well from a young age.  Having family in the Southwest also heightened that interest even more and their traditions still facinate me to this day. You can see the Native American influence in several pieces I have up in my personal online galleries HERE .

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, another fond memory was getting to stay up late with my sister to watch scary movies (you'll probably also see a little evidence of this in my galleries).  I saw all the classics and then some by the time I was ten and was absolutely facinated by the make-up and creature effects (but then again, growing up with Star Wars, who wouldn't be wowwed by that).  If I wasn't drawing animals or Native American themes, then I was combining them into creatures and characters very similar to what you'd see in today's video games and movies.  That was my dream back make my living at one of the Hollywood "creature effects" studios.  I wish I still had those drawings today!  Maybe I'll start a collection of them up one of these days!  LOL 

Now when you combine all these influences with a sleep-deprived mind, sometimes you get some interesting ideas!  The majority of recent compositions in my portfolio were jotted down after being awakened in the middle of the night by a mental snapshot of the finished piece.  I'm not sure how many other insomniac artists work this way but it seems to be working rather well for me so far.  Not ALL of my work happens this way, but I have to say that the more successful, eye-catching ones all have this is common.
So with all that background in mind, let me take you on a quick journey through the process of creating one piece...say "Summoning The Ancestors."
As with many other pieces, this one awakened me at around 3:30 in the morning.  I recall dreaming of fleeting images in Amazon Rainforest and native peoples gathering in a small village for ceremonies.  I was brought before a row of skulls, the ancestors of the inhabitants, and watched as they placed the ceremonial feathered headdresses and colored cloth upon them and spread before them offerings of beaded necklaces, herbs and sacred plants.  With the souls of the departed appeased from these offerings, a ceremonial bowl was then filled with fresh water and offered to the ancestor.  They believed that the water would renew them to life.  As I watched, I saw the living faces of the ancestors reflected in the offering bowls and was startled back into wakefulness.  Back from dreamland,  I got up and scribbled a quick sketch of what I had seen and when I saw it the next day, I really liked it. 
I'm not sure if these kind of ceremonies actually take place.  I remember seeing a photo some years back of a South American native laying with his head resting on the skull "of an ancestor" and a mention of "ancestor worship" of which I probably made a mental note.   But I'm not sure if that was what triggered this dream...although a more recent documentary showed an elder accompanying some boys to see the forbidden cave of the ancestors (I think that was how they explained it).  Maybe these have something to do with it or maybe it was the spicy tomato sauce?  Just not sure. 
In any respect, this is how the idea for "Summoning The Ancestors" came to be.  A mish-mash of background interests in nature and native cultures, some obscure mental notes taken from old photos and possibly documentaries, a penchant for drawing feathers and beadwork, a glance toward the paranormal/spiritual realm, a continuing personal journey of transcendence and then some.  All these things working together toward the finished product...all these things converging on a piece of white Canson paper for you to interpret through the lens of your own interests/experiences. 
Well, I hope this gave you a bit of insite into the dream-inspired aspect of my process.  It doesn't always work this way, especially if I'm doing commissioned work, but I have a sketchbook filled with them, ready to be let loose on paper.  LOL
Thanks for reading and have a terrific day!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome & A Wee Bit o' Info About Me

Welcome to the AckLfee Art Blog!  I will be adding info, cool/helpful links and hopefully a bit of inspiration and insite into my creative process as we go, so be sure to check in often.

For now, just a quick bit of info about myself....  I've been an artist since I was given my first set of crayons (maybe sooner).  Like most artistic types, I took as many art-related classes in school as I could and was lucky to have had some wonderful, creative mentors growing up.  My field is "Graphic Communications" which encompasses a bit of everything, from various print media to POP and specialty event designs.  My 18+ years has been spent as the self employed, artisitc half of two businesses that my husband and I started shortly after we married (and we're still both relatively sane...well mostly).

I have always had a desire to merchandise my artwork but, because of a lack of licensing knowledge and two busy businesses, I was never able to fully pursue that dream.  The idea of bankrolling lines of merchandise, warehousing product and pounding the pavement to sell it all seemed daunting (to say the least) on top of everything else!  How did those famous names ever make their mark in the retail market????

Epiphany Day for Amy!
Early this year while researching my merchandising dream, I sent a fateful email to art licensing maven, Tara Reed, asking for her advice.  I found her site, , and thus began my true education into all things licensing.  From there, I have spent most of my free time of late scrambling to bring myself up-to-speed, to launch my own art licensing brand.  I still have much to learn but I'm loving every minute of it and have met some wonderful people along the way.  AND I get to expand my creative universe exponentially!  Wooo-HOOOO!!!  I'm having a blast, the art is flowing and my big dream is well on it's way!  :)

There is one other person I need to thank, I'd like to give another shout-out to a fine lady who has been of so much help in the last few months...J'net Smith - licensing guru, agent and font-of-knowlege extraordinare!  Thanks so much for your patience and wisdom J'net!  Visit her sites here:   &  .

Stay tuned!  More to come!

About Me

I am a self-employed graphic artist of 18+ years, working mainly in the print and specialty events areas of design.