My adventure in art began on Jackson Square. The French Quarter in 1970 was a world of its own, and I wanted to be a part of it. A recent college graduate with a major in Zoology, a minor in English Literature, and no real interest in pursuing either, I had wandered to New Orleans and discovered that people were selling artwork around the fence in front of St. Louis Cathedral. I had always liked to draw and paint, so I purchased a permit, copied some postcards with pen and ink, and headed to the square. My life was changed!
Fifteen years passed. I made many life-long friends, had great teachers, and learned and lived and shared an invaluable experience with this unique culture. I returned to school at the University of Memphis, this time in an area more fitting to my natural inclination, and earned an MFA in Studio Art. I attained a professorship at the University of North Alabama, taught 27 years, retired, and returned to New Orleans in 2017 with my wife and two Pug dogs.
My concept of Art is the same now as it was in those early days in the French Quarter. It is all about living. I told my students that they were the works of Art. Listen, study, learn to see. Refine your artwork each day that you are blessed with life. My work is a history of every moment that I have lived until the point that I created it. Each piece, whether a city scene, a figurative work, or my take on life, brings with it all that I have learned of design, composition, content, and observing and interacting with the world around me.
I am a New Orleans artist and live and work in the East Carrollton neighborhood.
Questions & Answers
Describe your art in three words.
Approachable, whimsical, multi-layered
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
There is an identity with place in New Orleans that surrounds the city with a soul warming embrace. This contact allows art to happen.
I have lived in the Quarter, Marigny, the Irish Channel, and Uptown. Each has given me a wealth of material. Uptown, where I now live, fascinates me with its families, dogs, snowball stands, and neighborhood hangouts.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
I will see a connection between elements or events and that suggests a painting. Or, I might just see a found composition and go with it.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Being alive and interacting with a vital, vibrant, fascinating world is a terrific inspiration.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
My artistic influences run the gamut from Charles Sanders Peirce and semiotic cognition to Charlie Ward who once told me—“John, you can’t sell three paintings if you don’t have three paintings.”
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
Born and raised in Memphis I grew up on Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. New Orleans added Jazz, and each of these genres has informed my work both formally and spiritually.
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
Absorbing life is the first step in creating art. So, you can find me working on my next painting in a coffee shop, walking in Audubon Park, or dodging shopping carts at Walmart.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
My favorite time is right now, today.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
My favorite TV show is Ancient Aliens.
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Where You Can Find My Work
All works listed online are available to be viewed at Where Y’Art Gallery by appointment.
View my portfolio at johnturnerart.com