Contributed photo
Photo Gallery

Like Herding Cats: Watercolor artist says you can lead but not control the paint

View 5 Photos

If you go

› What: Opening reception for Yuri Ozaki watercolor

› When: 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.

› Where: Townsend Atelier, 301 E. 11th St.

› Admission: Free

› Phone: 266-2712

› Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and by appointment.

For Yuri Ozaki, working in watercolors is like trying to get a cat to do what you want it to do.

"Trying to control the water and paints often ends up in muddy color, or [it gives it a] stiff appearance. I often tell my students that watercolor is like a cat: You will fail if you try to control a cat," she says.

"My approach to watercolor is leading the water, instead of controlling," she says. "If an unexpected event happens, I usually let that happen. If a painting looks like it wants to go [in a] different direction from my plan, I let it go. It is not as easy as saying. It takes a lot of practice to listen to your painting."

You can see the results of her work beginning Saturday, Nov. 19, at Townsend Atelier on 11th Street. After the opening reception on Nov. 19, the Ozaki's work will be on display at the gallery through the end of the month. The show is presented by Natasha Romanova, a local art agent who maintains an online art gallery at She also represents several artists, including Ozaki, and puts together pop-up art galleries around Chattanooga.

When it comes to Ozaki's work, Romanova appreciates the mood as well as the detail.

"Visually, I really like the colors that she uses," Romanova says. "Her work is very fluid and calm. She also likes to experiment, which is fun. She's been painting with coffee

Ozaki will have paper and coffee at the opening reception, Romanova says, and visitors can experiment on their own.

A native of Japan, Ozaki and now lives in Huntsville, Ala., where she has been experimenting in painting an imaginary world based on scenes of decay and renewal in nature. She says she started using coffee after a class project.

"I saw a coffee painting in an instructional book and decided to try it at my class," she says.

She and her students "enjoyed the color and smell very much," she says.

"One thing we particularly like is the erasability. Unlike watercolor, you can erase coffee more easily. It is a bit difficult to paint only with coffee."

She fixed that problem by introducing watercolor paints to the coffee and also experimenting with other media.

"As I experiment with coffee, I discovered I can make very interesting texture by using very fine grounds, adding acrylic, charcoal, pastel, etc.," Ozaki says.

"I get excited like a child whenever I make something new. I even tried using very dark beer to paint. Surprisingly, to me, it dried shiny."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.