This monthly blog from The Maker City features a look at some of the Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters and custom builders. This month’s blog introduces three area makers who excel at the art of painting.

The artist Tracy Sowders lives and works in Knoxville, TN. Tracy Sowders Tracy Sowders

Tracy Sowders of Lilyrose Originals

The youngest of six children, Sowders lived in East Knoxville in the River Shores Estates neighborhood, which her father developed. She spent most of her middle and high school years in Arizona; after her junior year, her family returned to Knoxville. With plans to be an art and music therapist, she pursued studies at Carson-Newman University, but eventually became a full-time artist and says, “I’m happy with the way things turned out.” She and her husband Kevin and their three boys now live in Sevierville.

How did you get started as a painter?
I first started painting when I was little -- my dad bought me acrylics. When I got into high school my art teacher brought me some watercolors in a dark palette and a great piece of expensive watercolor paper and lent me some of his Japanese watercolor brushes. He said, “I want you to paint something that is not like you.” And I painted a woman in repose. He submitted it to a national competition and I won. It was exhibited in Manhattan. In college, I painted in oils and sold them.  I used to be a master quilter. Now I paint all the time -- oil and watercolor.

What do you make, and how?
I make Christmas cards, bookmarks, calendars, including personalized calendars. In my painting, I am inspired by women.  If you look at the body of my work you’ll see that there’s a theme: empowering and empowered women. I paint goddesses from mythology because of what they represent -- what they mean in your life. And I do giclée prints, which takes a monster machine!

Where are your products offered for sale?
You can find my products on Facebook, at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center, Tea and Treasures, 4104 Martin Mill Pike, and frequent shows by the Arts & Culture Alliance and Tennessee Craft.

Jackie Holloway is an artist living and working in Knoxville, TN. Jackie Holloway Jackie Holloway

Jackie Holloway of Art By Jackie

Tennessee native Jackie Holloway opened Art By Jackie in 2004 after earning $150 selling soy candles. In 2007 she began vending at festivals, conferences and flea markets.In 2008 she became involved with The Canvas Can Do Miracles Art Studio (CCDM)  at The Literacy

Imperative Inc. (TLI), a national faith-based literacy and social enterprise initiative. She continues to work with CCDM, offering classes in art for at-risk children and adults struggling with substance abuse. She is also an author, having illustrated and self-produced three coloring books, and in 2017 was a Bailey Grant recipient for her current project: a multi-book series called “The Black Pearl.”

How did you get started as a painter?
After facilitating The Canvas Can Do Miracles Art Studio at The Literacy Imperative with the Rev. Alan Jones, he taught me to paint. [Alan M. Jones is a former pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Clinton, Tenn., art director at the Literacy Imperative Center in Knoxville, TN, and an accomplished freelance artist who paints under the name “Theophilus.” He recently completed the design for the new Black Cultural Center brick frieze and tile floor for the University of Tennessee.] I’ve been an artist since childhood. I make realistic portrait drawings and found-object art, which have been compared to that of folk artist Bessie Harvey.

What do you make, and how?
I paint portraits, abstracts and woodwork. Having grown up in rural Tennessee, I have a connection with nature, especially trees. I use driftwood, roots, dried flowers, tree bark, seeds and even moss, creating art and re-defining an object’s character. This botanical relationship guides away from racism and prejudice. The purpose of each work is that God will be looked upon and felt.

Where are your products offered for sale?
Find my art on my website, at Likewise Coffee House, or email me.

Knoxville native Kara Lockmiller works as an artist and still lives in her beloved hometown. Kara Lockmiller Kara Lockmiller

Kara Lockmiller of KLockmiller Art


Knoxville native Kara Lockmiller attended the University of Tennessee and was assistant news editor and graphic artist for The Daily Times in Maryville, TN for 10+ years. She and her husband, Sergeant James Lockmiller of the Knoxville Police Department, have three children and two “fur babies.”

How did you get started as a painter?
I’ve been painting one thing or another for as long as I can remember. A few years ago I gave paintings as Christmas gifts to my extended family. My mother-in-law fell in love with her Paris-themed piece. She was the first to suggest showing others my work and possibly offering it for sale.

I am a chromesthete which means I see a vast array of real colors in my mind when I listen to music. I like to think of it as my own personal light show. My goal for each portrait is to let you glimpse music and musicians the way I do. There is a kinship between color and music -- both can say what words cannot.

I began painting for others in 2017 as an outlet to share all the mesmerizing colors I see. While I can remember the lyrics to almost any song I’ve ever heard, I am most fascinated by the people who pen them. If there’s one thing I love more than painting, it’s music!

What do you make and how?
I paint in shadowed hues using the grisaille technique. After sketching out my musician in a grayscale underpainting, I add opaque and translucent acrylic colors according to what I see when I listen to their music. They come together like puzzle pieces on my canvas. I think Wassily Kandinsky said it best: “Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting and … stop thinking. Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to walk about into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?”

Where are your products offered for sale?
Find my products at my website and my Etsy shop.

For more on The Maker City painting artists, please click here.
For more on where to find goods by artisans of The Maker City,
please click here.