May 2024
Fresh Views
Tracy Horner brings a unique vision to landscapes

There are as many possibilities for creating art as there are things to combine, one way or another, into something new, yet I’m still amazed when I come across an artist who has essentially created their own unique medium. Tracy Horner is a case in point.

After a career as an electrical engineer mostly working in instrumentation and controls for a nuclear cleanup site, she and her husband picked Prescott as an ideal retirement location, where they could enjoy four seasons, be close to aging parents and have access to lots of great hiking. They arrived just before the pandemic and even though times were scary and quiet, after Tracy had unpacked and settled into the new house she felt she needed a creative community to join.

Restricted Airspace

Tracy works in several media, including fiber, digital painting and jewelry, but her focus right now, and what you’ll find at the Arts Prescott Gallery, where she is a member and shows her work, is abstract landscapes painted on historic topographic maps. What led her into this overlaid 2D work was when she “accidentally-on purpose” ran a page of computer code through the wrong printer. “The computer code just seemed to be a very textured background, with waves and indents and nested phrases.” She began drawing on them with colored pencils. For a while her drawings remained abstract, until she began looking at topographic maps and thinking of them as an interesting base for more representational imagery.

The work Tracy is most focused on is watercolor using US Geological Survey topographical maps. She’s created a fun niche, printing the selected maps onto watercolor paper, then painting images of local flora and fauna native to each map’s location. USGS offers high-resolution scans of all parts of the country. When you look up a specific area like Groom Creek or Sedona, you’ll find sometimes dozens of versions ranging from the earliest surveys to the present. Tracy particularly likes the older maps because they’re more interesting than the newer, computer-generated ones, with watermarks and random stains. The marginalia are like a history lesson.

Mohave Greens

Tracy’s engineer mind lends itself to organized composition. Her painting is representational of the plants and animals present in a particular area, often expressed as geometric shapes like triangles and circles. She researches each area carefully for accuracy. You wouldn’t find a map of the Prescott area with a saguaro, for instance. Most of her pieces use maps of Northern Arizona, but she will make custom pieces on request. She just completed a piece on a map of Mt. Rainier that she loved working on.

When she began painting on topo maps Tracy felt the upper half of her images could be more interesting than just having a yellow circle for the sun. She thought of the phenomenon called lens flare, which occurs in photography when the sun appears as a repeated line of reflections. She began incorporating an abstract watercolor version of lens flare into her pieces. “I found it was a way to give some motion and interest to the top half of the piece.”

Superstition Sun

Interest in Tracy’s work has spiked since she took up the topo paintings. “I’m really pleased with how the maps resonate with people.” Visitors to the gallery see them and remark that this one is their favorite hiking trail or that one is where they live. The maps connect with people on a personal level. Tracy is getting more specific commissions, and can include someone’s pets and other personalized features. She tends to like to include colors from the whole spectrum, so her pieces are rich and satisfying to view.

Like many artists do, Tracy describes herself as something of an introvert. She feels that joining the co-op gallery has been helpful in finding her footing in Prescott, as well as finding her tribe. Co-op members work shifts in the gallery, helping customers and serving on committees. Members are always popping in. Many members have become her friends, supporting each other and sharing ideas and observations. Joining the gallery means you sell your work, which means you have to make more. Your skills improve and your work morphs and changes over time. Now a member for over three years, Tracy is doing exciting work and is an integral part of the co-op gallery community.

Tracy also sells jewelry incorporating electronic components in the gallery, and has a side business designing and selling crosstitch patterns. You can find her work on her websites: and Locally you’ll find her work at Arts Prescott Co-op Gallery on Whiskey Row.

Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.