Architect, artist believes in harmonious creation

Herb Turner, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and versatile artists, has left his distinctive mark on Del Mar, having designed more than 50 custom residential and commercial properties in and around the community.

Turner began to seriously pursue art after his graduation from West Point in 1949, where a soccer injury during his final year ruled out a military career. He began studying in New York with renowned painters Robert Brackman and Naum Los. Three years later, Turner came to Del Mar to apprentice with architect John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

When the time came for Turner to earn a living on his own, he went to a Del Mar realtor and asked for the cheapest lot in town.

Turner quickly became known as an architect who would build on lots that were difficult to design on.

“I was known as the guy who would build on any lot, but not a flat one,” Turner said.

He eventually designed more than 50 custom residential and commercial properties.

Long before environmentalism became trendy, Turner developed his own philosophy that included building in harmony with the land.

Terramonics, as the philosophy is called, includes four principals: integrated development, which pertains to communication between the designer, builder and resident; land planning, which means the design is guided by the lot’s topography; environmental design, meaning the natural environment of the site should be preserved as much as possible; and residential design, meaning a balance between privacy and openness is maintained.

His designs are distinctive because they fit into their environment and preserve their natural surroundings and ecosystems, as opposed to bulldozing the land to have it conform to the building. His architecture also features clean lines and natural woods as well as many windows in order to blend the lines between interior and exterior space.

Along with architecture, Turner is also an accomplished painter.

“I studied under what I call masters - the top professionals I could find who taught,” Turner said. “And I’ve followed that ever since. Instead of going to a school to get a degree in art, which doesn’t mean anything, I wanted to study with the masters as they did in the Renaissance.”

Turner’s style is classified as Realism, and he also defines himself as an American Regionalist, an artistic movement that began in the 1930s in the Midwest. He paints using the uncommon technique of egg tempura. Popular in southern Europe during the Middle Ages, egg tempura utilizes a mixture of egg whites, water and pigment.

Turner has never sold his paintings, opting instead to showing them in exhibitions.

He is the star of the new book “The Art and Architecture of Herbert B. Turner: A Creative Odyssey” by Michael Gosney. The book chronicles his life as an artist and includes stunning photographs of his architecture and artwork.

“We’re really hoping to target schools, art centers, architecture schools and facilities so that other people can see that it’s great to follow your dreams, be creative,” said Rachel Thomas, his daughter. “You can have a multitude of talents and put it all together.”

The book is available at