From the Mountains to the Prairies

In the time before cell phones and digital photography, landscape painters introduced Americans to the spectacular geographical features hidden away in little explored corners of the country. In doing so, they inspired others to see the beauty and importance of protecting these lands, helping to drive the creation of dozens of national parks. Today, the U.S. National Park System encompasses 423 sites, spanning more than 84 million acres.

watercolor landscape painting of national park site

Fresh Breeze at Old Point Loma Light House (Cabrillo National Monument)
Barbara Tapp
2020, watercolor, 6 x 8 in.


watercolor landscape painting

Isis in the Evening Light (Grand Canyon National Park)
Poppy Balser
2016, watercolor, 11 x 14 in.


watercolor landscape painting

Cottonwoods on the Dunes (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore)
Susan Lynn
2018, watercolor, 16 x 20 in.

“The amazing sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan rise 400 vertical feet from the edge of Lake Michigan,” says Susan Lynn. “Clusters of Cottonwood trees cling to them, in constant danger of toppling as the sand erodes out from under their roots. To me, one of the best things about our National Parks system is the preservation of places like this that are rare, uniquely beautiful, and awe-inspiring.”


watercolor landscape painting of national park site

The Bath House (Hot Springs National Park)
Catherine Hillis
2006, watercolor, 11 x 15 in.

“I was honored to be an artist in residence at Hot Springs National Park one summer,” says Catherine Hillis. “It’s an unusual park, featuring the old bath houses that the town grew around. The buildings are historic, and I did go into the bath houses to participate. I figure if I’m going to paint something, I’d better learn what it’s all about.”

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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