Why We Paint

Four top artists shares the inspiration and motivation behind their sought-after paintings.

Laurin McCracken

LAURIN MCCRACKEN: “The world is full of art if you only choose to look close enough. Everyday objects can be turned into art. Here a plastic bag containing three pears becomes a Dutch Still Life. I look for complex objects and ask myself, can I paint that in watercolor? When my heart tells me yes, I do it.”


Dean Mitchell

DEAN MITCHELL: “In 2012, I started a series on poverty in the American West that dealt with abandoned spaces and rural isolation. Trying to shed a deeper light on the mythological imagery of the West through modern-day remnants. This has been an ongoing observation of the psychological impact of those left behind in poverty and the spaces they still occupy in the modern world. The pandemic has drove home how important it is to shed light on poverty.”


John Salminen

JOHN SALMINEN: “When I’m on the street with my camera looking for potential subjects, I’m most concerned with the composition of the scene and the light quality. The composition gives structure and can lead the viewer into and through the scene. The light quality imparts mood and atmosphere. If I can successfully incorporate those things, the audience will invent the story, and it will be, in part, their story. I don’t attempt to tell stories, but rather, I try to elicit a response. It is very gratifying create a painting that strikes an emotional chord and momentarily bonds me to the viewer.”


Thomas Schaller

THOMAS SCHALLER: “Cities are the manifestation of human life, love, ambition, and energy. And Rome – with it’s storied past and vibrant future — is one of the most incredible examples. Here, I am looking out from my terrace over the beautiful Campo dei Fiori to the ever-changing riot of markets and cafes below. I tried to orchestrate a sense of the chaos of lights, darks, colors, shapes, sounds, and movement of this glorious city where the full palette of life is always on display.”

Find all the encouragement and instruction you need to keep you inspired throughout the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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