Before picking up a brush, artist first grabs a camera

04/09/2013 3:54 PM

05/20/2014 10:42 AM

When Roeland Park artist Mark Mohr looks through the lens of a camera, he doesn’t see things the way the rest of us do. Instead of imagining what his picture will look like in a photo album, he is wondering how it will look as a watercolor painting.

Now, one of Mohr’s photo-inspired paintings is being recognized by the American Watercolor Society in New York City, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting watercolor painting in America. His piece titled “New York City Nights” is being honored this month during the organization’s 146th Annual International Exhibition.

A past trip to New York with his wife inspired Mohr to paint the award-winning piece.

“I told my wife, I hope it rains while we are here at night, because the wet sidewalks and streets reflect the colors of the lights and architecture and add additional drama to the scene,” Mohr said. “So when my wife went to bed I went out and took some photos. After seeing some of the images I knew that I had to paint them.”

Mohr frequently uses his camera to record inspiration for his watercolor and oil paintings. He doesn’t always have the capability to paint on the spot outdoors and the camera is a great alternative.

Mohr has a degree in design from Wichita State University and more than 30 years of experience as a professional artist. And while this award may be for a painting depicting New York City, Kansas City is a frequent subject of his work.

“I finished a painting recently of a train called “Moonlit Haul over the Kaw River,” Mohr said. I actually photographed it in the afternoon but painted it as if it was moon-lit.”

Mohr finds inspiration anywhere and especially enjoys painting landscapes and cityscapes.

“I paint what excites me and what I know so landscapes have become something that I have always liked,” Mohr said.

His subjects are often shaped by his life experiences.

“Going through college, I worked construction and I have always had a real appreciation for architecture,” Mohr said. “It inspires me for subject matter. And I grew up in the country and worked on farms so landscapes were always part of my work. I have a real appreciation for both the country and the city.”

After college, Mohr worked in advertising before making the switch to fine art painting. He does oil paintings in addition to watercolor. His work has been commissioned by several companies including Sprint, Lee Jeans, Southwestern Bell and Kansas City Southern Railroad. In years past, Mohr has been fortunate to sell 40 to 50 paintings a year.

But now Mohr is counting himself fortunate to have his artwork recognized by a group as prestigious as the American Watercolor Society. This is the sixth year that Mohr has submitted a painting to the society’s watercolor show. More than 1,000 pieces were submitted to this year’s show. He’s been told by organization officials that some artists have entered paintings for decades and have never been chosen.

“It is confirmation that the artwork which you are doing is of a quality that other people have taken notice of it,” Mohr said.

In addition to his paintings, Mohr has illustrated several children’s books, including the book “The Storm,” which won a Parent’s Choice Award. Mohr’s collection of watercolor and oil paintings can be found on his website, mohrart.com.

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