Questions & Artists: Kevin and Wanda Macpherson

“Proud Man” by Kevin Macpherson.

I first heard about Kevin Macpherson when I started painting eight years ago. Although I started painting in watercolor, I painted with oil painters and they talked about Kevin in almost reverent terms. Everyone I spoke to at the time thought Kevin’s way of simplification with his limited palette was something they aspired to.

In this two-part interview, I talk to Kevin and his wife, Wanda, who is also an accomplished artist. For examples of their current work, go to or

Kevin Macpherson has lived a life beyond anything he could have imagined growing up. He is recognized as one of America’s most accomplished impressionist plein air painters. His work has been featured in more than 75 publications, books, television series and videos. He has written three popular books on landscape painting, the first of which remains my primary reference book for color.

Randy Rasmussen (RR): Kevin, your book, Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color, was published in 1997. It has been on my nightstand for five years. In my opinion, it is the best book I have read about color. If you were writing another book in 2015 on the same subject, would there be any changes?

Kevin Macpherson (KM): I am actually publishing a new book in 2015, Light, Atmosphere and Color. Landscape Painting Inside and Out, my second book by Northlight Publishers, is a continuum of Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light and Color as is my newest book. It helps artists fill their canvas with the truthful “light, atmosphere and color” that nature presents us. Each book took me two years of writing but nearly 10 years of research. My personal art journey reveals new insights on “how to see” and my years of offering painting workshops, mentoring and inspiring professional artists keeps me thinking how best to communicate the fundamental of good art creation. I am very proud of my first book and it is still well received. It is easy to understand and it works. I did not want to rehash the same information in book two or in my newest publication. Most great teachers offer the same basic fundamentals that underlie great art, but how can we say it so it “sticks.” Each book builds on the last, slightly different with challenges and insights.

“Market Day Aix-en-Provence” by Kevin Macpherson.

RR: I enjoyed reading about how, at age seven, you knew you would have a career and life in art. Did you ever have any self-doubt?

KM: Just like a child ripping open a birthday present, I enthusiastically unwrapped the “art gift” and never looked back. But, that is not to say I have never had self-doubt. I don’t doubt the choice to be an artist for this I do not think I have a choice. When we do open our “gifts” and nurture this seed, life unfolds, I believe, according to a plan. There are risk, challenges and struggles but if it came too easy perhaps we would become bored and move onto something else. Some days I question my abilities, why should I bother, does art matter? But I have no other skills so I continue on.

RR: Do you think your work has changed noticeably in the past 15 years?

KM: I have many students and collectors who say, “Your work is changing.” My mind translates this as, “You don’t like it.” Art is life and life is forever changing. Why should not our art? I would think galleries and collectors would embrace exploration and inevitable change but people like to pigeonhole artists and often question why we don’t paint like yesterday. Every day we approach art with new understanding, new questions and changing moods so our art should reflect this evolution. We must excite ourselves to keep enthused instead of merely making a product. We have to make a living to continue our artful journey so it is tempting to repeat past successes, but I do admire artists who continue to raise the bar and explore new territory.

RR: Wanda, just being married to Kevin probably results in a daily infusion of creativity. In the Light & Color book done several years ago, he tells the readers you were beginning to paint. When I contacted you for this interview I went to your and Kevin’s websites and I was impressed with your work (paintings and jewelry). At this stage of your painting career, what do you think makes a good painting?

“Rocky Coastline” by Wanda Macpherson.

WM: I painted literally over 1,500 outdoor paintings before I saw real consistency and quality. I always ask Kevin when I think I am done to let me know what I can do to make the painting better, and then following his advice, try to improve the work. Kevin and I constantly talk about fundamentals, structure and design principles, usually after I finish to painting. Fundamental and passion I think are important in producing a good painting. In the past few years, I have started working on jewelry. It is incredibly satisfying trying different mediums.

RR: Kevin, is Wanda a good student?

KM: Most definitely. She will listen to what I have to say about her painting and she tries to incorporate what she learned into her next painting.

RR: Do you both, after all your travels, have a favorite place to paint?

KM: Usually our favorite painting place is where we are at the moment. We have crafted our life and career path with travel always an integral part in almost everything we do. Beginning with our six-month backpacking honeymoon through the British Isles to painting trips in over 35 countries and still counting, travel is our way of life. I find coastal areas most intriguing, the sparkle of light, reflections and coastal especially in Maine and California but close to home, literally out my New Mexico window has inspired my legacy series, “Reflections on a Pond,” 368 small paintings of the same view of my pond. New Zealand, Ireland, France and now China top my list of inspiring destinations.

WM: Lately I have not wanted to travel as much as Kevin. We have Moo shu, a new puppy, and I am happy to paint at home in the studio or outside. We also have a second home in Mexico near the beach that is a great place to paint near the desert and the sea. We really have the best of both worlds.

Silver Rose Relief Necklace by Wanda Macpherson.

RR: Kevin, I have never been fortunate enough to watch you paint but I do envision you using bold brushstrokes. Am I correct in thinking you paint with confidence?

KM: You cannot be timid when you paint outside. Nature throws a lot of challenges at a plein air painter. All our study and skills must be at our disposal to react quickly, intuitively and boldly to have a chance at maintaining focus and capturing the moment. I may exude confidence but that does not mean it is not a struggle both physically and mentally.