I paint for the love of color.  My hope is that upon viewing one of my pieces, a memory is kindled, an emotion touched, or you simply wish you could have been at the time and location I have attempted to capture on canvas.  I try to paint with quick, purposeful strokes to catch the moment, often painting on location – plein air.  Studio paintings are done alla prima, or at one time as much as possible to maintain the freshness of impressionism.  I strive for the feeling of a place, not the photographic reproduction of detail.



    I find my inspiration from the landscapes my travels take me to, recorded either by field studies or photos.  The majesty of the Rockies, the calming power of the sea and the romance of distant places are captured with the tactile feeling of oils spreading like butter beneath my brush across the canvas.





    Mark Akins, a 3rd generation Coloradan, is a member of the Plein Air Artists of Colorado, Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, Outdoor Painters Society (Texas), Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society.  His mission is to “paint for the love of color. My hope is that upon viewing one of my pieces, a memory is kindled, an emotion touched, or you simply wish you could have been at the time and location I have attempted to capture on canvas.”  Mark’s atmospheric paintings capture color, light and shadow as they fall across forms in the landscape. 

    “I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, family, and friends. God has also blessed me with an affinity for the beauty around us and a desire to capture it on canvas. My motto: “Life is a journey, not a race.” truly reflects my life.”  He earned awards for his art during jr. high in the National Scholastic Competition.  Family friends recruited him out of high school to join their graphic arts business.  Instead Mark enrolled at the University of Colorado as a fine art major.  “There I found drawing skills and representational art disdained in favor of slapping, sloshing and ‘expressing’. After two years of frustration I changed my major!”  

    Disenchanted with what he believed to be the parameters in the Art World, Mark joined his father’s business selling of all things - tires.  “I was able to incorporate art once in a while doing advertising layouts, but creativity wise it was pretty stifling.”  An expansion of their business led to a branch in Phoenix.  This move eventually brought Mark back to the world of art, although not as an artist.  “Long story - short, my father and I had always had a difficult relationship and circumstances eventually necessitated a split.  We opened an art gallery in Scottsdale.  While I was ambitious in landing and representing many fine artists I never took up the brush or displayed my own work.  The assumed split never occurred and revenues from the art business were siphoned to support the tire business.  After seven struggle filled years I severed ties with my father, closed the gallery and returned to school to get a teaching degree.   

    Five days after graduating summa cum laude from A.S.U. Mark moved his family back to Colorado where he taught for 16 years.  Graduate research at the University of Colorado, Boulder focused on literacy and coincidently brought Mark greater insights into the artistic process.  “As an adult artist who attempts to capture what he sees it sounds contradictory, but study of early childhood artistic expression reveals that they draw what they know about an object, not what they see of an object.  That knowledge is rooted in language and as vocabulary builds, so too does the ability to draw more accurately. For me, art is about an understood communication.  If a third party needs to ‘translate’ a picture’s meaning, I feel the artist has failed in their primary mission”

    At the University of Colorado, Boulder Mark earned his Master's degree, and taught kindergarten through 3rd grade for 15 years.  Now, as a full-time artist, he paints mainly in oil with a focus on plein air and impressionist inspired studio landscapes.  Mark participates in annual plein air events throughout the west including Jackson Hole, Escalante and Moab, Utah, and several in Colorado earning numerous awards.  

    “I gained an appreciation, respect and understanding of the focused pursuit of creating fine representational art through artists I represented in my gallery such as Everette Raymond Kinstler, Peter Cox, Don Stone, Joseph Shephard, and Delbert Gish.” Mark has honed his craft studying with Doug Dawson, Josh Been, and Don Sahli. Mark’s work is included in numerous private and public collections.  

...And the journey goes on.

Mark has work in The Majestic Gallery in Idaho Springs, Co. and the Blue Pig in Palisade, Co. His book focusing on the parallel development of visual and written communication, The Lyric of Language - A Writer’s Journey was published in 2009 by Magic Lantern, LLC.  Visit his website: markakinsart.com  or email him at markakinsart@comcast.net



plein air, adj. 1. Of or being a style of painting produced out of doors in natural light.


This method of painting which focuses on direct observation of nature rather than an imagined studio interpretation was first practiced by John Constable in England and the French Barbizon School in the early- to mid-19th century.  However, plein air painting was made famous and is most closely identified with the Impressionists.


Plein air painting has a rich American heritage, most notably in California during the mid to late 20th century.  There has been a resurgence of plein air across the country with many associations, festivals and competitions in virtually every state.  However, with it’s new popularity, politics have clouded the pursuit.  


Associations vary in their definition of what makes a painting truly “plein air”.  “Rules” stretch from a strict , "...always completed from beginning to end on site..." , to the National Association of Professional Plein Air Painters standard of 90%, another group’s 85%, to an even more liberal reading of "no more than 40 percent of the work is completed off-site."  These codes of conformity were never intended by those who initiated the experience.

The 19th century French Barbizon and Impressionist artists usually finished their paintings back in their studios, unconcerned about the percentage of time spent inside or out, but many of today's plein air painters strive for a purity that was unknown to the movement's founders.  

For me, plein air painting has a moral aspect.  The integrity of plein air painting implies a certain truth, reflecting the interaction between me and the environment I try to capture, making quick decisions about composition, shapes, color, value and the enter-play of light and shadow.  The longest paintings are no more than two hours, as the light and atmospheric effects change so quickly.  Most are completed on location, others may receive minimal touches in studio.

This rapidity of painting lends to plein air painting an Impressionist style of brushwork, a spontaneity, and a unique approach to capture the moment.  Exact duplication of detail is not my aim, rather I seek to convey the mood or feeling of being there. Many of my outdoor paintings are used as inspiration for larger pieces I create in the studio.

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