Learning About Art with Joe Mac Kechnie

This week we are interviewing Joe Mac Kechnie  in our continuing series on Cole Gallery’s artists. In addition to having his art in the Gallery, Joe also teaches drawing and painting classes at Cole Gallery.

Q: Tell Us About Your Background.

A: I was born in Petersburg, Alaska on February 29, 1944 (a Leap Year baby). That would make me 16 years old! My parents moved to Seattle when I was 2-years old so that means that I have been in Seattle for a lot of years, less 2-years in the Navy stationed at Washington DC. I graduated from Rainier Beach High School and then the University of Washington. I received a BS degree in Civil Engineering. Diane and I were married in 1965 and we have two daughters. Both daughters are graduates of UW making them the fourth generation to attend that great school.

Our oldest daughter is married and she is a Principal with the Everett School District. She has three children. Our youngest daughter is a police officer in Renton, WA, and is married to another police officer in Medina, WA, and has one child. Diane, my wife, works for the University of Washington. The first half of my professional career was spent working as an engineer for the City of Seattle, then Metro, and then with a private company. During that time my work took me to some of the most beautiful states in the USA, like Wyoming, Utah, Montana, California, Alaska and upper New York State.

For the second half of my career, I had my own business designing and installing computer networks. Ten years ago I sold my company and then worked for the company that bought me out as their lead sales engineer designing and selling computer networks. Four years ago I retired for good and became a full time artist.

Q: When did you start painting?  

A: Through most of my life the fine arts rarely caught my attention. I guess I was too busy working, raising a family and enjoying all the outdoor sports offered in the great Northwest. I climbed mountains, taught skiing, backpacked, bicycled, traveled, read every book around, enjoyed photography and played golf. After I sold my business and the girls were gone from home and my body couldn’t take the sports abuse anymore, I began to seek new directions. While Diane and I were on a trip in Victoria, BC in 2002, I was watching a street artist sketch portraits and I was fascinated. When we returned home, I purchased a book on drawing, a set of drawing pencils and began sketching. That was nine years ago and I haven’t stopped. I draw or paint every day! Not out of any self-induced regime, but out of the pure enjoyment in creating.

Q: What are your favorite mediums to work with?

A: I’m strongly attracted to drawing mediums as well as watercolors and oils. I love the tactile feel of drawing with charcoals and pastels and how they integrate well with my style. However, my newest love affair with oils makes them a strong contender for creating art. The luminosity of oils can’t be matched by other mediums and I continue to be intrigued by the challenge to master this medium.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: First, my inspiration comes from my fellow artists. I can’t believe the talent that exists today in our nation’s master artists! The quality of work, the mastery of technique and the creative genius we are seeing in the art being created here and throughout the world is truly inspirational. I want to be a part of that world. Second, the natural world around us offers infinite opportunity to find inspiration when seen through the artist’s eyes. I want to share my visions with others and I found that I can do this through my art.

Q: What artists are you inspired by?

A: Alex Powers, Nita Engels and Charles Reid are watercolorists that inspire me. Jim Dine and Kathe Kollwitz for drawings and Dawn Emerson and Mark Demsteader for pastels are truly creative artists that I also admire. John Singer Sargent, Richard Schmid and Clyde Aspevig are everything that I want to be when I grow up to be an accomplished oil painter. All of these artists are masters of many mediums; their styles are loose yet detailed enough in the focus areas. They all use high contrasts to create realistic three-dimensional illusions.

Q: What do you want people to get from viewing your work?

A: To be moved emotionally by an artwork so they can forget the outside world for awhile.

Q: Tell us about any awards you have won.

A: NWWS Signature status, PSGNWP Signature status, NWWS Members Show-Best of Show, NWWS Open-Jack Richardson Award, EAFA Open Shows (several), Edmonds Art Fair (2nd Place-Drawing, twice), Oktoberfest Western Juried Art Show-Best of Show, Paste Journal’s Annual 100 Competition-HM, International Landscape Painters Annual Exhibition-3rd Place, Pastel Society of America 2010 Open Show, and recently have been accepted as a contributing artist to the new “Strokes of Genius 4” book publication.

Q: What else do you do besides create art?

A: I believe in giving back to the art world as thanks for what it has given me. I do this by participating in art associations and teaching new artists. I am currently involved with The Portrait Society of America, the Northwest Watercolor Society, the NW Pastel Society, the Oil Painters of America, and currently serve as the president of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters and past president of EAFA.

Like many artists I have encountered plateaus in advancing my abilities. I was advised by better painters that if you want to improve you need to teach others. For the past five years I have been teaching workshops on Portrait Painting, Figurative Drawing, Composition and Plein Air Painting. I also teach classes on drawing and painting at Cole Gallery in Edmonds WA, The Women’s University Club in Seattle, Kaewyn Gallery in Bothell WA and two week workshops in Europe. In order to teach others, I have had to break down what it is I do when I create an art piece. By doing so, I have had to study harder and try many new things so that I could pass on to others what it is I do to create my art. I also spend a minimum of 6 hours each week in life drawing sessions. By doing these things, I feel my art has been improving and leading me in new directions.

Q: What is a favorite recent work that you have produced?  

A: I like the direction and progress I’m making in my landscape oil paintings. I like the impressionistic look and the looseness of strokes in several of my river scenes. I also love to experiment with different mediums to incorporate layers of textures which produce the feeling of depth and atmosphere as depicted in several of my recent portrait and figurative works.


Q: How do you think Cole Gallery differs from other art galleries?

A: One important point for me is that Denise Cole is also an excellent artist. She appreciates the struggles other artists experience in advancing their skills and the quality of their work. It also helps her in selecting artworks that have a high quality standard and appeal to her customer base. Besides being an excellent artist, she is a savvy business woman. She understands the appeal of art in a difficult marketplace and is successful in selling art, not only on a local level but on a national level too.

You can view more of Joe Mac Kechnie’s work on Cole Gallery’s website.


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