Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Kim Rodeffer Funk's picture

As you look at Paul McMahan's watercolors, you cannot help but recognize the colorful influence of his coastal New England environment. The coastal colors and watery influences of maritime history and quaint small towns show up in each piece.

The technical aspects of Paul's work become clear when you understand he has an architectural illustration background - each line is precisely placed and every brushstroke is perfectly laid down. His special relationship with line and color become apparent when you begin to view his body of work.

Paul paints his world for us all to enjoy, whether you live in New England or not. His love affair with the quaint villages and the scenic waterways show through and we are grateful to be able to share his work with you this month. Sit back with a steaming cup of tea and enjoy the view.


Monhegan Beach. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Monhegan Beach


Marblehead light. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Marblehead light


How long have you been an artist?

I’ve been interested in drawing my whole life. I was trained as an architect and my first professional job out of college was a long apprenticeship with a world renowned architectural illustrator. Although my professional work was with pencil, I started painting with watercolor on the side for my fine art. Since the economy and technology has vastly reduced the need for hand rendering of architecture, my focus has shifted to my fine art using watercolor. Although I have been painting much longer, the past ten years has seen a much more focused effort with my painting.


Boston light. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Boston light


Ipswich church. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Ipswich church


Is your art your full-time career?

My career has always been a combination of artistically related activities. When I worked as an architectural illustrator, I also taught drawing and painting quite a bit at the college level. Now that my illustration work has diminished greatly, I find myself painting as well as doing a fair amount of art exhibition installation and some architectural design. I still do the occasional painting demonstration along with some private teaching and workshops.


Old Orchard Pier. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Old Orchard Pier


Rust bucket. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Rust bucket


Where do you work? How long have you been there?

Most of my painting work is done in the studio of the loft I live in as well as designed. I do paint en plein air on location some, as well. The loft is a light-filled open space that is fully climate controlled and very comfortable. It is filled with art, antiques, and walls of books that create a very inspirational environment to work in on a daily basis. I have been in this space for just over ten years on the border of Boston.


Let's reflect. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Let's reflect


C'est la vie. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

C'est la vie


What does a typical day look like? Is there a typical day?

Because of the eclectic nature of what I do, my days can vary quite a bit, as far as activities are concerned. Most days do start with some social media, in a continuing effort to brand, promote, and share my creative output with as wide an audience as possible. The impetus of an upcoming show often has me painting with abandon to meet the expectation of new work with each exhibit. As a show approaches, the focus often shifts to framing, marketing, installation, and finally catering. I also quite frequently leave the studio to install the artwork of others at art associations, galleries, etc. If I’m doing an architectural design commission, it usually requires both meeting with the client and potential site visits during a project. I also make it a point to try to get out in nature on a daily basis to both exercise as well as photograph a myriad of subjects that act as great sources of inspiration for my artwork. In addition, there are frequent trips around New England to document the landscapes, seascapes, and architecture of the region.


Swan Lake. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Swan Lake


Boatyard. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan



What materials do you prefer?

I paint mostly on Arches Rough 140lb. watercolor blocks at various sizes up to 18” x 24.” I tend to use Cheap Joe’s American Journey watercolors with about 20 different colors in my John Pike Palette. I use mostly Kolinsky sable round brushes from a size 2 to a size 16. I use a spray mister as well as a blow dryer.


Deane Winthrop's window. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Deane Winthrop's window


Hendricks Head. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Hendricks Head


Where/How are you inspired?

Because of my interest in architecture at an early age, I am constantly drawn to buildings as a subject and a source of inspiration. The architecture itself is of interest, but frankly it is often the play of light across the materials that is so compelling. I’ve also spent a lot of time at and on the water, so seascapes and boats play a large role in my creative endeavors. The interplay of light, mood, and reflectivity with water make for an endless array of options as potential subject matter. Of particular interest is the magnification of these elements in water near both sunrise and sunset on any given day. As an artist and illustrator, I find myself being constantly inspired by whatever environment is around me as I meander about in both urban and rural settings. Assessing a potentially compelling composition constantly whets my appetite as I explore inspirational subjects. My problem sometimes is my inability to narrow my subject matter choices and hone the skills necessary to capture those particular subjects, at the expense of exploring a myriad of possibilities. Seeing how other artists capture certain subjects excites me with the potential to emulate what it was in them that made for such an arresting image.


Dalhgren. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan



Deer Island. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Deer Island


New Harbor. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

New Harbor


If you were not a painter, what would you do?

I think the notion that being an artist is not what you are, but who you are is very relevant. Seeing the world through an artist’s eyes is a great gift. Finding beauty in everyday themes is a very rewarding way to travel throughout life. I suppose that exploring my interest in architecture by being an architect is intriguing to me as well. I also found with teaching, that being on stage if you will, has a particular appeal to me as an entertainer. Whether that would manifest itself with comedic acting and/or writing or more dramatic roles has always had a particular allure to me.


City sailing II. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

City sailing II


Monhegan Lightkeeper. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Monhegan Lightkeeper


How can our readers find and purchase your art?

I have a small amount of work in the Lupine Gallery on Monhegan Island in Maine. I often have solo shows of my work in the Boston area. I will have work on display at Audio Concepts in Boston through March 2015. My profile on Facebook is public and shows much of my work and can be seen by anyone who has a Facebook account. I can also be reached by email at paul.mcmahan[at]


Hen Island. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Hen Island


Lady Cora. Artist of the Month: Paul McMahan

Lady Cora





Kim Rodeffer Funk is the Art Editor for Wandering Educators. She notes, "I am an abstract painter and have enjoyed living a creative life for many years.  In 2012, I co-founded Atelier 325 with Andrea Hupke de Palacio, and today show my art in Europe and the United States."

You can find her at




All photos courtesy and copyright Paul McMahan