Evening in Santa Fe
10 x 14 in., watercolor
Available through the artist

Living and painting the West

Mike Simpson’s early career as an artist attracted recognition through his accurate, highly detailed pencil sketches of the contemporary working cowboy.

In the 70’s, with encouragement from Ed Runci (a former Coca Cola girl illustrator turned professional oil painter), Mike began to work in oils. His subjects also changed, enlarging to landscape, particularly that of the cowboy-in-context. During this period, Mike had further help from Joe Beeler, founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America.

Mike is no stranger to the West and it’s lifestyle. From cowboying on some of the west’s largest ranches, horse backpacking in the Rockies, being a lease agent on the Crow Indian Reservation, to running sled dogs in the Colorado high country in the winter. Mike not only lives in the West, Mike lives the West, and that is what he paints…the West.

Respect for technique and generosity toward influences are characteristic of Mike’s comments about his work. Largely self taught, Mike has relied upon mentor’s advice to develop his talent.

“In recent years studying with Wayne Wolfe and Ralph Oberg, both widely known landscape and wildlife artists, has been a real help in getting me to understand what to look for and how to relate what I see to canvas or paper when I’m painting outside.”

Confident of his increasing maturity in handling both oils and watercolors, he says “I finally learned about some of the things I was having trouble with before. The painstaking style I used was really tiring, and I couldn’t seem to loosen up like I wanted to. Now, whenever I am having difficulty with a subject, I remember what Ed Runci told me. ‘Just paint the color and shape of the tree, not all of the leaves,’ meaning to forget all the little detail. One time he even took all of my little brushes away and broke them up in a fit of frustration. In turn he bought me some bigger ones and taught me how to use those.”

Sensitivity to the West is central to Mike’s work.

“The West is my home. I believe it to be unique. The landscape, the buildings, the people and the animals that make up the west is what I paint.”

When not in his gallery/studio, Mike can usually be found out painting on location, gathering reference material for future paintings or merely “living the West”.

“I paint in a traditional, representational manner. However, on occasion I will push the limits of a medium in an attempt to create a desired effect. I will utilize any style of painting to suit a particular picture.”

Today, Mike is a nationally-known artist with work in many private collections as well as public and government displays notably the National Park Service. Mike is a signature member of the Plein Air Artist of Colorado and the Western Colorado Watercolor Society and the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, He is also a member of the National Watercolor Society, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, the Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionists Society.

View more of Mike’s work at MikeSimpson.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.