Artist Mark Mehaffey Awarded the Dynasty Brush Premier Watercolor Brush Collection Merchandise Award at the 2023 National Watercolor Society’s 103rd International Open

From October 1st through November 5, 2023, the National Watercolor Society held its 103rd International Open Exhibition. Artists from around the world exhibited their work in watercolor and watercolor media, with a variety of cash, merchandise, and scholarship awards given for excellence.

For this year’s exhibition, FM Brush Co., Dynasty Brush's parent company, contributed three Dynasty Brush Premier Watercolor Brush Collection Merchandise Awards. Each award featured a premier collection of Dynasty’s finest artists' brushes including selections from the Water Lily, Black Gold, Faux Squirrel, and Faux Kolinsky series.

For his work “Being Alone is Not the Same as Being Lonely", Artist Mark Mehaffey won the NWS Award XIII, which included the Dynasty Brush Premier Watercolor Brush Collection Merchandise Award.

Excited to learn more about this piece and its artist, we spoke with Mark Mehaffey from his studio in Michigan.

Congratulations on "Being Alone is Not the Same as Being Lonely" being awarded the NWS Award XIII at the 2023 National Watercolor Society’s 103 International Exhibition! Please share what it means to you and your work to win this award.

First, let me say, thank you to FM Brush & Dynasty Brush for giving this award, it was very generous of them. The National Watercolor Society supports those of us who paint in water media all across the planet, it’s one of the largest shows that features water media and watercolor paintings. I am honored just to get in, let alone win an award.

I am a brushaholic! I cannot go into an art supply store and not buy a brush. I have a bazillion brushes, but when I get more brushes, it puts me in my happy place. This was the perfect award for me.

What was your inspiration for “Being Alone is Not the Same as Being Lonely”?

It’s a little on the sad side, about a year and a half ago I lost my wife, Rosy, to lung cancer. We were married for almost 51 years. It was very sad and difficult to watch her suffer. The only thing that stayed constant for me and helped, was painting. And so, with dealing with everything connected to that, dealing with the grief, I painted.

All of that emotion went into this series of paintings which feature the woods and trees. I live in the woods, I like to walk in the woods. I live in the middle of the 72,000-acre Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan. In between walking in the woods and doing a whole series of paintings on being alone and loneliness, that sort of kept me sane for a while.

Your NWS award includes the Dynasty Brush Premier Watercolor Brush Collection Merchandise Award donated by FM Brush Co., which features an exciting array of Dynasty Brush’s finest watercolor brushes. Dynasty Brush is new to you and your work, how do you hope these brushes will enhance your art?

Looking at the collection of Dynasty brushes I was awarded, I really like the feel of the Faux Squirrel and Faux Kolinsky. Especially the Kolinksy, I want to see the differences between a real Kolinsky and a faux Kolinsky- how much liquid it holds, what kind of an edge it does, and especially how it releases the paint onto the paper. I’m looking forward to that.

There was one Dynasty Brush that I thought was really cool, the Dynasty 395. It has a long handle and nylon hair that comes to a needlepoint and it’s a size 12, which is really good for me. Most of my paintings are a large size, or even if they are a smaller painting size, I like a large brush, so it has a really long handle, and the older I get, the more I back off the handle and get away from the ferrule, so I will lose control. I lose control on purpose because I like that look. If I want to be controlled, I can be controlled, but for some of my work I like the lack of control and this brush presents some opportunities.

Along with working with watercolors, what other mediums will we find in your portfolio?

I grew up with transparent watercolor, started when I was about ten then never really quit. That was my first love, transparent watercolor, which forms about half of my work now. Most of that work is studio work- ideas in my head, then the execution of the painting, reference photos, sketchbook planning, and painting on paper.

The other half is split between totally non-objective work, think abstract, straight out of my head using the elements and principles of design to make an interesting painting, and then the other compartment is acrylic landscape.

I live in a beautiful part of our country and I go outside and paint in plein air, mostly acrylic, and those precipitate larger studio pieces. Those compartments keep me pretty busy.

You have an illustrious career as an artist, how long have you been painting and how did you get started?

I’ve been painting since the age of ten, so 63 years of pretty serious, almost everyday painting. I painted a lot more when I was younger from the ages 10-18 because my parents, sister, and all my family encouraged me. Even though I had fun with athletics and high school, ultimately it was me, paintbrush, paints, and alone, and that’s what I continue to do.

A lot of years of painting, and a whole lot of failures, which is also a good thing, as that’s how we learn. I am still not afraid to fail, I do regularly, but I am getting better at not showing people.

Can you share with us what you’re working on next?

I'm in the planning stages for two or three paintings. One is working towards my weaknesses. I have a really good friend who has paintings in museum collections, he's a wise man, and he insists that as artists we should work towards our weaknesses. I'm not sure I entirely agree with him, but I've got a whole series of figures in my head.

I just finished a landscape, it features a foggy day on the lakeshore that’s a mile and a half from my house. So a local thing that I drive by often- you know, projects present themselves.

I also have another big watercolor rattling around in my head, but I haven’t finalized the concept enough to start putting pencil to paper yet. Lots of projects in the queue.

To learn more about Mark Mehaffey and his art, visit, or connect with him on Facebook and Instagram!