Artist by day and night

As word of Mark Kuehn’s watercolors has spread across Milwaukee, the artist hopes to one day transform his hobby into a side business.

For about six years, Kuehn, director of creative strategy at creative communications company Anthologie Inc. in Milwaukee, has been creating watercolor works of area houses – what he calls house portraits. His first portrait was an illustration of a house he particularly liked in his former Whitefish Bay neighborhood. When he gave that watercolor to the owner and other neighbors discovered his artistic talent, he started fulfilling commissioned projects.

Since then, Kuehn has expanded his project base, painting house portraits as gifts for friends and family as well as for winners of auction bids at area fundraisers.

He has yet to collect a penny for his work but imagines he could launch a side business or travel to art shows once his busy life – with a full-time career and a family to raise – slows down.

Kuehn painted a portrait of the Clausing Barn Café at Old World Wisconsin as a gift for a friend’s daughter who held her wedding there.

Kuehn’s interest in watercolor artwork began in high school and continued through his years at art school both in Milwaukee and in Portland, Maine.

He is drawn to the medium because of its “spontaneity” and “transparency,” he said. Once an artist begins laying watercolor paints down, he can’t erase his work but must forge ahead or opt to start over.

His artistry also offers him “a relief valve” for stress, a break from the creative demands of his career and a way to create a quality gift that comes from the heart.

“When you give (a painting) to someone, they really appreciate it,” Kuehn said, adding that the homeowners he paints for are grateful for the amount of time and energy he invests in capturing their property in a portrait.

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