Nita Engle, one of America’s foremost watercolor artists, is well-known for her watercolor landscapes that are a visual remedy for incurable wanderlust. Her paintings range from Africa to Alaska, from Thailand and Tahiti to Italy, and from Indonesia to her home on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her unique watercolor technique has been developed through experimentation. Engle says, “The exciting thing about painting in watercolor is that it moves on the paper, unlike oil.”
Engle attended the Art Institute of Chicago for four years with affiliated study at Northern Michigan University and Roosevelt University. She was employed as an art director of a Chicago ad agency before becoming a full-time illustrator in watercolor for major publications, for everything she says, “From Readers Digest to Playboy.”
Engle was recently chosen to receive the E. Scott Michigan Artist Prize in recognition of her skill, the high regard in which she is held by her colleagues as well as her contributions to the arts and culture and for demonstrating lifelong excellence and achievement in her artistic discipline. In 1997, Engle was inducted into U.S. ARTs Hall of Fame. That same year, two of her paintings were exhibited at The Detroit Institute of Art and were included in the 50th Anniversary Exhibition of the Michigan Watercolor Society that traveled to five other museums. She was named a 1996 “Art Master” in recognition of her outstanding work and dedication in the medium of watercolor by American Artist magazine’s 1996 Art Masters Awards Program. Organizations such as The National Academy of Design, Art Critics and the National Arts Club as well as former winners of this award selected the names of 200 nominees which were then juried by another panel of prominent artists and artists’ foundations before the 18 Masters were chosen.
A member of the American Watercolor Society since 1969, she has been a frequent exhibitor, winning several awards. Engle has also taken part in many exhibitions sponsored by the Society of Illustrators in New York including an exhibit of American illustrators along with the work of Winslow Homer, N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, entitled “1976 200 Years of American Illustration.” American Artist named her “Artist of the Year” in 1984. In 1985, a PBS documentary film was made of her work and environment called Wilderness Palette Nita Engle in Michigan by KAKM in Anchorage, AK. In 1986 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Northern Michigan University. She was also selected as one of 20 U.S. artists included in a group of artists from Great Britain and Canada exhibiting in an event called “International Waters” and one of 40 artists selected to exhibit with Australian artists in Taipei, Republic of China. Engle has also taken part in the annual Great Women Artists of America Show held in Chicago.
The natural beauty of the wilderness, especially the North Country, presents a continual challenge to Engle, who feels that one lifetime is not enough to accomplish all she hopes to achieve. “There is so little wilderness left; we are surrounded by pavement. My goal is to take you into the landscape through my painting.” Engle’s art can be seen in many books and publications, including How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself: Experimental Techniques Towards Realism in Landscape, published by Watson-Guptill.