Los Altos artist Will Maller certainly didn’t expect $10,000 when he went online last Tuesday.
“I was literally just taking the garbage out when I remembered I had to check,” he said. “But there it was on the homepage. I wasn’t sure if this was a joke.”
PaintAmerica, a Kansas-based non-profit organization, named Maller the grand-prize winner of 2010 Paint the Parks, the international leg of the association’s two annual competitions.
Chosen from among approximately 3,000 contenders, Maller’s “Gold Country Sundown,” an oil representation of various Yosemite landscapes, will be included in the 100-painting national exhibition tour.
Maller joined PaintAmerica because the organization provides scholarships for artists-in-training. Paint the Parks marks the second top prize for his blue-ribbon composition – “Gold Country Sundown” also won first place at Napa Valley Museum’s Plein Air Exhibition in 2008.
Despite his list of awards, honors and published works, including “Paint the Town: Los Altos and Los Altos Hills,” over a 35-year career, Maller discovered art by accident.
“I got thrown out of seventh-grade English class for playing with my Prang watercolors,” Maller said.
The Minnesota native often found himself in trouble at school, leading his parents to follow a teacher’s suggestion and enroll him in Saturday morning figure-drawing classes at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
But the Mallers didn’t expect that their son would pursue art in college, become a commercial illustrator and commissioned artist, or establish and manage Maller Design from 1978 to 1994. In fact, Maller said, his mother started to appreciate his talent only two years ago.
Though he still offers one-on-one classes at his Hawthorne Avenue studio, Maller retired as a professional artist and designer in 2003 – to enjoy a lifestyle he said would account for most of his Paint the Parks winnings. But, he added, he would definitely leave some for a celebratory dinner, a gift for his wife, Kathryn.
“I really feel like a great deal of this success is hers,” he said. “She has supported me like no other.”
For gallery tour dates for Paint the Parks, still to be determined, visit www.paintamerica.org.