From his dorm room to the great outdoors: Artist chases his passion in Duluth

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Matt Kania is a Duluth-based fine oil painter and printmaker. He travels all over the Northland to paint canvases he later puts on display.

Kania said he loves to paint outdoors as much as possible. It is called landscape “en plein air,” or on-site painting.

“Sometimes you can do a print in a week or sometimes months, but paintings are very spontaneous,” Kania said. “You can just whip one out in a day and move on to the next one.”

Kania has been doing printmaking artwork for more than 15 years and took up oil painting in the last seven years.

“I found myself getting too bogged down with the details of printing, so I wanted to try something more immediate,” he said.

Kania considers his artwork eclectic, giving viewers a varied display. No two paintings are alike.

“I think it drives people nuts. They can’t pin me down or figure me out,”  Kania said. “I see something I like, and I go paint it.”

Born and raised in Chicago, Kania and his wife moved to Duluth for his underlying love for Lake Superior and the outdoors.

“I’m both a wilderness person and an urban person,” Kania said. “I’m from Chicago, so I love large cities. But I love how, here in Duluth, you go just five minutes outside of the city and you are immersed in the wilderness.”

Strong in both math and the sciences while studying at Northern Illinois University, Kania was a top-notch student in the engineering department but found he was not enjoying himself.

“To give myself a break from all the hard studies, I would set up a canvas in my dorm room and paint,” he said. “It drove my engineering roommate nuts, but it helped to calm me down.”

About halfway through college, Kania decided he needed to make a major change in his life, choosing geography and cartography as his new majors.

“It was a way to combine the math and sciences I was good at with the art I loved.”

Kania now owns his own company named MapHero. He develops maps for cities and countries around the world.

Contemporary representation -- a style of art that is both in the moment and representational of what the artist is painting -- is the style with which Kania fits best.

“I'm inducing my very own representation of what I see,” he said. “I’m not trying to paint like my heros, but just paint what is there in front of me.

“I have been studying John Singer Sargent; he is one of my heroes. But who inspires me changes over the months and years.”

Kania doesn’t just rely on famous artists to inspire him. He also attends gatherings in Duluth with other artists to meet painters with similar interests to his own.

Dr. Kenneth Marunowski is another Duluth-based artist and met Kania at one of these outings.

"Matt Kania is a wonderful plein air painter whose work demonstrates clarity of purpose and a strong sense of composition and color,” Marunowski said. “The contributions to conversations about art that Matt makes are always thoughtful and insightful."

Kania is like any artist when it comes to displaying his or her work. Kania loves it when someone is moved enough by his paintings to purchase one.

“On average, my framed oil paintings will go for about $500 to $1,000,” Kania said. “But the price of the artwork is truly up to the painter.”

You can find Kania’s artwork all over Duluth including at the Waters of Superior art gallery and the Art Dock.

Kania offers his display online at

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