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Kansas City artist canoes down the entire Missouri River, painting nation's hidden gems

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-23 20:21:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Steve Snell, a Kansas City artist, spent his summer canoeing down the entire Missouri River, painting the beautiful sceneries in front of him using the river for his watercolors.

Snell has been an artist for almost 20 years, finding inspiration from the history and landscape of wherever he lives. He fell in love with the Missouri River and developed a fascination with its features when he moved to Kansas City seven years ago.

He wants people who live along the river to be interested in what is there right in front of them.

“It’s kind of served as an inspiration in my art practice since that time," Snell said. "That’s also I think when the seed to float the entire river and make a series of paintings also started. It was just full of unknowns, so it seemed like a great opportunity to have an adventure and make art.”

Snell started preparing and researching the Missouri River in October 2022 and finally set sail on June 2. For 88 days, spanning 2,341 miles, he paddled on his canoe from Three Forks, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri, where he ended his journey.

He said it was during some of his toughest moments out on the water that he learned more about himself. Learning to let go of control taught him how to tackle life’s challenges as they come.

“I think for an adventure to be authentic, there needs to be an element of risk, of failure,” Snell said. “That’s why I kept going — it was always an unknown, but there was also something really fulfilling personally in that simplicity of my purpose every day.

When he found himself in deep water during the currents of his journey, it was the people he met along the way that helped him keep his head above water. It is the part of his travels that he will never forget.

“All I know is that it was definitely, probably one of the [most] meaningful life experiences I’ve ever had,” Snell said. “Just let life happen, embrace what’s before in that moment and just keep paddling."

Snell created over 100 water paintings throughout his journey. They will be made into a video series called “Adventure Art on the Mighty Mo'” and will premiere in spring 2023.

To learn more about Snell’s journey down the Missouri River or see his work, head to his website.