The biggest applause of the evening went to Mell’s scenery, which subtly changed in a blink of an eye and was almost like an additional character in the action. Clouds moved like they were breathing; bright sunlight faded to nighttime dark; mountain ranges cast long shadows against a moonlit night.
— Arizona Daily Star

Fine art painter Ed Mell designed the set for Arizona Opera's world premiere production of Riders.

Born in 1942, Ed Mell spent an idyllic childhood in what was then the small western city of Phoenix, Arizona. He began drawing at a very early age, inspired by the automobiles and futuristic design of the late ‘40s and ‘50s. A burgeoning interest in advertising and illustration led him to attend Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Although an advertising major, he was able to vicariously experience the school’s world-renowned automotive design department through several friends.

If Arizona has a visual poet laureate, it’s Ed Mell. You wouldn’t think a guy like Mell would want to create opera scenery and sets. But he did. Ask Mell why, and he says with a grin what others say in fear: “This is something I’ve never done.”
— Phoenix Magazine

After Los Angeles, Ed went on to work at Young and Rubicam, one of the top advertising agencies in New York, as well as Kenyon and Eckhardt, where he worked on such major accounts as Helena Rubinstein and Air France. Finding art directing creatively stifling, he moved onto illustration, becoming one of the first airbrush artists to emerge in the 60’s. His skill in this newly discovered medium attracted clients such as Tang and National Lampoon, for whom he did two covers.

Two summers teaching art on a Hopi reservation served as the catalyst that changed Ed's artistic direction and prompted his return home to Arizona’s Sonoran desert. His first works in oil were very minimal and angular, while later he moved onto more naturalistic expressions of the Western landscape. Ed paints in both styles today, and began making bronze sculptures in the ‘80s. His work is featured in many corporate and private collections around the world, including those of Diane Keaton, the Forbes Collection, and the Anschutz Collection. His work is also permanently installed in several western museums, including the Phoenix Art Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Denver Art Museum.

Ed Mell in front of his  Riders  set. (Photo courtesy of Quantum Leap Productions)

Ed Mell in front of his Riders set. (Photo courtesy of Quantum Leap Productions)

Several large-scale public works have also been commissioned, including an eight and a half foot tall bucking bronco, a mural-esque painting for the visitor’s center of Kartchner Caverns, and a bronze of a rising phoenix for Phoenix City Hall. His life as an artist is chronicled in the Northland Press book “Beyond the Visible Terrain: The Art of Ed Mell.”

Regardless of style or medium, Ed is most renowned for his uncanny ability to capture the power of his awesome subjects, whether a brewing desert storm that dwarfs the tallest of mountains, or an animal frozen in violent action.

To learn more about Ed Mell and his work, visit