Ed Mell was born in 1942 and raised in Phoenix. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, then pursued a successful career as a commercial artist for six years in New York.
After teaching art for a summer on the Hopi reservation, he wrestled with the idea of returning to Arizona, where the expansive vistas were inspiring and the pace was more relaxed. Mell returned home in 1973. Within five years, supporting himself initially through freelance illustration, he was devoting himself full-time to painting landscapes of the state's wide-open spaces.
Mell often would fly by helicopter to remote areas to photograph the landscape, then return to his studio and do a painting based on a composite of images. In so doing, he made a personal statement about the spirit of a place.
In his book Beyond the Visible Terrain: The Art of Ed Mell (1996), Don Hagerty notes "The paintings are rooted in specific landscape facts, yet at the same time possess reminders of their conceptual basis and the emotional characteristics of the painter".
While best known for his landscapes, Ed Mell does not limit himself in subject matter. He has painted and sculpted livestock, cowboys, flowers, and occasionally, nudes .