Nationally recognized, award winning artist Mike Callahan is a fourth generation Nevada native who counts himself privileged to grow up in what he believes to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains near Reno, Nevada where he still lives today. While he has been painting since childhood, he has only been painting in earnest for about the last 5 or 6 years.
Says Mike, “The topography of this area is simply phenomenal; one can go from the high desert to mountainous alpine settings in less than an hour. It is this beautiful and varied landscape that ends up being the subject for a vast majority of my paintings.”
However, if you look through the paintings on Mike’s website, you will quickly see that the Sierra landscape isn’t the only subject Mike typically paints. He also enjoys painting Western themes as well as figurative and portraits.
As you look at Mike’s work, you will notice a great color harmony throughout. While the colors in his paintings run the full spectrum of color seen in nature, harmony is maintained by Mike limiting himself to only three colors plus white on his palette. Instead of referring to this as a limited palette, Mike thinks of it as an unlimited palette as he has not found any color he desires to use that he can’t create from those primary colors.
Mike’s work has been featured in numerous solo, group, and juried shows including the 54th Juried Exhibition at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, the second 100 in PaintAmerica’s 2008 Paint the Parks competition, and in May of 2008, Mike received national honors at the Oil Painters of America’s National Juried Show of Traditional Oils winning a coveted Award of Excellence for his painting “Wild Mustangs.”
“Not So Fast” – painted in the studio August 2007
1.) I shot the background that I’m using in this painting several years ago when I was gathering reference for “Sierra Valley”. The cowboy and calves come from a shot taken of my good friend Dennis McCroskey. Not only am I going to change the hue and lighting quite a bit from either reference shot, I’m also going to start this one a little differently than I usually do. I begin by drawing in a two-value sketch of my scene with browns and greens. Once dry, I’ll tone my canvas more like I usually do and then begin the painting from there.
2.) The next day, I go ahead and tone my canvas like I usually do. This time, however, since there’s such a yellowish low Sun feel, I tone the canvas with a more yellow wash rather than the burnt orange color I typically like. I immediately then begin to paint in the sky.
3.) Once I finish laying-in the sky, I go back and refine the edges of the trees and add detail where necessary keeping things somewhat flat and distant by carefully controlling my values.
4.) Today, I spend the majority of my time on the middle ground and the fence. Admitedly, this shot doesn’s show much of the texture and subtle variation that I’ve worked into it. At any rate, I’m just about to begin the “fun stuff”.
5.) I spend a little time on the cowboy and the horse, I want to make sure my drawing is done well and that neither the cowboy nor the horse look funny…I have a little tweaking to do still, but I’m out of time for today.
6.) I feel as though the fence posts jutting up behind the horse were just a little distracting, so I paint them over to the left and then get to work on the calves…now things are starting to take shape a little. More to come…if you aren’t signed-up, you should sign-up for my painting progress newsletter, this is where you’ll get updates to these A2Z posts…go to the painting a day link and you can sign-up there.
7.) So now everything is starting to come together, I block-in the remaining calves and start to fuss a little with my values…I just have the foreground and a little detailing to do and it will be done…
8.) I’m just about finished…I have to paint in the rope around the little bolting calve’s neck and do a little work to the rope he has coiled there and I’ll be calling it done. There was something bothering me about the sky, so I glazed it a little in the upper right corner to bring things in a little. I think it’s better now…