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Oil painter has unlimited talent
by Cortney Maddock
Jun 18, 2008 | 997 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Nathan Orme</a> - Spanish Springs resident Mike Callahan sometimes paints landscapes outdoors or "plein air"  but mostly works in his home studio.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Spanish Springs resident Mike Callahan sometimes paints landscapes outdoors or "plein air" but mostly works in his home studio.
Walking into oil painter Mike Callahan’s Spanish Springs home can make any visitor take a step back. A wave of vibrant color splashes off the light mango-colored walls of Callahan’s studio, which is also the front room of his home.

A variety of large and small paintings in elegant frames line the walls of the small room. The eye stops on each painting for a matter of moments before going to the next northern Nevada or Northern California landscape.

Callahan’s vivid paintings of the West won him the Classic Gallery Framing, Inc. Award of Excellence at the 17th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils for his painting “Wild Mustangs.”

“I actually submitted two pieces,” Callahan said. “The one on the wall called ‘Cattle Drive’ and the one they picked called ‘Wild Mustangs.’ ”

“Cattle Drive” depicts cowboys rounding up cattle and heading to the desert’s horizon.

Callahan explained that in order to enter the competition an applicant must be a member of the Oil Painters of America, which was founded in 1991 as a way to preserve the art form. Callahan joined the organization two years ago.

“I didn’t get invited to the show the first year I joined,” Callahan said.

Callahan explained that all the winning artists’ paintings were on display at the Dana Gallery in Missoula, Mont. until Saturday. He added that each artist has the opportunity to enter two pieces but only one can be chosen for the show.

Callahan’s paintings range from landscapes with vibrant colors of flowers and sunsets to portraits with flesh-matching skin tones and warm rosy cheeks.

“I only paint with these four colors,” Callahan said holding cyan, magenta, yellow and white paint tubes in his hand. “It’s called a limited palette. I call it an ‘unlimited palette’ because I can create anything with these.”

He explained that his paintings are not about using a limited number of colors, but making sure the values are correct. Value is the amount of white mixed with a color to create a lighter or darker tint.

Callahan said that while he has been painting most of his life, a majority of his artwork has been created since 2002.

“I’ve been painting with oils since I was probably 12,” Callahan said. “I started painting again in earnest in 2002 when I was commissioned to do the poster for the Great Reno Balloon Races.”

Callahan, a fourth generation Nevadan, explained that after a failed attempt at art school, he took a break from painting but has found a new joy in the art. Even though his day job is as a technical graphics trainer for International Game Technology in Reno, Callahan finds time to produce new material.

“I would say everything is within 100 miles from here,” Callahan said of the landscapes hanging on the walls. “I travel a little bit, but it’s mostly the Nevada side of the Sierras.”

Callahan explained that he will go hiking to get inspiration for new paintings and when he finds a breathtaking destination in nature, he takes a picture of it so when he comes home he can recreate it.

“They are pretty much traditionally painted oils that will hopefully invoke the beauty and the grandeur of what we have around here,” Callahan said.

Callahan said that in the last year he was producing nearly a painting a day. Callahan’s art can be seen in the Truckee River Gallery, Catherine Bower Fine Art Gallery and the Artist View Points Gallery.

To view Callahan’s online studio, visit
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