Voices of Experience - An Interview with Dave Santillanes
Voices of Experience
"There's no better way
to get to know a place on earth
than to sit for a couple of hours
and contemplate it while painting."
Colorado landscape artist, Dave Santillanes, has no lack of inspiration surrounding him in his native state. He captures the drama and complexity of the Rockies after spending time in quiet observation on-site. He works to create paintings that remain true to the essences of their subjects as interpreted through his unique lens. Santillanes shared his outstanding work with us and reflected on his evolution as an artist.
We would enjoy learning about your earliest inspirations and when you realized that you would be an artist.
I had a wealth of encouragement from an early age. I think my parents and teachers all recognized an advanced level of drawing. When I was six or seven I drew a very recognizable portrait of Jimmy Carter using an encyclopedia for reference. My elementary school teacher even entered my work in contests like Ducks Unlimited. By the time I was in high school, I was already looking at ways to pursue art as a career. During my junior year I won a scholarship to study art at Colorado College the summer semester before my senior year.
I was working full time, my twelfth year as a digital imaging technician for a small professional photo lab in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was a great job to have while pursuing my painting passion. We did all the Photoshop and color work for Richard Schmid’s books. I met some incredible painters who used the lab for shooting their work. I was painting as often as I could—after work and on weekends. As the industry changed from film to digital almost everyone was eventually let go. I stayed on through the digital revolution and through the owner’s very serious health issues. When they were unable to pay, I continued working for them realizing I was able to survive on my painting income. As soon as they were in a good place, I made the leap to full time painter.
Did you study with any other artists or take workshops when you switched to working full-time on your own work?
I’ve only ever taken one workshop. It was early on, from Skip Whitcomb. I had hit a wall and just needed to fill in a few blanks. He was fantastic and turned me on to some great books—like Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting. After that I realized that I preferred to figure things out on my own—a bit of a bull-headed approach, but I think it’s helped me develop my own way of putting down paint.
I’m a Colorado native through and through. The west is definitely in my blood.
What are some of the challenges you find when hiking wilderness areas in search of subjects?
What do you look for when you travel to paint new landscapes in other parts of the world?
Do you like to participate in plein air painting events?
Dave Santillanes has won multiple awards in plein air and juried national competitions, including Best Painting at the Sedona Plein Air Festival, Best of Show at the Crested Butte Pein Air Invitational and the Bronze Medal at the Oil Painters of American 19th National Show. His work has been featured in Southwest Art Magazine.
To see more of Dave Santillane's work,
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