Monday, February 16, 2015

Art and Life 02

Art and Life 02

In this episode, I discuss underpainting with flake white and then later, take time to enjoy a Friday night fire pit with my wife...

"SUNSET ON LIBERTY" new oil painting by Mike Callahan

"Sunset on Liberty"
Oil on Canvas
12"x 16"

While the title of this painting could be considered a commentary on the current state of things in this country, it's not meant to be. I've tried to remain apolitical in my posts and focus on painting and this is not a departure from my policy.  This cityscape is a view of Liberty Street in Reno looking West at sundown.  Cityscapes have and continue to be a challenge to me; I haven't fully landed on a means of employing my style to my satisfaction and therefore will be challenging myself with more cityscapes in the future...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"ART AND LIFE 01" video log by Mike Callahan

Art and Life 01

I'm trying something new this year; from time to time I'm going to post a minimally edited video where I'll talk about my ideas and biases regarding art, painting and life in general.  This is the introductory one.  I hope you enjoy it!  Mike

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"DEEP ROOTS" New Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

 See a larger pic of this painting here

"Deep Roots"
Oil on Arches Paper
18"x 24"

There was a time a few years ago when I was a "Daily Painter". That is, I painted one small painting every day. Such an endeavor is a great discipline and I recommend any serious painter try it for 30 days at least. It gives you much more confidence and directness in your painting and it forces you to become very efficient in your execution. This translates to larger work after the discipline has been established and you will be amazed at how quickly and efficiently you are able to produce paintings.

However, once you have attained that, it is an equally beneficial discipline to slow yourself down and create a "slow painting" once in a while. That is to say, take your time, make sure your composition works, observe your subject, look for subtleties, tackle a difficult lighting situation and focus on light values, ponder each stroke, scumble, glaze and enjoy the process. You will probably be very pleased with the result!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The two final paintings in my Pacific coast series

Oil on Paper
18" x 24"
This my fifth Pacific coast painting...and here is the sixth:

Oil on Paper
18" x 24"
These paintings will be exhibited soon and I'll let you know the details in a future blog post...
(click their titles to view these at a larger size) 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"JOHN YOUSSI" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"John Youssi"
Oil on Canvas Panel
16" x 12"

Every now and then the light catches my eye in such a way that I am compelled to paint it. That's how it was earlier this summer when my good friend John Youssi came out to pizza with my wife and me. The sun was hitting his face just so that I knew it would make a great painting so I pulled out the old smart phone and snapped a couple of reference shots saying, "nevermind me, keep talking" so as to maintain as natural and candid pose as possible... 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"THE MEETING PLACE" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"The Meeting Place"
Oil on Paper
22" x 30"
This my fourth Pacific coast in a series of six I have planned and I've called it "The Meeting Place" not because I or anyone I know have met anyone there but because to me it seems so representative of the concept of the Land meeting the Sea... 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"RHYTHM OF THE SEA" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Rhythm of the Sea"
Oil on Paper
18" x 24"

I'm really loving the surface properties of the Arches Oil Paper and I've painted another Pacific coast piece.  I've titled it so because as I was painting it, I realized that I was applying my strokes rhythmically and the result was a feel of movement in the water (or so it seems to me anyway)... 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"ANXIOUS" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

Oil on Linen
24" x 30"

I've been working on this one on and off for a while.  I painted most of it last November, but have been fussing with the perspective a bit.  I wanted to paint a figurative piece with a bit more narrative than works done in the past.  We had a beautiful model pose for our painting group last summer and I shot some photos, but I had to find background reference and a public bench reference and then was challenged with making it look like nighttime...blah, blah, blah...anyway, here's the final piece... 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"PACIFIC CLIFFS" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Pacific Cliffs"
Oil on Paper
22" x 30"

Back in April my wife and I took a short trip up the California coast. We were lucky this time of year to get some absolutely wonderful weather, sunshine and no fog. As a result I was able to get some great photo reference for painting and this is my first painting from that trip; I call it "Pacific Cliffs" shot near The Sea Ranch. I've been wanting to try Canson's new Arches Oil Paper which is primed to accept oil so no gesso is required. I quite like it and am pleased with the results. Let me know what you think... 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"NEAR THE SUMMIT" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Near the Summit"
Oil on Canvas
18" x 24"

Here is my latest piece painted from reference shot in the fall near the Mt. Rose summit late in the day. I was really captivated by the late afternoon light hitting the tops of the trees as well as the subtle ambient light on the shaded rocks and snow... 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"WINTER CREEK" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Winter Creek"
Oil on Canvas
20" x 16"

Just thought I'd keep the Winter theme going a bit longer... I know, like you I'm getting antsy for's coming! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"WINTER MORNING SUNRISE" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Winter Morning Sunrise"
Oil on Canvas
18" x 24"

When in doubt, make it up...sort of! This is one of the many awesome sunrises I get to see when I actually look outside in the morning when I get up to paint. The photo just doesn't do it justice in the least so I decided to try to capture the wonder of it on canvas. As you can see however, an awesome sunrise isn't going to translate all that well with my side fence and barbeque grill in the foreground. I wanted to balance the sky drama with a little something in the foreground albeit a very dark value. I decided to just wing it on my canvas without any reference. I was able to easily place a stream and some brush in the foreground on account there wouldn't be much detail required due to the subdued lighting, however, I wasn't able to pull off a very realistic reflection at first. I went online and did an image search of streams and rivers to observe how low light actually reflects. I didn't find anything too close to what I intended, however, just studying reflections in general gave me enough understanding to pull off the one I made up in my painting.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I have a very special announcement and I'm asking for your help. In return for your help I have some awesome original art for you! Many of you have been asking for online video training and I'm in the process of making that happen. As many of you know I started the High Sierra Art Academy in Reno this year, but that still leaves many people out who live far away or have schedules that won't permit them to attend, so I have decided to take all the content from my academy courses plus much more and put them into a first-rate, affordable and convenient membership web site. I have found a great team of people to work with to get the framework in place and the only thing I need is a bit more time and a bit more money! The time I can come up with easily, the money will be a little harder to come up with - but that's where you can help. I've started a crowdfunding project on indiegogo and if you can afford to contribute as little as $10, I have some great perks to offer you! And if you can't afford to contribute monitarily, you can still help by sharing my project with all of your art-loving friends via email, facebook and twitter! Please take a look at my project video and details found here:

or by clicking the video below

I'm offering some of my original oil paintings as perks, so if you ever wanted to own an original of mine here's your chance to get one for WAY less than retail, but hurry, perks are given on a first pledge, first reward basis! Click the link or video above now!

Thank you sincerely,


"SPRING FALLS" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Spring Falls"
Oil on Canvas
32" x 16"

When the  snow begins to melt in the Sierras and spring finally asserts a dominance over winter the runoff oftentimes creates some very dramatic waterfalls.  They say spring is coming early this year...let's hope so!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"SYCAMORE" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

Oil on Canvas
20" x 24"

I have always been intrigued by the warm winter light low on the horizon as it strikes the sycamore trees in their winter state bereft of leaves, so I thought I would challenge myself to paint one...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"AGAINST THE WALL" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Against the Wall"
Oil on Canvas
30" x 24"

This past summer my beautiful daughter Bri modeled for an open painting session at my art academy.  Prior to the session I asked her to pose for some photography in the alley behind the academy from which I would create a painting at a later date.  This is the result...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"BUT, I'M NOT FLYING" New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"...But, I'm Not Flying"
Oil on Linen
24" x 18"
My granddaughter is so darn cute! She's only three and she and her grandma had picked out some fairy wings on the Internet for her. She waited anxiously for them to arrive asking if they came yet each time she came to visit. The finally arrived and she was so excited to try them out. Her grandma helped her put them on and she immediately began to run around the house, then she stopped, twisted herself trying to see them and asked her grandma if they were on all the way. Her grandma said, yes, they are on all the way. To which she looked at her grandma puzzled and said, "...but, I'm not flying!"
Her auntie got a shot of her with her i-phone right at that moment and it was such an adorable shot I asked her if I could paint it. She agreed and here is my effort.

p.s. her hair really is that long!

Monday, May 28, 2012

"EVENTIDE" - New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

Oil on Linen
24" x 20"

I've been looking a lot lately at the works of William Adolphe Bouguereau and how he was able to portray such luminous skin.  I had this nice pose from a model so I decided to see if I could approximate something akin to Bouguereau.  I'm quite sure I have fallen far short of that objective, but here is my attempt.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"CONNEMARA PONY" - New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Connemara Pony"
Oil on Canvas
18" x 24"

I'm posting one of the last paintings I've done from my trip to Ireland last year, the "Connemara Pony". Funny thing is, we didn't really see as many Connemara ponies in Connemara as we thought we would. Well, here's one that we did see!

I've read a lot of debate lately about the virtues of painting en plein air or even alla prima versus painting from a photographic reference as to how it relates to success in a painting that is filled with passion from the artist's soul. Personally, I think much of this debate is without much merit on either side of the argument. 
I once was told by a good friend (who happens to paint a lot of paintings en plein air as well as a lot of paintings in the studio from his plein air references) that he did not want to be known as a good plein air painter. Neither did he want to be known as a good studio painter - he simply wanted to be a good painter.
I do think the painter, in order to produce great work, must paint with passion and must endeavor to lay a bit of his soul down on the canvas, but I don't think that is accomplished by painting en plein air any more than it is from painting in the studio with or without photo reference. I think rather, it is accomplished by the painter's topophilia, that is, love of place. Or perhaps if not painting landscapes per se, I could say, subject-philia, love of the subject. The painter must be passionate about his subject and this involves a degree of first-hand knowledge of this subject. Whether you travel to a place and paint en plein air versus travelling there and taking a photo from which you paint later is not of so much consequence as whether you were struck by something there that stirred your soul to the point that you want to invest a little of it laying it down on a canvas for the world to share!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


photo reference shot in the spring of 2005

"Indian Summer" 30" x 40" Oil on Canvas - painted 2006

Photo reference shot in the fall of this year

"Been Here Before" 12x16" Charcoal

"Fall Creek" 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas

Revisiting A Place

If you've ever visited a place and successfully used it as reference to create a painting, it can be a fun and useful experience to go back years later and revisit the place and even the painting.

In the spring of 2005, I took a photo of Graegle Creek on a hike to the top of Mount Elwell. The photo was taken early in the morning. From that photo reference, I painted "Indian Summer", one of the first painting done using my limited palette of just three colors plus white. Even though the painting was done from a photo taken in the spring, it looked more like late summer/early fall to me - a time often referred to as Indian Summer when the weather typically warms back up temporarily after the first frost before the onset of fall and winter.

I love that area and revisited the exact same spot when it was truly fall and in the late afternoon...and six years later! From the second photo reference I created two pieces, one in charcoal on one in oil which have an entire different feel from the first.

This was not only a fun exercise, it also helped me to see my own progress as an artist. I would suggest you try the same thing as it can be a great confidence booster. If you don't see a big difference in your work over the period of several years, then I would think that perhaps you aren't painting often enough and aren't taking chances artistically to stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. Give it a try and let me know how you do!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"STONE BRIDGE" - New, original oil painting by Mike Callahan

"Stone Bridge"
18" x 24"
Oil on Canvas

This is perhaps one of the most magical spots we visited in Ireland this past summer (though there are many)!  This stone bridge crosses a small tributary of the Owenmore River in Ballynahinch.  Just an awesome place to visit!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"CAED MILE FAILTE" - New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Caed Mile Failte"
20" x 16"
Oil on Canvas

The red door in Ireland means "welcome" and typifies the Irish spirit.  We saw red doors all over the emerald isle when we travelled the country this past summer.  The title of this painting literally means "one hundred thousand welcomes" in Gaelic. This particular door was one of the many we saw in the section of Dublin with the Georgian architecture...simply amazing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"LONESOME DOVE" - New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Lonesome Dove"
Oil on Canvas
30" x 24"

I've been working on a new series of small works for the holidays. I call the series Western Skies and they are a series of small paintings ranging in size from 9"x 12" to 5" x 7". They are on the website here with a few more additions to come. 

If you live in the area or will be visiting, I'm having an open studio on Sunday, November 6th from noon till 4p.m. where you can see these paintings firsthand as well as other new paintings not yet posted online. I'll also have a "clearance" wall of paintings that I've had in the studio a while that just haven't found a home yet, so if you have the chance, please come by. If you'd like to visit my studio on that day or make an appointment for another time, email me and I'll send you driving directions.

Collectors, I will be having a special "collector's night open studio" on Saturday evening November 5th and if you haven't received your invitation yet, look for it in your mail or inbox, you should receive it this week.

The painting shown below, though not part of the Miniature Show (too big), was inspired by all those sky paintings I've been doing...I just wanted to do at least one cloud painting at a larger scale - I get such great skies here and painting them has been great fun! Dove and other birds often perch on the power lines but when I was gathering reference for this painting there was just this one lonesome dove sitting there and I just thought it would work for the painting. What do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"THE OWENMORE RIVER - BALLYNAHINCH" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"The Owenmore River - Ballynahinch"
Oil on Canvas
24" x 30"

I just finished this one from my Ireland series. It's of the Owenmore River in Ballynahinch, Connemara. I was fortunate to complete a plein air study of this when we were there this past July. This is truly a magical place! Painting so much green is a huge departure for me, but I'm really enjoying it and hope you enjoy seeing this work too!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"OLD DUBLINERS" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Old Dubliners"
Oil on Canvas
18" x 24"

Here's my latest painting, just finished! These three guys were playing in a pub called O'Donahue's in Dublin. There's an Irish band called the Young Dubliners, and obviously these guys aren't them, but I thought it would be fun tongue-in-cheek to call them the Old Dubliners.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"BODHRAN PLAYER" New, Original Drawing by Mike Callahan

"Bodhran Player"
16" x 12"

Here's a charcoal drawing of a bodhran player we watched and listened to in a pub in Dublin earlier this summer. I love the sound of that drum! I also love to draw especially in charcoal from time to time. It's a great discipline and I believe it really does help you to be a better painter.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"HOME BY THE BAY" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Home By The Bay"
18" x 24"
Oil on Canvas

Have you begun to wonder if I had dropped off the face of the earth? I apologize for the long break in communication; I have not in fact dropped the face of the earth, but my wife and I did take a vacation recently to a very beautiful and inspiring part of it! We spent several weeks in Ireland. I had the opportunity to paint a bit, but it wasn't really a painting trip per se. We ended up taking nearly 1200 photos there and many of those are going to end up as paintings. Here's the first one! It's fresh off the a matter of fact I just finished it a few hours ago!_I'll be launching into this new series right away and I've put up a new category on the website for it... I will however, also continue intermittently with more paintings from Tahoe, the Sierra and the West as I have been.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"DREAMFIELD" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

Oil on Canvas
24" x 30"

My daughter is getting married soon and I told her she could have a painting...(I do have a few in the studio). Well, she's always had her own mind about what she wants and really didn't want any that I have already painted, so she shared with me her vision of what she wanted and commissioned me to paint this one. It's a little bit of a departure from my usual style, but I'm really pleased with how it came out - I really like the tonal quality.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"TILISCO" - New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan


18" x 24"

Oil on Canvas

On occasion I like to take compositional risks and on occasion such risks pay off! This painting will and my previous post, "Buckaroo" will both be featured in an upcoming national show in Missoula, Montana at the Dana Gallery's Icons of the West show. It's an invitational show that I'm honored to have been invited to! If you are anywhere near Missoula, you should check out the opens June 16th and runs through September 1st.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"BUCKAROO" New, Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

Oil on Linen
30" x 20"

Here's a painting of a buckaroo I just finished from some reference I gathered late last summer. The buckaroo is a specific type of cowboy from the Great Basin. He comes from the vaquero tradition and typically wears a different sort of hat than other cowboys. There are probably a lot of other differences that I'm unaware of as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"ERIN & ROBERT" - New Original Oil Painting by Mike Callahan

"Erin & Robert"
20" x 24" Oil on Linen
Here's my most recent portrait that I did of a delightful couple named, of course, Erin and Robert. They commissioned me to do this portrait as a gift to Erin's parents and I'm told that they were overwhelmed with delight upon receiving it! This makes me happy!