Posts by Vicki Stavig

A Dream Realized

Mikel Donahue has only been painting full time since 2010, but he’s already racked up an impressive list of honors and awards. The highlight of his career as a fine artist, he says, came in 2016, when he was voted into membership in the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). It was the second time he had been considered for that honor, the first having been a few years earlier, when Paul Moore, a friend and CAA member, had recommended Donahue for membership. “If a member sees work by someone, and they like it, they put the artist’s name up
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Endless Inspiration

Denise LaRue Mahlke doesn’t have to go far to find inspiration for her paintings. She simply has to step outside and look up—or out. “I find great inspiration in the beauty of big, cloud-filled skies and wide-open places, but I am also drawn to quiet, intimate scenes that require a closer look,” she says. “Subtleties in nature excite me, particularly the exquisite light and atmosphere found early or late in the day.” Mahlke paints the beauty she sees in and around her home in Whitehouse, Texas, as well as other places in the West, using pastels as she does so.
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Talent Times Three

It’s always exciting when we feature artists and their art for the first time within the pages of Art of the West. That is just what we are doing on the following pages, as we share with you the words and works of three contemporary Western artists: David Frederick Riley, Gregory Strachov, and Jeremy Winborg. While their journeys and subjects differ, what they share is a love of creating art. Riley evolved from painting portraits to wildlife in muted tones. Strachov is fascinated by rocks, finding a beauty in them that most of us wouldn’t see. Winborg captures the strength
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Young Talent, Old Soul

Brittany Weistling was thrilled when she was invited to be a guest artist at the 2012 Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale. That meant her paintings would be exhibited outside, rather than inside, the main gallery, but that was just fine with her. Weistling’s paintings sold, validating what the show’s officials already knew: Her talent deserved to be showcased during the event, which is conducted each year at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California, and features works by some of the country’s top Western artists. What made the experience remarkable was
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Responding to an Angel’s Tap

Jake Gaedtke has told this story before, but it’s worth retelling because of the impact it had on his life. When he was in second grade, Gaedtke and his classmates took a field trip to a museum in Detroit, Michigan, where he was so mesmerized by the paintings there that he lost track of the rest of his class. He eventually found them— and he found his destiny. “That was when the angel of art tapped me on the shoulder,” Gaedtke recalls. “Looking at those paintings, I knew that was what I wanted to do.” It would take some time—and
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Manipulating Paint

Tim Allen Lawson loves trees and goes to great lengths to capture their natural beauty and texture. That explains why he has portions of trees hanging in his studio in Maine and has a variety of rather unconventional tools—including sandpaper, wire brushes, sticks, and steel wool—at the ready to help him as he paints. “I always had a love affair with trees,” says Lawson, who has homes and studios in Sheridan, Wyoming, and in Rockport Maine. “My studio in Maine is heated with wood,” Lawson says, “and I would cut all my own firewood. I was fascinated with the bark
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The Studio of Jim Norton

Jim Norton’s studio is just as he likes it—overflowing with things he loves. That includes paints and paintings, cowboy and Native American accoutrements, and hundreds of books. The studio, he admits, is for working; it is not a showplace. It is where he creates his depictions of the West, past and present, which have earned him international acclaim. Located on the walkout level of the two-story house he shares with his wife, Pam, on two acres of land in Santaquin, Utah, Norton’s studio opens up to a beautiful backyard oasis. That outside setting is as awe-inspiring as his paintings: full
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Still Going Strong

Artists will tell you that creating art is a career—but it’s not a job. Why is that? They see creating art as a calling that is so intense it cannot be ignored no matter the risk. And there is indeed risk, financial as well as personal. They put their work out into the world, where everyone who sees it will judge it. If it’s deemed worthy, it will sell. If not, it’s on to the next painting or sculpture, determined to do better. The four artists we feature on the following pages have a combined age of 344 years and
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A Dream Come True

David Fink considers himself one of the luckiest men on earth. That’s especially true at night when he turns off the overhead lights and turns small spotlights on low to highlight his 13-piece collection of wildlife portraits painted by Ken Carlson. “They just come alive,” he says. “It’s a grand collection.” It is indeed. The result of a commission that took two years to complete, it consists of 12 10” by 13” paintings and one 16” by 13” of a wolf that serves as a centerpiece to the others. Those paintings are a source of amazement and joy for Fink.
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A Lifelong Journey

“Landscapes taught me how to paint.” That is how Dave Santillanes describes his fine art training. The Colorado artist had earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in graphic design from Colorado State University, but had no formal training in painting until he began painting landscapes near his home after work and on weekends. Today he has several awards under his belt, including first-place honors in the Signature Division of the Oil Painters of America’s recent online showcase. He also has earned awards at several plein air events, including Best of Show at the 2011 Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational
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