Dave Santillanes

Dave Santillanes portrait

CAA Member since 2023

Dave Santillanes was born and raised in Northern Colorado at the base of the Rocky Mountains where hunting, hiking, and backpacking fostered an early love for the wilderness. Coupled with an interest in art Dave was drawing wildlife, western subjects and even landscapes at a young age – subjects he still paints today.

In 1995 Dave received his BFA in Graphic Design and a minor in History from Colorado State University. Shortly afterwards he traded pencil and paper for a brush and canvas and began painting as often as he could while working full time as a wildland firefighter and, later, as a digital imaging technician. It was during this time that
Dave discovered the benefits and rewards of outdoor painting -where direct observation allowed for a more precise rendering of color, light and atmosphere. Studying the physical aspects of nature wasn’t the only reason Dave began painting outdoors – the sensory experience of being there was equally important. As he puts it “there’s no better way to really get to know a place than to sit for a couple of hours and contemplate it while painting”. This intense observation brings a spiritual intimacy with the scene that can’t be achieved in mere passing and allows him to “speak” with complete sincerity in each painting.

It took 12 years of dedicated painting before Dave was able to go full time as an artist. And within a few years of making the leap, he had gained international acclaim for his atmospheric landscapes.

And, while the landscape continues to be an integral part of his work he has increasingly depicted western subjects and wildlife within those landscapes – coming almost full circle back to those early inspirations. In 2023 this lead to his induction into the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America and an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his earliest art heros: James Reynolds and Howard Terpning.

Along with his induction into CAA, Dave’s passion for painting has lead to a number of prestigious awards including the Henry Farney Award for Best Painting at the 2022 Quest for the West Show in Indianapolis, Top Landscape at the 12th Annual International ARC Salon and Grand Prize Overall at the 9th Annual Plein Air Salon. He has also been featured in Art of the West, Plein Air Magazine and Southwest Art Magazine.

Dave currently lives in Wellington, Colorado with his wife, Heather (who is also an artist) and daughter, Callie.

Clark Kelley Price, Christmas Pintos for the Kids
Oil, 24″ x 36″, $24000