Emerging Artists | Calles, Le Grue, Strickland

First Season by Michael Calles. painting, southwest art.
First Season by Michael Calles

Michael Calles
Alove for wildlife and art brought Michael Calles to Logan, UT, from his native Connecticut, where as a child he spent hours following animals around. Biology seemed a natural choice for his college major, though he left after his freshman year to study art at the Lyme Academy. After completing his studies Calles headed west, spending time in Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole, WY. “It’s a really amazing place to observe wildlife or paint landscapes,” he says. “I spent as much time as I could just painting and observing.” Indoor experiences, including visits to museums in Boston, New York, and Paris, helped him further develop his artistic eye. Calles paints mainly in oils, though he has dabbled in sculpture and watercolors. Oils remain his favorite media “because they’re so malleable,” he says. “There’s such a range to them. I just love the paint quality itself, the smell. The whole thing encompasses you.” For now Utah provides the perfect landscape for Calles. His favorite aspect of his art? “Getting as close as possible to capturing what I see and feel when I’m out in nature.” Calles is represented by Horizon Fine Art, Jackson Hole, WY; Visions West Gallery, Bozman, MT; and Mountain Trails Galleries, Park City, UT, and Santa Fe, NM.

Mangos by Jeanette Le Grue. painting, southwest art.
Mangos by Jeanette Le Grue

Jeanette Le Grue
Oil painter Jeanette Le Grue enjoys a relatively peaceful existence now, one centered on art, family, and church. Yet life wasn’t always so serene for the California resident. Before relocating from her native Alaska in 1981, two tragedies shaped her life—ultimately turning her to art and to God. Growing up on Kodiak Island, Le Grue adored the vibrant wilderness, with its sunrises and sunsets, the Northern Lights, and Technicolor springs. But life near the elements held dangers of its own. A tsunami leveled Le Grue’s family home in 1964. In 1980, a fishing accident claimed her first husband. Shortly thereafter, she and her two children, then 3 and 5, moved to California. Part of the healing process was learning to appreciate beauty California-style. “In Alaska, everything is so intense,” she says. “When I first came [to California], I thought the sky wasn’t blue. It looked all washed out.” Over time, she developed an affinity for California’s colors. Now the mother of four children ages 15-25, Le Grue has spent the last two decades honing her talent and staying attuned to her spirituality. Discovering God was like lifting a veil, she says. “I want to get a spiritual connection with him into my work—an essence of the place and his hand in it.” Le Grue is represented by Generations Gallery, Yountville, CA; Gallerie Gabrie, Pasadena, CA; and William Lester Gallery, Point Reyes Station, CA.

Northwest of Tucson by George Strickland. painting, southwest art.
Northwest of Tucson by George Strickland

George Strickland
When churning out assignments as a graphic artist grew tiresome for George Strickland, he cut his ties to the commercial art world and moved Parker, CO, without so much as a glance back. Selling his half of a successful business was a scary, but ultimately priceless, move. “I had begun to tire of not being able to be myself,” he explains. Still, it took time to zero in on his artistic voice. He set out to do cowboy art, but “I discovered that I’m not so much a cowboy as an outdoorsman,” he says. Strickland’s oil repertoire now includes still lifes, landscapes, people, and wildlife, many done en plein air. The yearning to paint started at an early age for Strickland. “When I was a boy my next-door neighbor did paintings, and I thought it was magic how from this blank sheet of paper something would appear,” he says. Today, favorite painting locales include the San Juan Mountains of Colorado as well as Catalina and Laguna Beach, CA. And his change in lifestyle and location still works beautifully. “When I found plein-air painting, the lights just came on, and I said, ‘well, this is what I’m supposed to do.’ And thank God for that, I’m still feeling that way,” he says. Strickland is represented by El Presidio Gallery, Tucson, AZ; Pogan Gallery, Tahoe City, CA; and Wild Horse Gallery, Steamboat Springs, CO.

Featured in “Artists to Watch” June 2001