Dave Santillanes

Dave Santillanes

Dave Santillanes

“As my painting style continues to evolve my goal with each piece is not a literal rendering of the scene. Instead it is to capture and convey its essence.

In terms of composition, I look for simplicity. I’ve found that there are many opportunities to simplify a scene without compromising its sense of ‘place’. Therefore I’ll seek out the big abstract shapes in the landscape and use them for the underlying design concept. And because I’ve departed from a literal interpretation, I’m free to rearrange elements to fit this concept. In this way I am able to describe the scene in my own “words”.

Finally, capturing the essence of a landscape involves a realistic rendering of color, light and atmosphere. This requires direct observation and is why most of my paintings begin in the field with a plein air study. But studying the physical aspects of nature isn’t the only reason I paint outdoors; for me, the sensory experience of being there is equally important. 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. This intense observation brings a spiritual intimacy with the scene that can’t be achieved in mere passing and allows me to “speak” with complete sincerity in each painting.”


A native of Colorado, Dave Santillanes began oil painting after graduating from Colorado State University with a BFA in graphic design. His early painting explorations quickly merged with his love of the outdoors and, naturally, oil paint and a field easel became part of his outdoor gear. His explorations into oil painting and the wilderness continue.

Dave’s work is characterized by a realistic rendering of color, light and atmosphere. To capture these elusive elements, each studio painting begins in the field with a plein air study. This direct approach allows Dave to achieve a realism unattainable through photographic studies alone. And while direct observation is important to studying the physical aspects of color and light, Dave also believes that “painting outdoors brings a spiritual intimacy with the scene” allowing him to ‘speak’ with complete sincerity in the final painting.

Dave’s passion for painting has led to a number of recent awards including an Award of Excellence at the 2012 Oil Painters of America National Show and Artists Choice at the Zion Natiaonal Park Plein Air Event. His work was also featured in the December 2011 issue of Southwest Art Magazine.