Artist reinvents himself

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A former wood cutter and log home builder, Tim Althauser taught himself how to paint

By Mandy Marksteiner

Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery will have a reception for its exhibit, “Old West, New West,” featuring the works of local artists Tim Althauser, Danne DeBacker, Cindy Valdez, Connie Pacheco and Kathy Hjeresen, from 5-7 p.m. April 29.
“It feels like I’ve won the lottery every time I sell a painting … and now it’s happening more and more often,” said Nambé painter, Tim Althauser.
He recently sold a painting to a collector in Dallas and a big painting to another collector in San Francisco. He has 10 paintings in the Downey Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, and he may have already sold the half-finished painting on his easel.
It’s no surprise that his work is popular. He captures the liberated feeling one gets when out in nature, gazing up at the sky and listening to the breeze in the leaves. The aspens in his paintings are lifelike and realistic; one would think he has spent his entire life staring up at trees, and the fact is, he has. Before becoming an artist, Althauser cut timber and built log houses in Arizona and Colorado for over 15 years.
At age 38, he suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and had to learn to walk and take care of himself, as part of his recovery. Nevertheless, he returned to work within a few months, trying to work as hard as he always had, because he simply didn’t know what else to do with his life.
With the encouragement and support of his new wife, Loretta, he was able to make the transition to a new life as an artist.
In 2003, Althauser and his friend David Davila, a chainsaw artist who got him into painting after he had his brain hemorrhage, were eating lunch at Maria’s in Santa Fe, when he met Loretta.
“I noticed a lady across the room. We looked at each other. We smiled.  And then she got up and ran out of the restaurant,” Althauser said.
“He was looking at me and I was getting so uncomfortable,” said Loretta, who had abandoned her meal because she was feeling so bashful.  
“I had nowhere else to look,” protested Althauser.
A month later, she was his waitress at another restaurant and couldn’t “run off.”  They’ve been together ever since.
When Loretta found out that he was teaching himself to paint, she insisted that he quit building log homes and paint.
He started with cowboy boots and churches, but found that he could put so much more into his art when he painted what he knew: trees. He has spent so much time in the woods that he doesn’t even have to look at a tree to paint one.
“With leaves, without leaves, it really doesn’t matter,” Althauser said.
If you look close, unexpected colors like lapis lazuli and genuine malachite are threaded through the trunks of his trees.
He said, “My paintings aren’t abstract, but there are a lot of colors that don’t belong there, but it enhances the beauty. I wouldn’t be an artist if it weren’t for my wife, Loretta.  I didn’t know if I could pull it off or if I could do it. Having Loretta say, ‘I think you could sell it’ made all the difference. It’s stunning to have someone who believes in you.”