Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Though Mike McAllister had a career in creative advertising and marketing for 37 years, he never strayed far from his love of creating fine art. Now retired, Mike has concentrated his attention to his painting and love of restoring antique cars. Mike earned a BFA from the High Museum School in Atlanta, GA and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and the University of Delaware. Though he has worked in many mediums his true passion is soft pastels finding inspiration in the works of both the French and American Impressionists, the American master Edward Hopper and by the colorful pastels and oils, of Wolf Kahn. With more than 75 group shows and over a dozen one-person shows, his works reside in numerous public and private collections throughout the US, Baja Mexico, Canada and Asia including the Cleveland Museum of Art.
“My goal in painting is to interpret my very personal reaction to a scene or event so that the viewer also forms a reaction which- while not necessarily the same as mine- is no less personal.”
-Michael Kay McAllister
Q If there was a favorite work of art you could hang or display in your home, which would it be?
MM If I could obtain any Pissarro piece it would make me very happy but, three stand out: “Boulevard Montmartre Winter Morning”, “Farm at Osney” and “Vegetable Gardens in Eragny”.
Q If there was one dead artist that you could hang out with for a day, who would that be? Why?
MM Camille Pissarro. His understanding of color, tone, technique, and design have deeply influenced my work but I’d like to know how he works and what his thought process is.
“Painting, art in general, enchants me. It is my life. What else matters? When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul who understands you, and you do not need a host of such spirits. Is not that all an artist should wish for?”
“Work at the same time on the sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis… Don’t be afraid of putting on color… Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.”
– Camille Pissarro, French artist (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903)
Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Pissarro studied from great forerunners, including Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. He later studied and worked alongside Georges Seurat and Paul Signac when he took on the Neo-Impressionist style at the age of 54. In 1873 he helped establish a collective society of fifteen aspiring artists, becoming the “pivotal” figure in holding the group together and encouraging the other members. Art historian John Rewald called Pissarro the “dean of the Impressionist painters”, not only because he was the oldest of the group, but also “by virtue of his wisdom and his balanced, kind, and warmhearted personality”. Cézanne said “he was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord,” and he was also one of Gauguin’s masters. Renoir referred to his work as “revolutionary”, through his artistic portrayals of the “common man”, as Pissarro insisted on painting individuals in natural settings without “artifice or grandeur”.Pissarro is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. He “acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists” but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.
Q If there was a magic power you could use in your art making, what would it be?
MM Much more time.
Q If we were going to talk about your art, where would you want to start?
MM I feel like I’ve been exploring the visual world all my life, even drawing before I could talk.
Q What quality in others makes you want to slap them?
MM People, especially creative people, who don’t believe in themselves, who are afraid to try to expand themselves and afraid to fail or, sometimes, succeed.
Q What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as far as your art, inspiration or career?
MM Any number of things might be the answer to this question. However, probably the best advice I ever got was from one of my instructors in art school. He emphasized that whatever we were doing we should always use the best materials so that we would concentrate all our efforts on the creative and not be fighting poor materials. To emphasize this, he had each of us purchase a sheet of the most expensive watercolor paper in the school store (the equivalent of a pitcher of beer at the local bar). He then had us tear it in half, half again and so forth until we had nothing but confetti. He then had us throw all of the little pieces out the classroom window. His comment, “Now you don’t have to worry about ruining an expensive piece of paper, you already have.” This is a lesson I pass on when I teach. Buy the best materials and put all your efforts into the creative process.
Besides painting, Another of Mike’s passions are cars. He LOVES antique cars and has expansive knowledge on the subject and has spent years restoring them. So, when he is walking through the desert and comes across old cars, in various states of disrepair in a beautiful landscape, it’s like the trifecta of inspiration for him!!
Q What is most important to you…the subject, the process or the final work?
MM It’s all about the process…where you start and how you get to what you feel is the finish.
Q If your work was edible, what would it taste like?
MM Tortilla soup that’s smooth and creamy, filled with pleasing textures and spicy all at the same time.
Q What is the one thing you need in your studio to work, other than your art supplies?
MM Really good light.
“Me; Gail, (my wife) who works in glass and also photography; Buff (my sister) who is a nationally recognized textile artist; and an extraordinary woodworker, Hank, who is Buff’s partner.”
Q What is your most favorite piece of your artwork on display in Galeria de Ida Victoria now, and why?
MM Anything with abandoned man-made objects like vehicles, buildings, etc. In all honesty I can’t remember all of the pieces I have there. However, I do know that my calf with an old Ford pickup truck is there and is an image I love.
Q In the era of the internet, why do you choose to continue to work with galleries?
MM Art is personal, the internet isn’t. You can’t appreciate the subtleties of color, texture and the impact of size on a computer screen. My work was on two websites for several years and I never sold anything over the internet.
Q Now the best part, tell us a joke.
MM Martha and Jean meet on the street while both are out shopping. Martha is carrying a package. Jean asks how the shopping is going. “Okay,” says Martha. “I got a nice bottle of scotch for my husband.” “Good trade,” says Martha without hesitation.
Why do I love Mike McAllister’s work?
Mike McAllister is such a fabulous pastel artist. Though he has worked in other mediums throughout his artistic career, his pastels are so full of life and energy with his color and the stroke of his lines. There is such movement to his pieces but still, there is a certain serenity in his chosen subjects. Mike and his wife Gail had a home and studio in Todos Santos for years, but now their home base is in Pennsylvania, USA, and from there they spend their winters traveling all over the world. The landscape of Baja was an immediate attraction to Mike, who enjoys painting vast landscapes and the falling down and decrepit- so the crumbling buildings of these old towns and the rusty old abandoned cars found scattered throughout the desert was an inspirational hit for Mike. His love of antique cars is apparent in his work, as they seem to be the star of a majority of his paintings. Mike is also an amazing draftsman, as he would go out with his pastels and paper into the desert to create plein-air pieces, which as many knows is a very different and challenging process. I love having these pastels in the Gallery, in a way they represent the Old Baja California Sur- celebrating the unique landscape and the old way of life. -Ida Victoria
My favorite Mike McAllister pastel in the gallery is I’M WATCHING. This is maybe the largest piece we have by him, but I love the palette and the subject. The image does not do it justice, in person the stroke and the nuances of his color make this piece a winner in my eyes.