It’s no surprise that his work is so popular. He captures the liberated feeling you get when you’re out in nature, gazing up at the sky and listening to the breeze in the leaves. The aspens in his paintings are incredibly lifelike and realistic; you 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.
Then at the age of 38 he suffered a severe brain hemorrhage. He had to learn to walk and take care of himself. Nevertheless, he returned to work within a few months, trying to work as hard as he always had. 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!”
“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 he doesn’t even have to look at a tree to paint one. “With leaves, without leaves, it really doesn’t matter.”
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,” said Althauser. “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.”