The sounds of the Goo Goo Dolls or maybe OneRepublic ricochet off the turquoise and orange walls of Cody Oldham’s tiny art studio downstairs as he approaches the canvas.
He’s ready to put the finishing touches on a close-up portrait of an African lion, done in what he calls his Impressionist Realism style. Lions are one of his favorite subjects to paint, and they sell very well, which isn’t a bad thing for a 16-year-old professional wildlife and landscape artist. “The Rising”, featuring one of these creatures, measures 22 inches by 28 inches and will cost the buyer $ 1,000.
His work can be viewed online at codyoldham.com.
“I always look forward to it,” Oldham says of his family’s home in southeast Woodland Park. “After about half an hour, I am absorbed in the painting. There is always so much room to experiment. I tell myself that I could do anything today when I go down to the studio.
Oldham is drawn to big cats, including tigers and cheetahs. Also “epic landscapes,” he says, having recently completed a painting of the Great Tetons surrounded by cloud cover and fall foliage.
There’s also another good reason the young painter might find so many big cats on his easel: His family owns a cougar sanctuary. Big cats roam their 20-acre property. It’s not open to the public, although they do give occasional tours. Oldham’s father has worked with animals for two decades and regularly takes his family of five, including Oldham’s two younger sisters, on vacation across the country to pick up injured or abused lions. They rehabilitate the animals and offer them a permanent home on their property.
“It gives me the opportunity to study them, as well as their facial structure, what their eyes look like and what their fur looks like,” he says. “They are similar to other cats.”
The homeschooled teenager spent his 16 years steeped in art. His father, at different times, was an animal photographer, gallery owner Salida and abstract painter. Oldham didn’t pay much attention to his father’s work until he was around 11, when he started putting art on canvas and imitating his father’s style. He slowly began to move away from abstraction and turned to wildlife and landscapes. There was a little detour to carving and making dinosaurs, but it didn’t take long for him to return to oil painting.
“I just started doing it without wondering why,” he says. “Over the years, it started to be a part of my life. In 2016 and 2017 I said I guess that’s what I’m going to do. I will run my business and earn money.
His hard work and innate talent have paid off with a number of exhibitions, including two solo shows at the Steamplant Event Center in Salida and one at the Manitou Art Center this year. Southwest Art Magazine included it in their article “21 Under 31: Young Artists to Watch in 2019”.
MAC director and curator Alain Navaratne said it was one of the centre’s most successful exhibitions, based on sale, due to Oldham’s age and the large scale of his paintings, some measuring about 5 feet by 4 feet.
“For a 16 year old, he paints really well. He’s not afraid of the scale of paintings, ”says Navaratne. “He’s really confident to work that big. He’s not afraid of color or texture, and it normally takes a while to build up to do so. He seems to paint animals extraordinarily well.
Now that Oldham feels more proficient in his painting skills, he is focusing on the business side of things, especially YouTube, where he will start putting up weekly videos on his own channel that teach people how to paint. He also plans to release a full tutorial DVD this summer.
“At my age, I think it would be inspiring (for people) to see that,” he says.
He’s not wrong. His age makes his work even more pop. Navaratne also considers the future of the young painter.
“If he can do that at 15 or 16, what will he do at 25 or 35?” said Navaratne. “That’s what’s exciting to me.”
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