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Artist paints "the passion'

(ran PW edition of PT)

Like a whisper compared to a shout. Such is the subtlety captured in the watercolors of Carole Callahan.

While many artists depend on a large canvas and detailed strokes, Callahan prefers the understated approach. From her 2- by 2-inch rose paintings, to her massive landscapes and seascapes, the Spring Hill artist uses soft pastels and subtle light imagery to reveal a feeling that she refers to as "untouched and unspoiled . . . just the way you'd like it to be."

"I don't try to paint every leaf on the tree. It just doesn't make any sense to me," Callahan said. "I try to paint the feeling of it . . . the passion."

Callahan's unique vision of Florida's wonders will be exhibited Wednesday through March 30 in the Alfred A. McKethan Library at the Pasco-Hernando Community College North Campus. The exhibit, Tropical Splendors, comprises 50 works.

Callahan began painting as a child, but was later steered away from the craft by a guidance counselor who told her to "never turn a hobby into a job or you will tire of your first love."

With that in mind, she earned a bachelor's degree in music education and taught for one year. But "that just didn't sit well with me," Callahan said.

She soon realized she had followed bad advice. So she quit teaching and kept painting, but would not exhibit her work for fear of rejection.

It wasn't until Callahan was 40 that she returned to a community college in Virginia to study art and take her talent seriously. Graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the small school gave her the confidence to start exhibiting.

Callahan said her musical background has worked in her favor, inspiring her romantic and impressionistic style of painting, as well as the titles of several of her paintings, including Lyrical Roses and Dancing Roses.

Her award-winning works have since been showcased in the International Exhibits of the Miniature Arts Society of Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina. Her work has been displayed in museums and galleries in Maine, Virginia and Massachusetts.

Her miniature painting Spring Treasures won the Boardman Memorial Award at the Arts Club of Washington, D.C., and recently she was awarded first place in the Spring Hill Art League competition.

Callahan said her work focuses on nature to highlight the need for environmental conservation. Her paintings, which she refers to as poetic and romantic, are a culmination of her passions.

"I love to paint the pulsating feel of drama," she said.

Her art is often the resolution of a conflict between what she sees and what she feels.

In an attempt to create an unspoiled setting, she often paints from memory, combining the best of many settings. For example, one of her favorite seascapes is a reminiscence of several scenes culminated into a desire for one perfect setting.

Her favorite painting is that of the bath club in Madeira Beach. "I'm drawn to landscape art because of the way the light hits the landscape," she said.

Callahan said her paintings provoke sentiments comparable to those of the baroque period (1600-1750), but she said her art can best be described in an anonymous quote she tore from the pages of a magazine.

"The Spirit of Fragonard, he had a light, exuberant, unemphatic touch, and he spoke for a world in which happiness had not yet gone out of style."

If you go

What: Tropical Splendors, the art of Carole Callahan

When: March 9-30. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays

Where: Alfred A. McKethan Library at Pasco-Hernando Community College North Campus, U.S. 98 north of Brooksville

Cost: None