As an artist, John Gallegos has come pretty close to having done it all. Throughout his career, he has been a painter, a tattoo artist, a makeup artist and a model builder, among others. He’s worked in the film industry, on television and for hometown projects, all along accumulating a wide-ranging portfolio. While he has worked in any number of art mediums, Gallegos always has been driven by a love for the creative process – a process that has taken him to some far-reaching places. “I’m the black sheep that said, ‘I got to see what’s out there,’” Gallegos said. After he graduated from Ogallala High School in 1983, Gallegos joined the army and became a truck driver. Part of that job included driving high-ranking officials from one place to another, which ultimately resulted in his talent being noticed. As an army general climbed into the car on day, he saw a sketchbook that Gallegos had been working in. As a result of that, Gallegos was transferred to the Third Armor Division Art Department where he would help manufacture items such as meeting bulletins, maps and flags. Ultimately, that would prove to be one of the first steps in a long career of artistic projects. After he was discharged from the army, Gallegos decided to pursue his artwork further by going to the Colorado Institute of Art. “I tried a legitimate job; I really did,” Gallegos said with a laugh. He graduated from the institute and then began a stream of freelance jobs around the country. However, after about four years, Gallegos returned to Ogallala where he worked a number of jobs unrelated to art, such as roofing, construction, and ranching. Nonetheless, he continued to focus on his artwork during his personal time as much as he could. “The art, for years, didn’t support me,” Gallegos said. “You keep honing your craft after hours.” Although he was unable to support himself solely through art for a number of years, that began to change after he, once again, left Ogallala to pursue his artistic endeavors. After his daughter graduated from high school, Gallegos moved to Las Vegas to pursue becoming a licensed tattoo artist. During his tattoo apprenticeship, he was airbrushing T-shirts on Freemont Street as a side job. While doing that, he was approached about a potential opportunity for working in makeup and body paint. Robin Barcus Slonina, an artist with Las Vegas-based Skin City, had heard about Gallegos and hired him onto the company, which, among other things, works in body painting and heavy makeup. Slonina would later go on to become the celebrity judge for Skin Wars, a body paint TV competition, which is about to go into its third season. Through his connection with Skin City, Gallegos has had multiple opportunities for national exposure. He was shown on the Travel Channel twice, and his work was featured on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue, a reality television show in which bars are renovated. For the show, Gallegos created a large-scale mural at one of the establishments. He also has been involved in several documentaries. That exposure, in turn, led Gallegos to his first project in the film industry when he was asked to make some props and to do some makeup work for a student-created film. Working on that project ultimately would give Gallegos the chance to work in a number of different mediums under the umbrella of one project as an art director. During that film project, Gallegos transformed the bottom of a pool into an ocean by covering it with artificial seaweed. He then turned the actress for the project into a mermaid using the body paint skills he had gained beforehand with his work at Skin City. “She had to be in the pool like 12 hours for the scene,” Gallegos said. Gallegos then worked with the same student film director on a project that went on to be screened at the Las Vegas Film Festival. As part of the competition, they only had 48 hours to create the film. After those initial film projects, Gallegos became involved with a third student project, titled “Boy Meets Girl” that went on to be nominated for, and consequently win, four student Emmy Awards. “That was probably my pride and joy, Gallegos said of the film, explaining how the project allowed him to work in so many different art forms. “That covered so many things; it felt kind of ‘full circle.’” Through that work, Gallegos has become the art director for 1905 Film Studios, based in Las Vegas, Nev. In that position, Gallegos is poised to begin working as an art director on his first feature length film. At moments in his career, Gallegos even has contributed to projects that, at face value, did not necessarily seem like artwork at all. For nine months, he worked on a three-man crew that constructed a model satellite for Boeing Aero-Dynamics at Palm Springs, Fla. Although they knew they were building a satellite, no one on the crew was able to know what it would be used for. “I don’t think the engineers even knew,” Gallegos said about the satellite project he contributed to. Even though it was a model of the actual machine, the scrutiny was fierce and the stress level was high. Requiring near-perfection, the model crew had to have their measurements mastered down to one–one hundredths of an inch. Later on, Gallegos also worked on a team to make a scale model for the Patriot Missile, which is currently on display at military base in Oklahoma. While he lives and works primarily in Las Vegas, Gallegos returns to western Nebraska periodically to visit family members who still live in the area. Although many of his projects have been done in Nevada and California, even the local landscape is peppered with some of the work that Gallegos has contributed to throughout the years. He was on the student art team that crafted the statue outside the Ogallala High School. He also painted the stage at Front Street, which has since been altered only slightly from his original work. At age 50, Gallegos has been an artist since the days he was walking the halls of Ogallala’s Middle School and taking art classes with Dennis Miller. “He was probably the biggest influence on me here in town, Gallegos said, explaining that Miller had allowed him to explore the mediums that Gallegos felt most comfortable with. Gallegos is still creating art as part of his own work. However, he said he is getting to the point where he would like to start giving back as an artist as well. He said that possibly accomplish that by offering some kind of art classes. “I don’t know what’s left,” Gallegos said about other projects and art forms he would like to work with. “I enjoy just the aspect of creating.”
By Jordan Shearer News Staff Writer keith County News
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