Sarnoff's Featured Artist of the Month - Don West

Artist Statement

Essentially my paintings are about the same things that all successful paintings are about - line, color, surface, composition, texture, space and illusion. My work is no different than landscape, figurative or abstract work. I use a brush mark or series of brush marks as means to create something beautiful, timeless and universal. It is free-ranging, seemingly-gestural work about light, energy, mark-making, perception and relationship in all of their manifest implications. Process, incident and intuition sustain me. You could say my work's about the act of painting itself, feeling and being in the world.

Enlightenment suffers no politics, propaganda or social commentary. I’ve no interest in telling you what to think. My paintings seek to reveal our world—to call it forth by an act of will and discipline—to express our need to love it. When you look at my paintings, you see there’s no object to contemplate but the fact of the paint itself, an illusion of something visual, possibly, and the idea that as with paint, beauty and existence there is also no rationale for love—it simply just is. . . a necessity.

Matisse once said that he wanted his work to make the viewer feel at peace when he came home after a hard day—not an unworthy goal in this day and age.

Don West 

Why I Shop at Sarnoff

I shop at Sarnoff’s simply because:

  • It’s the best art supply store in the region.
  • Selection, quality materials, and even the good stuff that I didn’t know I wanted or needed.
  • It’s a playground for the professional artist or art student.
  • The art supplies conjure up all sorts of possibilities I didn’t know existed till I went inside.
  • I call ahead and they have it wrapped and waiting.
  • And I like to buy local.
  • The one downside is that I always spend too much money when I go there, the deals are just too good to pass up!

Don West


Don West was born in Murray, Kentucky in 1946 but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated with a B.A. from Michigan State University in 1969, where he excelled in Theater and took minors in Art History and American Literature, studying with Northrop Frye. He went on to complete an M.F.A. in Theater Direction with a minor in Poetry at The Ohio University in 1973, working with Seabury Quinn and Stanley Plumly. He also studied with Richard Shelton’s graduate seminar in poetry at The University of Arizona in 74-75.

Drawing and painting since childhood, he studied painting as a post-graduate at the University of Arizona with Bruce McGrew, Charles Hall, and Philip Melton and at the Tucson Museum of Art School with Monica Jost and James Christopher Larsen. He also studied Scientific Illustration with Don Saynor at the U of A. He has shown work in galleries and museums across the country including Detroit, Chicago, and San Diego.

His first novel, DREAM OF THE GREAT BLUE, was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS for 2005. His second novel, THE ART OF MURDER, a Nestor Pike noir satire mystery, was published in March of 2007 by dancing bear books to very good reviews. His shortstory, Tall, won First Place in the Sandscript Art and Literary Magazine Awards and his story, Coping, was a finalist in both the William Faulkner Short Fiction Awards and the New Millenium Writing Awards in 2002. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Tucson, Arizona where they (dancing bear books) recently published a large scale full-color retrospective book of his work titled: Don West / An American Outsider - Paintings 1977-2007.

1946-64 Earliest art memory is of Diego Rivera’s monumental murals and a small Van Gogh self-portrait. First sale of a watercolor at the age of 16. Excelled at theater and art throughout middle and high school.

1966-69 Attended Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan and received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Art History.

1970 Received a graduate fellowship as a stage technician/ designer and actor at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan at the Hillberry Classic Repertory Theater Company. Appeared in nine productions in repertory. Directed Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter for the Livonia-Redford Theater Guild, my first professional directing job.

1971-73 Moved to Athens Ohio and obtained a Master of Fine Arts in Theater Direction from The Ohio University. Directed off-Broadway at St. Marks in the Bowery, NYC.

1974-76 Settled in Tucson Arizona August 1974. Won the position of Dialogue Coach for Paramount TV. Worked as the Stage Manager for the Arizona Theater Company/Old Tucson. Technical Director/Production Manager for the Tucson Ballet, and Stage Technician for the Arizona Opera Company.

1977-79 Purchased house on 3rd Street and set up a painting studio. Began life-long study toward a professional painting career. Started oil paintings of the San Xavier Mission, eventually selling all nine paintings the first year.

1980-88 Attended post-graduate painting classes at the University of Arizona.

1989-93 Received an artist grant of $6,000 from Thomas L. Brandon and Associates. Painted the Middle of Nowhere Series. Interviewed by Michael Boyle for Arizona Illustrated on PBS. Painted the Sonora paintings, followed the next year by the Illusion series. Started a life drawing group in my studio.

1991-92 Began showing work with Davis Dominguez Gallery in Tucson with a two man show with George Welch.

1993-94 Moved out of Studio 2 on Broadway and built a large studio on his 3rd Street property - a thirty thousand dollar commitment to my art work. Worked out of Phil Lichtenhan’s print studio, Scum Pond Press, during the summer of 1993 learning the print-making process.

1995 Began series of figure studies in oil, an ongoing project.

1996 Received private commission for two murals at Cactus Quail Bed & Breakfast in Catalina Arizona.

1997 Painted Improvisation Series, a major departure from previous work and deeply influenced by my theater background using found materials for construction pieces. Environmentally green, recycling of materials destined for a landfill.

1998 Took on other jobs as a hairdresser, a house painter and in construction to supplement income.

1999 Began showing paintings at DC/ Harris Gallery in downtown Tucson. Met Liz Hernández who curated my first show at the Hacienda del Sol in Tucson.

2000-02 Worked on The Larson Company road construction project at River Road and 1st Avenue in Tucson, one of two artists working on a crew of twelve to build and paint the façade for two seven-story retaining walls that appear to be natural cliffs. Designed and painted a portion of the wall.

2003 Began showing with Liz Hernández Tucson Arizona.

2004-05 Began showing with Gallery Materia in Scottsdale Arizona which later moved and became Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix.

2006 Began showing with Grogan Gallery of Fine Art in Tucson Arizona and Hernández Contemporary Art Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona.

2007 Thirty Year Retrospective at the new Grogan Gallery of Fine Art Tucson Arizona. The Gallery ran a full-page ad in the November issue of Art in America featuring his painting. Re-established the primacy of his painting studio. The work began to transition and morph with two new series titled the Planet and the Immersion series.

2008 Had the most financially successful year of his painting career. Continued to paint, show and sell work in Tucson and Scottsdale until the economy forced both galleries to close.

2009 Moved into new realms of experimentation with texture, color and Minimalism, expanding all areas of work. Spent time reexamining the paintings of the previous 35 years and working to increase his repertoire of ideas, skills and projects. Renewed commitment to figurative and realism work.

2010 Began showing work at Obsidian 128 Fine Art Gallery in Tucson Arizona.
The Gallery placed a half-page ad in Art in America in October featuring a solo show. Currently continues to show with Obsidian Gallery now located at the Train Station downtown Tucson

2011 Studying figure painting in oils with Alyssa Monks at the New York Art Academy School, in NYC Jan 2011.

2012 Davis Dominguez Gallery Tucson AZ “Small Works Invitational” (May-June)
Etherton Gallery - Temple of Music and Art Tucson AZ Juried Invitational “RED” (April-May)
Obsidian Gallery Tucson AZ Group show new work (April – June)

2013 Obsidian gallery did a 35 year retrospective in the new Obsidian Gallery downtown in the renovated Train Depot (May-June 2013)



B. A. Michigan State University - Theater, Art History and Language Arts 1969   
Wayne State University Hilberry Classic Repertory Theater Company 1970
M.F.A. Ohio University 1973

Post-graduate Education

Fiction with Meg Files Pima College 1999
Scientific Illustration U of A 1986     
Painting TMA Art School 82-83
Studio Drawing TMA art school 1980
Drawing and Painting U of A 1979
Poetry with Richard Shelton U of A 1974
Poetry with Stan Plumly Ohio University 19731980


Knox-Campbell Gallery Tucson AZ group show (May 1980)
Commission of Sonora Mural for Ed & Joan Ferguson for Edward’s Head Hunters Tucson AZ
Pima County Fair Arizona - Honorable Mention (self-portrait/oil on canvas)

Pima County Fair Arizona - Second Place Award (Mission/oil on canvas)

Gyrol’s Gallery Tucson AZ group show (Feb 1984)

Tohono Chul Park Gallery Tucson AZ Juried Competition Special Recognition – “Prickly Pear” (Sept 1987)

Arizona Aqueous ’88 Tubac AZ Six-State Juried Competition Special Jurors’ Recognition “St Joan” (March-April 1988)
Commission for five paintings “The Elements” & installation Salon Head West Novi MI (Nov 1988) - (see statement)

Dinnerware Gallery Tucson AZ Annual Show and Auction (Sept 1989)
Tucson Convention Center Grand Opening “Sonora” mural (Oct 1989)
Contents Tucson AZ Coyotes Need Not Apply Fine Art Competition (Nov 1989)
Gigi’s Golden Parachute Tucson AZ “True Heroes Series” one-man show (Nov 1989)
Tucson Art Expo ’89 – New Work: Open Studio (Nov 1989)

Arizona Illustrated TV Interview by Michael Boyle (1/9/90)
Arizona Aqueous ‘90 Tubac AZ “St George & the Dragon” (March-April 1990)
Arizona Aqueous one-year traveling show (through July 17, 1991)
Commission for five paintings “Four Seasons and The River” and installation Salon Head West Expansion Novi MI (Nov 1990)
Tucson Art Expo 1990 – “Sonora Series” Open Studio (Nov 1990) (see show statement)
U of A Rotunda Gallery “Middle of Nowhere Series” (Nov-Dec 1990) (see show statement)

Tucson Museum of Art/Fine Art for Fine Causes Show and Catalog “Truth or Consequences” (1/26-3/2/91)
World Tattoo Gallery Chicago IL “Chiricahua” & “Reflections” (Jan 1991)
Davis Gallery Tucson AZ Environmental group show (June 1991)
XPO Chango ’91 New Work: Open Studio (Nov 1991)

Davis Gallery “Outside/Inside” two-man show (1/21-2/22/92)
XPO Chango ’92 “Illusion Series” Open Studio (Nov 1992)

U of A Rotunda Gallery one-man show “Illusion Series” (March 1993) (see show statement)

Studio – 3rd Street Opening (Jan 2004)
Davis Gallery “Tucson Collects” Small Paintings (July 1994)

Davis Gallery Tucson AZ “Four Painters” (Feb 1995)
Temple of Music & Art/PACT group show & calendar publication “Gringo”
Yuma Fine Arts Assn “301 Main” Art Gallery Yuma AZ Grand Opening Two man show “Illusion Series” (June 1995)

Davis Dominguez 4th Annual Small Works Invitational “Ventana” (June-July)
Mural Commissions for Cactus Quail B & B Catalina AZ Two rooms: “The Pueblo” & “The Hacienda” encompassing all four walls and the ceiling of each room (June-Aug 1996)
San Diego Art Institute International Juried Show (Sept 1996)

Studio – 3rd Street Opening “Improvisation Series” (March 1997) (see show statement)

San Diego Art Institute International Juried Show Honorable Mention (Nov 1998)

DC/Harris Gallery Tucson AZ “Historical Improvisations” (2/13-3/13/99)
Hacienda del Sol Tucson AZ “Intimate Landscapes” (Dec 1999)
Tucson Museum of Art Arizona Biennial Louis Grachos, Juror “Koan #8”
Lohse Family YMCA & Tucson Pima Arts Council “Koan #2” (June-Dec 1999)

Elizabeth Cherry Contemporary Art Tucson AZ Christmas Invitational (Dec 2000)

Marshall Arts Gallery Scottsdale AZ group show (Sept 2002)

Marshall Arts Gallery Scottsdale AZ “Objects & Abstractions” (Jan 2003)
Liz Hernández Gallery Tucson AZ Grand Opening (Oct 2003)
Gallery Materia Scottsdale AZ “New Paintings” (Oct-Nov 2003)

Howard Pitluk Open House “Salon of Art” curated by Liz Hernandez (Feb 2004)
Liz Hernández Gallery “New Works” one-man show (May 2004) (see press release)
Galleri Urbane Silver City NM group show (May 2004)
Bentley Projects Phoenix AZ “New to the Gallery Show” (Oct 2004)
Liz Hernández Gallery “Parallel Worlds” group show (Oct 2004)

Tucson Museum of Art Arizona Biennial Siri Engberg, Juror “Scarlet Crepe Myrtle”
Bentley Projects Phoenix AZ Grand Opening (Feb 2005)
Davis Dominguez Gallery 13th Small Works Invitational “Fairy Duster” (May-July 2005)
Liz Hernández Gallery Tucson AZ “Return of the Muse” (Nov 2005)

Grogan Gallery of Fine Art Tucson AZ Grand Opening “Progression” the 5 Artists Show (Oct 2006) (see press release)
Hernández Contemporary Fine Art Scottsdale AZ Grand Opening (Nov 2006)
Davis Dominguez Gallery 30th Anniversary Retrospective “Ferryman” (12/06/06-1/13/07)

Grogan Gallery of Fine Art Tucson, AZ "enCircle 2007"
Hernandez Contemporary Scottsdale, AZ Group exhibitions
Grogan Gallery of Fine Art Tucson AZ “An American Outsider” (Nov-Dec 2007) (press release) (Art in America Ad)

Hernandez Contemporary Scottsdale, AZ "Heaven and Earth" Scottsdale, AZ (Feb 2008) (see press release)
(Note: Grogan Gallery and Hernandez Contemporary closed in 2008 due to the economy.)

Dove Mountain Project “The Edge at Canyon Pass” Marana AZ curated by Lauren Rabb/Director The Gallery at 6th and 6th Tucson AZ (Summer 2008 – Spring 2009)

Costello-Childs Contemporary Fine Art Gallery Scottsdale AZ Grand Opening (Nov 2008)

Contemporary Forum Art Auction – Phoenix Art Museum (Feb 2009)
Costello-Childs Contemporary Fine Art Gallery Scottsdale AZ three-man show (Nov-Dec 2009)

Obsidian 128 Fine Art Gallery Tucson AZ featured painter (March-Present)
Obsidian 128 Fine Art Gallery 1st Anniversary Celebration/ Solo Show (Oct-Nov 2010)

Obsidian Gallery, Tucson, AZ Grand Re-opening Exhibition (Sept-Nov 2011)
Obsidian Gallery, Tucson, Figures and Frames (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012)

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