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Sunday, May 7, 2023

Encounter: Don Weller

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**Authentically Human! Not Written by a Bot**

I have to admit, as an artist living in the West, I don't particularly care for Western Art.  Painting such subject matter today—cowboys, horses, the American Indian—seems like a holdover from the days of Frederic Remington in a desperate attempt to sell paintings to a nostalgic modern public.  (The same might be said about landscape painting, a holdover from the days of Thomas Moran, but I digress.)  Some Santa Fe galleries are full of cowboy paintings, and I pass them by.  It's rare when a piece of Western art catches my fancy.

Recently, I was approached by my editor to interview Utah artist Don Weller, who paints cowboys and horses.  I wasn't too excited about the project initially, but when I started to view his work—it was all new to me—I was hooked.  His work is filled with sparkling color, brilliant brush work and figures of horses and men that possess a quality so dynamic they seem to jump off the page.  To help with research for the article, Don sent me a copy of his book, Don Weller Tracks: A Visual Memoir, which is a hearty "rancher's breakfast" of images with just a peppering of words.  The paintings reproduced therein confirmed my opinion that Here is Western Art I Can Love.

But what makes Don different from the run-of-the-mill painter of Western Art?  He's lived the life, and I can sense this in his paintings.  His work is honest, genuine, made from a lifetime of careful observation and love.

When growing up in eastern Washington State, Don convinced his parents, who knew nothing about horses, to get him one.  He started riding, roping calves and participating in local rodeos.  A fascination with cowboys and horses permeated his childhood.  After graduating from college with a degree in Fine Art—he'd drawn his favorite subjects throughout his early years—and not quite sure what to do, he joined the Air Force for a stint and then moved to Los Angeles for work.  Thus began a decades-long career in graphic design and illustration, with some of his clients being Time Magazine, the Hollywood Bowl, the National Football League, the 1984 Olympics and the US Postal Service, for which he designed five stamps.

Then, tired of the big city, he and his wife (Chikako "Cha Cha" Matsubayashi, also his work partner) moved to a rural part of Utah.  "The rural West with mountains, sagebrush and cowboys—it was still there, just as I left it so long ago."   Not only did he return to riding horses, he also returned to depicting his beloved subject matter in watercolor and oil. Today, Don continues to paint the kind of Western Art I like.

I've included a few images from his website here.  My interview with Don will be in the Fall 2023 issue of Watercolor Artist.  It was a real pleasure to come to know him.  You can see more of his work at

Eyes on the Horns
watercolor 17x26.5

In the Corner, Ennis
watercolor, 9x7

Pasture Trio in Autumn
oil, 10x14

Scratching Out a Ride
oil, 18x24

watercolor, 13.5x11.5

The Rockies
oil, 30x42

1 comment:

Jo Castillo said...

Thanks for introducing me to a "new" artist. I love his work.