Check out our new VIRTUAL exhibitions! click here: ARTSY

Artwork by Don West

Artist in Focus

I was born in Murray, Kentucky, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. In my early years, I trained in theater, worked as a professional actor, set designer, stage manager, and hairstylist. Along the way, I’ve written poetry, short stories, and published three novels. But I always knew I was a painter.

Once, traveling through New Mexico, a storm came up over the mountains, and I couldn’t resist pulling off the road to watch. I had already seen hawks, turkey vultures, crows, finches, cattle, and pronghorn antelope with their young. But I was overcome by a strange yet visceral feeling of really seeing the landscape for the first time, while my life came together more cohesively in that single moment than I could ever have imagined.

My paintings are artifacts, personal histories of my studio life, among other things. At their best, they trace my quest for meaning like a journal recording the daily events and historical influences of my existence. Most of these influences are recognizable, primarily because I have taken few pains to hide them.

Most of my art is improvisational like a “visual dance,” as someone once said. I like that, although that’s not all it is. Process, incident, and intuition sustain me.

Making a mark is one way of affirming one’s presence and connecting to the great web of life that exists in the here and now. People do stranger things to survive, but not by much, I’m thinking. There’s a story attributed to Matisse, who 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.

Don in Focus



Bachelor of Art - Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Master of Fine Art in Theatre Direction and Poetry- Ohio University, Athens, OH



Sonora Plein Air Painters- Juried Exhibition, The Desert Art Museum, Tucson, AZ, 2018 Sonoran Plein Air Painters Group show, Murphey Gallery, St. Phillips in the Hills, Tucson, AZ, 2017
“Transformations” - Three-Person Show - Davis Dominguez Gallery, Tucson, AZ, 2016

“The Compass Rose Paintings World Tour” - Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Maiden Voyage, 2016

Tucson Museum of Art Arizona Biennial, Siri Engberg, Juror, Tucson, AZ, 2005

“Grand Opening Exhibition” - Bentley Projects, Phoenix, AZ, 2005
“Intimate Landscapes” - Liz Hernández, Curator, Hacienda Del Sol, Tucson, AZ, 1999

Tucson Museum of Art Arizona Biennial, Louis Grachos, Juror, Tucson, AZ,1999



West, Barbara. Don West: An American Outsider, Paintings 1997-2007. Dancing Bear Books, 2008.
Boyle, Michael. “Interview with Don West.” Arizona Illustrated, Jan. 9, 1990.



Special Commission “The Compass Rose Paintings” for Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Maiden Voyage, 2016
Best of Show Award - Arizona Aqueous XXVII Tubac, AZ, 2013
Commission for Five Paintings “Four Seasons and The River” and “The Elements” - Salon Head West Expansion, Novi, MI, 1990 & 1987

Special Jurors Recognition, Six-State Juried Competition, Arizona Aqueous 88 Tubac, AZ, 1998
Honorable Mention, International Juried Show, San Diego Art Institute, 1998
Special Recognition Award, Juried Competition, Tohono Chul Park Gallery, Tucson, AZ, 1998

Second Place Award, Pima County Fair Arizona, 1998
Sonora Mural Commission, Ed & Joan Ferguson, Tucson, AZ, 1998


    Back to the top