Born to Henry Thomas and Lillian Sue (Lawrence) West on November 1st 1946 in Murray Kentucky. Family moved to Detroit Michigan where he was exposed to art at a young age on a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Earliest memories of that trip are of Diego Rivera’s monumental murals and a small Van Gogh self-portrait. His 7th grade art teacher Mr. Gladych told him he would be a great artist someday if he would leave the girls alone. First sale of a watercolor at the age of 16. Excelled at theater and art throughout middle and high school.
Attended Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan. Married Barbara Smith on August 31, 1967. Moved to their first apartment on Shiawassee Street in Lansing where he set up an easel in the corner of the kitchen. Began directing absurdist theater with Ionesco’s plays “Victims of Duty” and “Exit the King.” Received his Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Art History.
Received a graduate fellowship as a stage technician at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan where he worked designing and building sets in the scene shop for the Hillberry Classic Repertory Theater. He was later moved into the acting company, appearing in nine productions in repertory over the season. Played Edward in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill at the Group Theater. Also played Duke Frederick in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at the University of Detroit. Directed “The Bald Soprano” by Ionesco and “The Lovers” by Harold Pinter for the Livonia-Redford Theater Guild, his first professional directing job.
Birth of son Ian Thomas West on March 4, 1971 in Detroit Michigan. Moved to Athens Ohio and obtained his Master of Fine Arts in Theater Direction at The Ohio University for his thesis production of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.” Directed eight other plays including a production of an original script “Light Cell Death” by Charles Kespert based on Rudolph Hess’ incarceration in Spandau Prison in Berlin which they also toured off-Broadway. Studied poetry with Stanley Plumly during the summer of 1973.
Won 1st place $500 prize in national poetry contest from W. E. Houck & Company, publishers for his poem “The Birth.” Accepted a position with the University of Papua New Guinea as Lecturer and Head of the Drama Department of the new Centre for Creative Arts. Sold belongings, left Michigan and camped two months across the USA in a 1973 VW bus to depart for New Guinea from California, but received a letter from the University that all overseas appointments had been cancelled. Settled with his family in Tucson Arizona in August 1974 and accepted the position of Dialogue Coach for Barry Newman in the Paramount TV show “Petrocelli.” Also worked as the Stage Manager for the Arizona Theater Company/Old Tucson co-production of “Diamond Studs,” Technical Director/Production Manager for the Tucson Ballet, and Stage Technician for the Arizona Opera Company. Studied poetry with Richard Shelton.
Purchased house on 3rd Street and set up a painting studio in the corner of the kitchen. Recognizing that without continual and dedicated practice his ability to draw and paint would eventually dissipate, he made the firm commitment to become a serious painter and began his life-long study. In his early thirties, started work on oil paintings of the San Xavier Mission, eventually selling all nine paintings.
Received a commission for a desert mural called Sonora from Ed and Joan Ferguson for their hair salon Edward’s Head Hunters. Converted carport into studio with funds given to him by a friend. Attended post-graduate painting classes at the University of Arizona where he studied oil painting with Philip Melton and Scientific Illustration with Don Saynor. Attended classes at the Tucson Museum of Art School where he studied with Bruce McGrew, James Christopher Larsen, Monica Jost and Charles Hall.
Received an artist grant of $6,000 from Tom Brandon to cover his first year’s rent for a professional space downtown at 115 E. Broadway next door to Sam Scott’s studio. After a trip to Santa Fe with Sam, painted the Middle of Nowhere Series. Interviewed by Michael Boyle for Arizona Illustrated on PBS. Birth of grandson Samuel Eliot West on December 14, 1990 in Tucson. Painted the Sonora paintings, followed the next year by the Illusion series. Began The Last Supper, an on-going project. Showed work at Davis Gallery in Tucson Arizona. Started life drawing group.
Moved out of Studio 2 on Broadway and built a studio on his 3rd Street property - a thirty thousand dollar commitment to his art work. Worked out of Phil Lichtenhan’s print studio, Scum Pond Press, during the summer of 1993 learning the printing process. Opened the 3rd Street studio with a show of the Illusion Series in January 1994.
Began series of figure studies in oil, after Freud, using models; an ongoing project.
Received commission for two murals from Sue and Marty Higbee for their Cactus Quail Bed & Breakfast in Catalina Arizona encompassing all four walls and ceilings of two bedrooms called The Pueblo and The Hacienda. Made several trips back to Kentucky to be with his father in the hospital just before he died. Visited cousin Shirley’s pottery studio while in Kentucky and received lessons in plaster mold making.
Painted Improvisation Series, a major departure from previous work and deeply influenced by his theater background.
Time constraints forced him to paint less in order to work on his first novel Dream of the Great Blue.
Wrote first story of a collection of short stories called Perfect Relationships. Began showing his artwork through Daryl Childs at DC/ Harris Gallery in downtown Tucson. Met Liz Hernández who curated their first show together at the Hacienda del Sol in Tucson.
Won First Place award for story “Tall” from Pima Community College.
Published in SandScript Art & Literary Magazine. Continued working on the manuscript of his first novel and started a second novel, a mystery, The Art of Murder set in Los Angeles CA. Traveled to LA to research locations, including both Getty Museums, for the book. 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. Moved with Daryl Childs to Marshall Arts Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona.
Began showing with Liz Hernández at her new gallery in Tucson Arizona. Started work on the Greek series.
Started dancing bear books with his wife Barbara and published first novel Dream of the Great Blue. Began showing with Michael Costello at Gallery Materia in Scottsdale Arizona which later moved and became Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix.
Traveled the west coast for a six-city book tour for Dream of the Great Blue which included radio and TV interviews and readings at bookstores.
Published second novel The Art of Murder. Began showing with Grogan Gallery of Fine Art in Tucson Arizona and Hernández Contemporary Art Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona.
Solo exhibition for the Grand Opening at the new Grogan Gallery of Fine Art on Skyline Drive in Tucson Arizona. Found himself re-energized as a full-time painter once again. Re-established the primacy of his painting studio. His work began to transition and morph once more, beginning two new series called the Planets and Moons and the Immersion series. Began painting in oils again and using the pour method for application with acrylics and Papíer-mâché. dancing bear books published a new book of his art work titled: Don West: An American Outsider, paintings 1977-2007.