By Tanya Canino
This Nevadan artist has followed a long, “blessed” road
Don Fotine is inspired each time his small artist’s brush lightly touches a canvas. “I‘m blessed,” says the artist, standing in his Minden, Nev. studio. “I feel my talent is God-given, straight from the Big Guy.”
Primarily a representational artist, Fotine mostly paints landscapes, using vibrant colors and careful details to portray the beauty of the Sierra Nevada. The 69-year-old artist paints both watercolors and acrylics, and sells prints of his originals in editions of 15 to 100.
“His work is very colorful with tight designs,” says Lorraine King, manager of Our House Gallery in El Dorado Hills, Calif. “Gallery visitors love Fotine’s paintings of Lake Tahoe because he has a nice sense of color, proportion and details.”
In Pure Majesty, an acrylic of a Sierra scene, one is drawn into the details of clear water flowing in a mountain stream, reflecting pines and fall foliage. “I tend to paint a little on the tight side,” Fotine says. “If God presents it to us that way, I don’t want to leave anything out.”
Fotine, however, doesn’t confine himself to one style, and his paintings range from the tightly painted still life and realistic duck illustration to an impressionistic landscape.
Composition and dynamics remain important to him throughout.
After a 30+ year career as an architectural illustrator, the Great Recession hit Fotine “like a freight train you cannot stop,” he says. With clients switching to computer-generated images, Fotine only had one job in spring 2007. “I decided I was just going to hang it up and do what I’ve wanted to do, and that is fine arts.”
Since focusing full-time on fine art, Fotine has earned numerous regional awards, including People’s Choice, Best of Show and Best Watercolor at the Annual Latimer Miniature Show at the Nevada Historical Society in Reno.
“When I start in the morning, I go 10 hours straight,” he says. “I’m consumed by it. I don’t understand how an artist can walk away. I can’t leave a painting unfinished.”
Fotine may have found his calling late in life, but he’s spent his life working toward it. He starting painting watercolors as a youngster. When he moved to California at age 12, the landscapes of the West captured his imagination. After stints as a draftsman for an engineering firm and as an oil worker in Alaska, Fotine returned to Southern California and enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
“I was just in heaven there,” he says. In 1971, working his way through college, Fotine discovered there was a market for architectural illustration and architectural models. By 1974, his architectural drawings were in so much demand that he quit college and opened Don Fotine, Architectural Arts, in Valencia, Calif.
Between 1974 and 2006, Fotine drew 20,000 architectural illustrations and did numerous design projects, largely for Southern California clients, with his work winning numerous awards.
In 1990, Fotine moved his family to Minden, Nev. and added a 500-square-foot studio onto his home. He hoped he might use the extra space to pursue fine art, but his architecture illustrations kept him busy right up until 2007. Now the studio is finally being used for its what it was designed, inspired painting, as is full of canvases large and small, boxes of drawings and awards on the walls.
I really like what I’m doing,” Fotine says. “Painting, honestly, is as important to me as breathing.”
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