Don Snell Speaks

Don Snell
Don Snell in 1976

I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1922, grew up in Kansas City and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. I received my BFA from the University of Texas at Austin and had a teaching fellowship at Tulane University in New Orleans. I soon realized that teaching was robbing me of my true passion: time in the studio. I did not complete the Master’s degree. However, I subsequently taught at Arlington State College in Texas and the University of Houston. In 2010, I won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Austin Visual Arts Association.

written on this 2004 paintingAN ARTIST MAKES A STATEMENT:
It was never my intention to be an artist. But I read “Lust for Life.” The idea of drawing naked females was of great interest to me. Besides I had no marketable skills so I took the vow of poverty and became an artist. Having said that, I must note that my first life career choice was acting. My problem was that I don’t work well with other people. I solved one problem with my camera. Females would without hesitation pose nude.I played to their vanity. So far my career has been uneventful. But when you consider I am 82 and still producing great works of art, things have not been all that bad.
(written on this 2004 painting)

I paint figuratively with a non-objective approach. I try not to have anything on my mind when I paint. That way, whatever happens will be a new experience. When I visit old friends and see my early work, I am always surprised by what I did 30 or 50 years ago. A part of the surprise is how similar my current work is to what I have done in the past. My technique is more developed, but my subject matter has not changed that much. I am still involved with the figure and my work usually has strong sexual overtones. I do not draw on nature for my inspiration. My art is conceived in the studio. I do not use models. I paint with my canvas stretched and stapled to the studio wall. As soon as I finish a painting, I photograph it. Putting the canvas on a stretcher comes last.

I find it difficult to discuss my work. I know I have strong feelings about religion, sex, love, government and justice. Since all things are subjective, these elements vary depending on what I happen to be doing at the moment.
– Snell