Don Whitlatch Biography

 

 

 

Born in the foothills of West Virginia along the Ohio River, Don grew up during the great depression. "Stop
wasting time drawing... there's work to be done. That was my Dad's outlook on life. What he didn't tear
up, my teachers hung up. Without their encouragement I probably would never have become an artist", says
Don. After graduation from High School in 1950 he didn’t know what he was going to do. Uncle Sam did!

Following the Korean War Don, with his wife Norma, settled in Athens Ohio to study art at Ohio University.
"They wanted square apples and purple bananas. I never understood that kind of art." Moving back home
he joined a newly formed ad agency as creative director and production supervisor. After several years he
started his own corporate design firm with clients Fenton Art Glass, O. Ames Co., Gravely Tractor, Black
and Decker, Borg Warner and more.

Then came a heart attack. Recovery was long and cost him his business. With a wife and four children,
what was he going to do. "Paint wildlife" said Norma. "It's what you know and love to do." With little
art education Don taught himself color, values, hues composition, balance and the right paper, paints and
brushes.

Don created watercolors in detailed realism. 'The pin-feather perfect effect', as they say in the art world.
He was encouraged to reproduce his work with museum-quality, signed and numbered prints. His prints were
successfully distributed and most sold out rapidly. Don became internationally known and respected.

Among a few of Don’s many awards for his contributions to our quality of life are: West Virginia Wildlife
Artist in residence and life Memberships in the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and in Rotary
International. Don has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from Salem University and
from Alderson Broadus College because his work is 'that of a perfectionist who satisfies us all: the art lover,
the naturalist... it is art that does not have to be explained'. Don’s Bald Eagle painting is on permanent
display at the Nixon Library in California.

In the late eighties Don was diagnosed with macular degeneration and slowly lost sight in his left eye.
Retire? Quit? No! He still had one good eye. Unable now to work in detailed watercolors he switched to oil
paints with subject matter in florals, landscapes and golf courses; one of which was the infamous 16th hole
at Augusta National, home of The Masters. 'Slamin Sam' Snead, one of the annual honorary tournament
starters, said he would sign an edition of 550 prints and would ask the others, Gene Sarazen and Byron
Nelson, to also sign the prints. In their honor Don titled the prints ‘the Starters. Sam said it best "My god,
Think what he could do if he had two good eyes!"

During this time Don served for over ten years on the Board of Trustees of the Parkersburg Art Center. In
that capacity he did much to enrich the lives of many local children and adults.

Now fate has stepped in again and Don's right eye is failing. With the help of his dedicated, and talented
(different kind of talent) retina doctor Don is working hard to maintain as much of his vision as possible.
However painting does not seem to be an option and so there will be no new prints or original paintings
available.

Don wants us to close this brief bio sketch by urging one and all to have their regular scheduled eye exams
so that any problem can be found in time for treatment.

 

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