Don’s journey to become a professional artist began at an early age. During high school, he was honored as a gold key finalist at the National Scholastic Art Competition for an unprecedented four consecutive years. At age 16 he was exhibiting and selling his work at galleries in Taos, New Mexico and in Texas. As a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, he made the Dean's list and his work was selected for the student faculty show.
In 1982 he met Sergei Bongart, the famous Russian colorist. "I attended a painting demonstration by Sergei Bongart at his summer workshop in Rexburg, Idaho. There I saw Bongart use color, paint and confident brush strokes like I had never seen before. At that moment I knew I wanted to be a painter in this colorful tradition of the Russian School. My life was changed forever in an instant."
At Bongart’s invitation, Don moved to Los Angeles, CA and became Bongart’s last scholarship student and apprentice. Sahli was also a pupil of Sunny Apinchapong Yang, Bongart’s long time teaching assistant. Don studied with Bongart for three years, until his passing in 1985.
In 1995 Don Sahli opened the Sahli School of Art in Evergreen, Colorado where he continues the tradition of color and temperature in the lineage of the Russian masters. “My teacher Sergei Bongart taught, his teacher Peter Kotov was taught by Nicolai Fechin and Fechin was a pupil of the fountainhead of all modern Russian painting Ilya Repin." Sahli keeps this tradition alive in giving back to the student as this is a critical aspect of the artistic learning processes.
“I am a better painter because I teach and I learn from my students. The Russian tradition of painting continues. Bongart's heavy steps are still heard in my classes and studios”.
Presently, Don’s work is represented by galleries across the country and in private collections nationally and internationally. Now at 53, Don has been a professional painter earning a living as an artist for over 36 years, he has a firm pedigree and is prolific, producing large studio pieces, numerous plein air works — including public and corporate commissions.
Known for his use of paint; his brush stroke is exciting and carries a positive emotion to the viewer. His work is diverse carrying many labels, plein air, impressionist, colorist, realist, luminous, modern, and contemporary.
Don Sahli is a painter and teacher.