Local cowboy painter Don Weller will sign his memoir at Dolly’s Bookstore
Don Weller book signing 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St. Free dollysbookstore.com
Don Weller’s new memoir took nearly 80 years to make.
“Tracks, A Visual Memoir” covers the Peoa cowboy painter’s early days growing up in the Pacific Northwest, through his days as an illustrator in Los Angeles and New York to his present life as a painter and former cutting horse competitor in the Wasatch Back.
The coffee table book features his sketches, posters and paintings as well as selected journal-like anecdotes written by Weller.
“There are a lot of drawings from sketch books that I have filled up, as well as stamps from stamp collections when we were in Venice and places like that,” he said. “I just picked my favorites, and I made sure the sketches and art went with the stories that we had selected.”
Weller will lend his signature to copies of the book telling his life’s story from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St.
The book is Weller’s only memoir, although he has published other books of his art.
“Those other books were basically printed to help sell the art,” he said.
The memoir was inspired by his experience with aging.
“I’m getting old, and I look in the mirror and I don’t know who it is looking back at me,” Weller said.
The artist also said the 2016 death of his friend, Texas-based illustrator Jack Unruh, further spurred work on the memoir.
“After Jack died, his friends put together and published a memoir for him,” Weller said. “He loved to fish, and he drew all the time. He was a fabulous illustrator and had a bunch of drawings, so they put images and entries from his sketchbook in the memoir.”
Still, Weller laments that Unruh wasn’t able to publish his story while he was alive.
“The book includes some of his journal entries, and you can read these entries for hours and read about him going fishing and all of that,” Weller said. “But if Jack had done a memoir when he was still alive, he could have picked out the juicy stories for the book.”
Weller originally wanted to publish a shared memoir about the lives of both he and his wife, Cha Cha, who is originally from Japan.
“Cha Cha has a lot of interesting stories, coming from Japan and all of that stuff,” Weller said. “We were going to do a book together, but when we decided to print it last spring, the press we had used to print my other art books had been sold and they wanted more money. We just couldn’t afford it.”
So, Weller and his wife decided to double down on his side of the story.“We decided to publish my half of the book, and put in more art and add some stories,” he said.
Weller selected stories about some of his favorite experiences, including an anecdote of a time when he and Cha Cha smuggled a mango into California after a Hawaiian vacation in 1977.
“These were all interesting to me, and I also made sure the stories were short and easy to read,” he said. “And after I selected the stories, Cha Cha went through them and edited them.”
“Tracks” features Weller’s cowboy paintings as well as promotional posters he created for the San Diego Chargers in the 1970s and his depictions of athletes that made it onto 1995 postage stamps.
Other artwork includes landscape and architectural sketches Weller had whipped out while visiting Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
“We also used to drive back and forth from Los Angeles to New York during the summers, and some of the drawings are from those trips,” he said.
As for human subjects, Weller selected candid sketches of people he and Cha Cha knew as they went about their day.
“Some of these people worked with us, and others were clients who have become lifelong friends,” he said. “I would just do some sketches while we were eating or talking.”
The book includes Weller’s favorite cowboy watercolors.
“The way I do watercolors is drawing-based, and I’m more interested in drawing than anything else,” he said. “With watercolor it either works or doesn’t work. I like that because I’m impatient.”
There are also a few new cowboy oil paintings in the book.
“I’ve experimented with oils for the past five years, because my eyes are getting tired and going bad,” Weller said with a chuckle. “When you get to be my age, you have to have a reason to get up in the morning.”
Weller enjoyed the nostalgia trip he embarked upon when he pored through his stories and artwork in the process of writing the memoir.
“They stirred up a lot of old stories and adventures,” he said. “Most of our life has been fun. Sure we have some ups and downs like everyone, but we’ve had a lot of fun.”
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