A collection of art pieces by Hawthorne’s Donald Banfield is on display at Souled Out through May.

In 1982, Hawthorne resident Donald Banfield’s wife Roberta gave him a unique gift that turned into a new career. That gift was an art lesson which later turned into a passion and then he began teaching what he learned, putting his own spin on his landscapes and method. Nowadays, Don has his art up in Souled Out (on Hawthorne’s main street) through this May, and his art can be found at the Bizarre 101 in Walker Lake.

Donald Banfield with some of his work.

Originally, Don worked as a postal worker in Southern California’s Lake Elsinore. Somewhere down the line, his wife bought him an art lesson with a teacher in the hills of Elsinore and he painted with her until she switched gears and got into sculpting.

“I had indicated about [wanting to start painting] a bit but it was kind of out of the blue,” Don says about receiving the art lesson. “And I really took to it, I thought, ‘wow, this is great.’ The feeling you get when you sit down and have an image in your mind and make it come to life. The whole world opened up and became really interesting to me. Art gives you a reason to really look at things, and notice what so many others probably miss.”

When Don retired in the early 1990s, he felt like he needed a total change, and had been making his own art for a few years by then. He taught oil painting workshops all over California and Douglas County, Nevada, in arts and crafts stores and recreation areas. He had friends in Northern Nevada, and they asked him to teach art at Western Nevada College. That job convinced him to move to Hawthorne, and he taught there for 10 years until WNC closed its Mineral County campus.

Don taught community art workshops in Hawthorne since 1992 and through his involvement with the Mineral County Council on the Arts, they were able to get a room at the old elementary school on Sixth Street which was called the Art & Culture Center and Don worked as an Artist in Residence. However, the school district increased the Council’s usage fee to an amount they couldn’t afford, and they eventually moved out. Fortunately, the presbyterian church on 7th and F Street gave them a space to teach from, and the Council is still using its art room to give free art lessons to children, as well as hosting some adult workshops.

Banfield got into teaching art because he always enjoyed taking lessons himself and thought about what he’d like to do differently if he was in the instructor’s seat.

“Teachers have different ways of painting and I wanted to do my own method, the follow-along method,” Banfield says, which he believes is derived from German painter Bill Alexander who was also the host of the television show on PBS called “The Magic of Oil Painting” in the late 1970’s.

“It’s just such a joy to see how excited people get when they have created something, their eyes just glow. They tear up when they see what they’ve created. I get joy through their joy.”

He explains that Bill Alexander was the first one to teach “TV art”, although “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross” arguably became more popular.

“Bill and Bob were really good friends. Bob learned from Bill and put his own spin on it- we all do,” Don smiles.

“I teach oil painting because it brings me great joy to see the awe and excitement students have when they paint a painting and see it finished. It is a thrill to share the students’ thrill at the end of a workshop,” he adds.

Don has also had one of his paintings of Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe displayed in Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art in 2006, (“I got into that show, it was just tremendous that I could get my work out there and they auctioned it off,” he says), as well as having a painting of the old Hawthorne Club featured in a traveling art exhibit. That painting was eventually bought and hung in Eureka, Nevada’s opera house.

“The owner had an amazing art collection that I believe opened to the public that he called Wally’s World,” Don recalls.

Banfield is also proud of being featured in the hardcover book “Stories of the Sagebrush” by Don Cox.

“They zeroed in on [my painting of the Hawthorne Club], and it was a great achievement to be featured in that; it’s a beautiful hardbound book,” he says.

“I have painted a little of everything and I have a little bit of everything for sale,” Don adds. When asked what he likes to paint the most, Banfield responds, “I’ve painted it all, but I keep coming back to landscapes. I’m enamored with skies that turn orange and red and yellow. And they sell well; people like them.”

Along with being featured in Souled Out in Hawthorne through May, Banfield’s art is also for sale at Bizarre 101, the new art gallery in Walker Lake ran by David and Maryknoll Bowen.

“I will have paintings out there for as long as they’ll have me,” he says, adding that he hopes that more commuters will start stopping in route to their destinations.

For more information about Donald Banfield’s art, visit Souled Out in Hawthorne, the Bizarre 101 in Walker Lake, or find him on Facebook.