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Artist - Teacher

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Don Sahli painting - 2015

An Early Decision


Don’s journey to become a professional artist began at an early age.

"I remember working with chalk and wet brown paper towels in kindergarten - I loved it!"


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 15 Don's work was exhibited at galleries in Taos and in Texas. As a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin his work was selected for the student faculty show.

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Meeting Sergei Bongart


In 1982 Don 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.




Don studied with Bongart for three years, until his passing in 1985, and was also a pupil of Bongart’s long time teaching assistant Sunny Apinchapong.


Sergei was a strong personality, he taught as he painted - with great emotion, using poignant story telling and sharp humor.. His teaching touched many students - like a stone being tossed into a quiet pond. Many rings and ripples...


Please, take a short detour, and enjoy a slideshow of Sergei Bongart paintings.

Continuing the Legacy

In 1995, Don Sahli founded the Sahli School of Art in Evergreen, Colorado.

“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.  I am a better painter because I teach and I learn from my students. Bongart's heavy steps are still heard in my classes and studios”.


Don continues teaching the tradition of color and temperature in the lineage of the Russian masters.

Presently, Don’s work is represented by galleries across the country and in private collections nationally and internationally. Don has been a professional painter for over 40 years. Known for his use of paint; his brush stroke is exciting and carries a positive emotion to the viewer. His work is diverse and evokes many descriptions : impressionist, colorist, realist, luminous, modern, and contemporary.

Don is Master Signature Member of Plein Air Artists Colorado.

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