Statement | Biography | Travels | History

Artist Statement

Lumen* Aqua * Terra

“I paint the places I love to be. I paint the freshness of eternal nature, icy lucid streams, thunderous waterfalls, and soaring granite crests over silent lakes. I paint the descriptions of John Muir, the echoes of Ansel Adams, the American West of Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. I paint luminosity filtering through the landscape, reaching to the foundation
of a stream, bouncing off rocks, and illuminating the shadows.

Using oil and acrylic, painting realistically is merely my means to an end. I want the viewer to connect with the places I love to be. I hope the observer will want to walk right into my painting and maybe even drop a line in the water to catch a trout.

My published works include both “plein air” and studio paintings, which helps me translate the dynamic experience of the moment and communicate in a more personal way of what I am trying to say..”

Light * Water * Earth


Donald Neff’s art is a product of his love for nature and the outdoors. Working in both Oils and Acrylic Polymer, Neff’s work reflects a colorful realism of the land he travels. His paintings are typically centered around a water theme, whether High Sierra scenes, seascapes, or the graceful countryside. Donald is completely self-instructed and his paintings convey a realistic perception of nature.

Although drawing and art have been steady interests since he was a child, Donald’s concentration in painting surfaced after college graduation and his establishment in a successful computer science career. What began as a pastime pleasure quickly became a compulsion.

Donald is an Oregon native and spent childhood years in Pasadena, California and Eastern Texas. After moving to the San Francisco area in the late 70’s, Donald founded and eventually sold a successful computer software company. Donald retired from his computer science career to devote full time to his art. He moved to Marina, CA to be closer to the varied and dynamic coast of California.

Donald’s work is shown in galleries, institutional, and private collections throughout the United States. He has had one man shows at such institutions as the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, California, and Ambassador Gallery in Pasadena California. He has shown at the Salmungundi Club in New York, Yosemite Valley Visitors Center, and won first place in statewide exhibitions in California. His work has been a finalist in the prestigious Arts for the Parks “Mini-Fifty” and the Top 200 competition in Jackson, Wyoming. He was a Faculty/Demonstrator at the 2nd and 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention, and also published in the Dec/Jan 2012 issue of Plein Air Magazine.

Donald has two books published about his work, “Plein Tahoe”, and “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”.

Donald has been featured in several television broadcasts, NBC Bay Area news, Silicon Valley Technology, Art, Green, Sustainability (2016) and Silicon Valley Business Report(1998) in which his art was the focal point. He is also featured in the book, ‘How did you paint That? 100 ways to paint Seascapes, Rivers, & Lakes.‘. Donald has also been listed in ”Who’s Who in America”, ”Who’s Who Worldwide”, and ‘Who”s Who in the West”.


Donald has painted and traveled over many places in the world. Below shows the many places he has painted…

Selected History

Solo Shows:

2015,2016 “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley”

–Santa Clara County Government Center public lobby
–Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR Center
–Milpitas Pubic Library

2009, 2008, 2006, 2016 James Harold Galleries, Tahoe City, CA
2006 Toll House, Los Gatos, CA
2003 Mountain View City Hall, Mountain View, CA
2003 Ago Gallery, Ouray, CO
1982 Carnegie Museum, Oxnard, CA
1979 Ambassador Gallery, Pasadena, CA

Selected Group Shows:

2006-2023, Carmel Art Festival
2004-2019 Los Gatos Art Fest, a plein air event.
2010, 2009 Nomadas del Art, Western plein air competition
2008, 2007 Seasons of Martis Plein Air
2005 Oil Painters of America Western Regional, Santa Barbara, CA
2005 Sonoma Plein Air
2022,2019,2017, 2004, 2003, 1987 Yosemite Renaissance, Yosemite Museum, CA
2003 Best in America, National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, MO
2002 Arts for the Parks Mini-50 Finalist, Jackson, WY
2002 La Petite X, a national small format show, Coburg, OR
1991 Arts for the Parks 200, Jackson, WY
1983 American Artists Professional League, Salmungundi Club, NY, NY
1981 35th Annual San Francisco Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA

Selected Awards:

2017 Plein Air Magazine Award of Excellence, Carmel Art Festival
2022 First Place Monterey Bay Plein Air Painters Member show, “Coastal Passions”
2023 First Place Plein Air Painting Old Monterey/Monterey Art Museum
2023 People’s Choice award, Carmel Art Festival
2022 Randy Higbee Gallery Award
2004 First Place and Honorable Mention, Los Gatos Art Fest, a plein air event.
2002 First Place, Society of Western Artists Kaiser Show
1981 First Place, Society of Western Artists Statewide Show, Sacramento, CA
2006 Best of Oil or Acrylic, Carmel Art Festival
2017 Second Place and Peoples Choice, Santa Clara Parks Plein Air
2009 Second Place, Los Gatos Museum charity event
2007 Peoples Choice Award, Seasons of Martis Plein Air
2012, 2016 Honorable Mention, Carmel Art Festival
2006 Third Place, Oils, Los Gatos Annual Members Show
1987 Honorable Mention, Yosemite Renaissance II, Yosemite Park, CA
1979 2nd Place, San Gabriel Fine Arts Annual Show, San Gabriel, CA


2019 Open Space Authority of Santa Clara County
2018 Outdoor Painter – A Revolutionary New Painting Technique
2018 Outdoor Painter – 7 Hilarious Plein Air Moments of 2018
2018 Outdoor Painter — Watch: Drone Films an Artist Painting Outdoors in Beautiful California
2017 Outdoor Painter – Art Is a Universal Language
2017 Outdoor Painter – Decked! With Donald
2016 Outdoor Painter — Parting Shot: How to Like a Donald Neff Painting on Facebook
2016 Outdoor Painter – Parting Shot: Catching Clouds
2015 Outdoor Painter – A Jungle in the Suburbs, A Wild Stream in an Office Park
2014 Evergreen Spotlight Magazine (click for article)
2014 Outdoor Painter – Think Silicon Valley, Think Streams
2013 Outdoor Painter – Painting Beauty in Silicon Valley
2012 December Plein Air Magazine, digital edition
2012 Outdoor Painter – The Advantage of Using Acrylic Studies

How did you paint That? 100 ways to paint Seascapes, Rivers, & Lakes.”
2004 December Plein Air Magazine (click for info)
Click here for misc publications and articles.
2003 2002 Guidebook of Western Artists


2018 NBC Bay Area News
2016 Silicon Valley TAGS
1998 Featured on “Silicon Valley Business Report” Click
here to see the feature.

Past Gallery Representation and shows:

1978-1981 Kelley’s Gallery of Fine Art, Solvang, CA
1979-1981 Thomas Gallery, Lake Tahoe, CA
1981-1981 Bent Tree Gallery, Dallas, TX
1981-1983 Roughton Galleries, Dallas, TX
1981-1983 Sanders Gallery, Tucson, AZ
1981-1983 Southwest Galleries, Houston, TX


2013-2014 Faculty/Demonstrator 2nd Annual Plein Air Convention
US State Department, US Embassies in Mauritania, Nigeria, and Barbados
Who’s Who in America (2003 Edition)
Who’s Who Worldwide
Who’s Who in the West


Signature ArtistMonterey Bay Plein Air Painters
California Art Club
Carmel Art Association

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