Success Stories | Jeffrey Watts

When he was 22, Jeffrey Watts founded an art school in Encinitas, CA. Today the Watts Atelier of the Arts is thriving, and so is Watts’ career. Since his first appearance in Southwest Art in 2004, he has built a national reputation, chalking up prestigious awards for his paintings. Known for his lush, painterly figurative pieces, the California-based artist has a style reminiscent of 19th-century European and Russian masters. He seems to love the physical qualities of the paint as much as his subject matter. But the seemingly spontaneous brush strokes belie the talents of a highly skilled artist hard at work.

Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? It’s morphed into a more Russian impressionistic style, like Nicolai Fechin’s. Before my works were a little tighter.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? Being juried into the Prix de West show for the fourth year.
Would you have done anything differently? I started out very young—I founded Watts Atelier when I was 22 and was in my first gallery by the time I was 25. I wish I had been more patient with the process of finding myself in my art. It takes a long time.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? Set very specific goals: short, mid, and long-term goals.
What motto do you live by? Paint honestly. Don’t paint for the market.
What artists have influenced you? Nicolai Fechin, Dean Cornwell, Richard Schmid, and Joaquín Sorolla.
What are you working on now? I’m working on paintings for Prix de West. They need the first one by February. And I’m working on pieces for Settlers West Galleries’ miniature show and one for the Oil Painters of America show at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale.
What’s your next big goal? To continue progressing towards more western genres of art. I want to explore that arena. People know me for vignettes. But I’m moving to larger, story-telling pieces and western subject matter. I’m researching and educating myself about it.


Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, and Jackson Hole, WY; Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art, San Antonio, TX;

First appearance in Southwest Art: Artist to Watch, March 2004.

Awards won since then: Award of Exceptional Merit, 2008 and 2009, Portrait Society of America’s Art of Portrait Conference. Second place, 2004 and 2005 Salon International, Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art, San Antonio, TX. Award of Excellence, 2004, Oil Painters of America.
Show participation since then: Prix de West and the Small Works, Great Wonders show, both at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; the Settlers West Galleries’ American Miniature Show; and the Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational.
Price change since then: My prices have gone up significantly.

Jeffrey appeared in our “Success Stories” feature in December 2009