Legends of Fine Art | John Nieto


By Bonnie Gangelhoff

John Nieto has always brought a contemporary eye to classic western motifs. Whether portraying Native Americans or animals, his dramatic, often electric canvases make the viewer sit up and take notice. Nieto maintains that his art “is more the result of an emotional involvement with my subject matter than a cerebral one.” Indeed, his subjects have a presence that, once viewed, is hard to forget. Nieto’s paintings have been exhibited worldwide—in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America—and are in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY.

Born: Denver, CO, 1936.
Resides: Rockwall, TX.
Proudest accomplishment: In addition to earning a living through my art, I’ve been able to participate in fund-raising events by donating my art for causes like children’s education—including the Native American Preparatory School, free art programs at the Museum of New Mexico, and the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation for seriously ill children.
What would you have done differently in your life? Not much. Maybe I would have liked to have had some personal, hands-on instruction on how to make a painting. The vast majority of my early development as an artist was on-the-job training. Though I majored in fine art at Southern Methodist University, I never actually had personal instruction.
Advice to young artists: Get a formal academic education in addition to an art education.
Motto you have lived by over the years: Always strive for a masterpiece.
Biggest misconception about an artist’s life: That it’s a piece of cake. It is actually closer to 90 percent work and 10 percent talent.


How has your work changed since starting out? My work is becoming more thoughtful and therefore more fulfilling. When I first started out, I would attack the canvas. I still attack it, but now I also embrace it. My subject matter has expanded to portraits, wildlife, and nudes.
How has the art market changed? It doesn’t let you get by with as much as it used to. It’s more discerning, and that’s good because it makes you grow as an artist.
Other interests: Reading history, music, and enjoying my grandchildren.
Recent news: I received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Southern Methodist University in November 2007. And I’m having a one-man exhibition at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA, this coming March.

He is represented by Mountain Trails Gallery, Jackson, WY; Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM.

His next show is in March 2009 at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA.

Featured in “Legends of Fine Art” in December 2008