The son of American missionary parents, Don Oelze was born in New Zealand in 1965 and lived there for the next nine years of his life.  Despite those beginnings half a continent away, Oelze, who now lives in Montana, has been blessed with the ability to portray the history of the American West with a remarkably vivid and captivating reality.

The explanation of this gift is simple: From early childhood, his mother and father had piqued their son’s curiosity about Western and Native American cultures by sharing stories of their own upbringings in Arizona and Montana. His maternal grandmother reinforced the young boy’s intrigue with Western lore by sending the imaginative 6-year old a handmade set of Indian clothing. “While this thoughtful gesture cemented my fascination with cowboys and Indians, it also resulted in my getting into trouble at school, because I spent more time drawing Indians than paying attention to my teacher,” Oelze says. When his family returned to the United States in the early 1970s, Oelze continued to pursue his love of painting and drawing. As a means to fill time, during the long travel days required for annual trips to visit relatives, he filled sketchpads with detailed images of his surroundings. Those firsthand impressions of the Western landscapes would provide a well-spring of information for backgrounds in his future paintings.

Following his graduation from high school, Oelze enrolled at Memphis State University, intending to major in art.  Quickly realizing that the empha-sis in the school’s art department was on computer graphics, a direction he was not interested in exploring, he moved on to Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1992.

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