doug fountain artist

Doug Fountain’s Native American name is Wah-lee-tah-kah Won-cha, and it couldn’t be more fitting. It translates to “Brave One” and Doug embodies this spirit in his artwork as well as his career path.

Originally an architectural engineer, Doug began experimenting with art, working with plaster and other materials to create rich textured and layered pieces that were inspired by his heritage, the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe in North Dakota. Eventually, the calling led him to pursue a career as a full-time artist. That was 26 years and he’s never turned back.

His pieces are rich with symbolism, legend and the traditions of his people and range from totems to masks to sculptures. Doug loves using texture and color to evoke joy, happiness and connection to Mother Earth.

What goes into the making of his storied pieces? Read on or watch the video below to hear Doug’s story and how his pieces come together.

When did you know art was your calling?

Twenty six years ago. I was an architectural engineer before and it just kind of led to that direction. It was all about my heritage is what inspired me. My mom’s family is from the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe in North Dakota, and that is the basis of what I started with my artwork.

I wanted to create pieces that were very traditional in the sense that they were very primitive with cultural aspects of my heritage, but very modern for today’s time. When you see my work, every dot you see represents a prayer thankfulness, whether I paint that or choose feathers that have the dots. I wanted to incorporate good energy and pieces like the triangle, which represents unity, the rectangle is the eye family, and the circle of the mouth, happiness. It’s just my way of taking those ancient concepts into something that’s a little more modern.

The feathers are kind of traditional in the sense that they’re recycled. They’re from the bird aviaries––the fallen feathers of birds raised for breeding. They’re not hunted. So they’re all natural. There are no dyed or hand-painted feathers.

My goal was to create something that’s very happy, joyful, very textural. I love the layers and I work with a textured, layered Venetian plaster on a lightweight construction board that I create off of a 3D printer.

What do you love most about creating art?

There’s nothing more rewarding than going into somebody’s house and looking at what it [the art[ does to them. When they look at it, they smile. That it can bring so much joy to their hearts…to me, that’s the ultimate.

What challenges you the most about your work?

The time it takes. There are so many steps. That would be the only thing that’s challenging. There’s not enough hours in the day to create the pieces I do. I work a lot.

What do you love most about creating art?

It’s so encompassing that when I’m working and doing this, I sometimes forget to eat or drink. I’m so involved in trying to create the image and the sculpture and that makes time fly so fast. It’s so fun. I just have such a great time. Then afterward I get to display them in places like this, which is amazing. People enjoy them and I get to have conversations with folks from all across the country. It’s just the coolest thing ever. It’s really fun.

What drew you to the Celebration of Fine Art?

I’d known about it and I had a really good friend that had done the show and said, “You have to do this before you retire.” So, I did it. And I love it. It’s just so different than anything I’ve ever done..and I’ve been doing this [creating art] for 26 years.