Donald James Zolan, Americaâ€™s premier award-winning collectibles artist, whose tender and heartfelt paintings of early childhood graced collectible plates, prints, figurines, childrenâ€™s books, and licensed products for 30 years, died of cancer on July 20, 2009, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A fifth generation artist, Zolan's art spanned both the fine-art world together with the world of collectibles and licensing.
With original oil paintings selling for as much as $35,000, and collectibles and licensed products selling worldwide, Zolan's
art reached millions of collectors.
The Donald Zolan Collectors Club alone included more than 40,000 devoted and loyal members.
A child prodigy, Zolan
began drawing and painting at the age of three winning his
first scholarship in oils to the Art Institute of Chicago
Upon graduation, he
won a full scholarship to the American Academy of Fine Art
He apprenticed under Haddon Sundblom, the well-known illustrator of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus and later attended the Arts Students League in New York City.
Always expressive in oils, Zolan garnered portrait commissions from political leaders, writers, religious figures and industrialists from around the world, and galleries across America, Japan and the United Kingdom featured his original works eventually leading Zolan to open his own gallery on Nantucket Island.
By 1978, Zolan focused his work towards the collectibles and licensing side of the art world and was the featured artist of Pemberton & Oakes, a Santa Barbara, CA collectible company, for fifteen years.
Zolanâ€™s incredible talent to portray the joy, innocence and wide eyed wonder of early childhood captured the hearts of collectors propelling him to the top of the industry as his
works commanded some of the highest secondary market values.
had the uncanny ability to constantly adapt the artwork to the changing times yet always keeping within his
classical style that spoke to peopleâ€™s hearts.
subject matter became a natural to co-brand with some of Americaâ€™s greatest brands.
Born in Brookfield, Illinois, in 1937 to middle-class parents, Zolan
embodied the values of the Heartland of honesty, humility, and straightforwardness.
captured in his
art work was the honest, open expression of his
A compassionate and kind man, an insightful and positive man, and a dedicated artist his
entire life, there was no distance between what he
portrayed and how he
A writer once described Zolan
: â€œThe first time you meet Donald Zolan
, you have the feeling of meeting an old friend whom you just haven't seen for awhile.
warmth, candor and interest in others can disguise the fact that he's
one of our nation's most talented and popular artists.
The love and joy you see in his
paintings are a sincere expression of himself.â€
Awards for Zolan's art include the New York Salmugundi Awards Best of Oils, twelve â€œCollector Editionsâ€ Awards of Excellence for Collectibles, and six-time winner of America's Favorite Plate Artist by the readers of Plate World Magazine.
In 2008, New York's prestigious Society of Illustrators elected Zolan
to artist membership.
As Zolanâ€™s business grew so did his
generosity in directly helping children and those in need.
Whether visiting childrenâ€™s hospitals to bring a smile and comfort to a childâ€™s face, giving money directly to struggling families, donating artworks to nursing homes, childrenâ€™s homes and hospitals or simply helping an aspiring artist to start his
life and career, Zolan
always gave from the heart and anonymously.Â It was his
belief that it was important to give back to society when one had been blessed with such a creative gift from God.