OLYPHANT, Pa. (AP) - Don Fatzinger spent most of his long life working as a graphic artist-for-hire.
The work was fulfilling. "But what I really wanted to do was paint," he said.
It took him until his mid-70s, but he finally got there.
A huge believer in the adage that it's never too late to follow one's passion, the 79-year-old Olyphant resident has spent the past several years fully engaged in the life of the artist.
Working mostly in pastels and acrylics, Fatzinger's work is deeply inspired by the impressionistic art of Vincent Van Gogh. His diverse subject matter includes landscapes, seascapes, sports scenes, portraits of historical figures and life among the Amish.
"I've got about five different markets," he said.
Fatzinger paints about two or three days a week, then spends the remainder of it concentrating on the business end of his art, whether dealing with his printing company, revamping his website, sending submissions to national publications or direct mailing hospitals and banks that might be in the market for some fresh art for their walls.
His original works run between $400 and $500, while his prints range from $49 to $80. His paintings are also available via a line of greeting cards and calendars.
Locally, he's starting to get noticed more. About 35 of Fatzinger's paintings are on display at three Lackawanna County libraries - Albright Memorial, Library Express at the Mall at Steamtown and Taylor Community Library.
"My paintings are getting better, and I'm enjoying myself," Fatzinger said on a recent day at his apartment-studio, every room of which teems with art. "Every day is a full day. You're always involved in marketing yourself. But it's very rewarding.
"When I'm painting, I'm in another world."
A Taylor native, Fatzinger spent a good part of his childhood drawing.
In his early 20s, he moved to Washington, D.C., in pursuit of a career with an artistic bent. Eventually, he landed at the National Security Agency (NSA), spending nearly 20 years there as a graphic artist.
Meanwhile, he reveled in the art and culture available to him in D.C.
"It was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said.
In the 1970s, Fatzinger returned to Northeast Pennsylvania to be closer to his two daughters, who lived here with his ex-wife.
He worked at United Gilsonite Laboratories for a spell, then left to freelance full time. An avid golfer, he also gave private lessons to kids for six years.
While Fatzinger enjoyed the work, it bothered him to no end that he wasn't making time to paint. Finally, about five or six years ago, he retired, and his longtime dream became a reality.
Fatzinger hasn't let up since. He produces about two to three pieces a month. Most begin with a sketch or two before he commits it to canvas.
His range of subjects is impressive, and includes everything from sports figures like 1920s golfers Bobby Jones and Alexa Stirling Fraser to lighthouses and skiffs along the Maine coast to portraits of Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt to tranquil scenes from Crystal Lake and Lake Wallenpaupack.
His many Amish paintings are inspired by the photographs he takes during his twice-a-year trips to Lancaster. (His ethnicity is Pennsylvania Dutch.)
And he's always learning, reading up to two books a week on the lives and art of the greats, be it Van Gogh, Winslow Homer, Rembrandt or the Wyeths.
Fatzinger describes his own personal style as "tight enough, but I keep it loose."
Along with exercise and his three-times-daily vegetable shakes, Fatzinger believes his art is a big reason for his continued good health.
"When you're retired, you don't just want to sit home watching TV, or go to the bar and drink," he said. "Never ... (give up) on the dreams you have, even if you're older."
Information from: The Times-Tribune, http://thetimes-tribune.com/