Don Berry Illustration logo


An Artist's Journey

bio index....................previous chapter


Chapter 8: Expanding Home and Work


While teaching and freelancing in the spring of 1983, I continued remodeling and painting. The next project was to build a loft structure over the living room to serve as a skylight and to provide a cozy sleeping space. I had long admired Bucky Fuller's ideas and decided to use one of his favorite geometric forms, the cube octahedron, that I found in one of his books.

This is the framing I devised for the three squares and four equilateral triangles that comprise the sides and top of the structure. The edge length is 6'.

The frame was sheathed with salvage lumber and capped with a wind turbine that Dan Castelan rescued from The Splinter Brother's Warehouse, a former art collective that he belonged to. I subdivided the three triangular openings for easier glazing. This window faces north.

Dan built an adobe archway on the path to the casita. The people at the building permit office described the six-sided loft as "an octagonal bay window". They didn't have a category for what I had designed.


The exterior of the loft was stuccoed.

The interior was insulated and eventually finished with redwood strips. Stained glass inserts were later added to the smaller triangular section on top where the turbine sits.

A parrot appears at certain times of the year.

This is the living room area under the loft as it was configured then, and a painting from that period.

The carport was converted to a painting studio.

Examples of paintings from 1979 into the mid-80's. Many more were painted over, given away or, once in a great while, I sold one.


Over the next few years I developed a relationship with the Wettstein/Bolchalk advertising agency. They were one of the best and busiest in town and became a steady source of freelance assignments through the mid-80s. They also hired me to sit in as guest artist/designer when people were on vacation or when they were particularly busy.

Here I am at the Wettstein agency serving as guest artist.

These are examples of typical work for for Wettstein Advertising in the early 80s.


On the home front, I pondered creating a studio space between the front and back houses. I built models to work out design ideas and determine what materials and expense would be involved.

This balsa wood model explored the idea of using a barrel vault and partial dome for the roof of a studio space. The structure would be attached to the back house, replacing the carport.

This model was adapted from hexadome homes designed and built by Gene Hopster. It would sit on a 24' diameter circle and be 13' high at it's peak.

The gray lines represent frame members on 2' centers. The 24 identical triangle sections would have an edge length of 6'.



I decided to eliminate cars from the yard between the front and back houses. Dan built another archway where the drive entered the yard. This defined a new use for the space.

This is the second archway. The photos are 20 years later, after much weathering. Dan used stones, mortar, and homemade adobe bricks to build it.

The view from inside the yard.

Another personal project, The Cards of Don, began with a group of simple drawings. I was stirred from sleep late one night, sat down at the kitchen counter and drew the first 15 or so in rapid succession. The remaining images came in smaller bursts over the next few days.

Like Tarot cards, these can be used for divination. Find all 47 images here.

Around this time my friends, Bruce and Kathy Stogsdill, had an idea for a board game. They called it "The Path of Life" and asked if I would make a prototype so they could further develop and market the idea. The prototype was fun to make and, like other personal projects, occupied my time during a business lull.

I designed the game to be a self-contained unit with storage space for cards and tokens in the back. It could hang on the wall as an art piece when not in use.

Early in 1985 I received a call from a local publisher, HP Books. They were seeking an artist to produce a series of line drawings for "Mums the Word" by Evelyn Abrahams, a book about a grandmother's experiences as she incorporated grandchildren into her life. I brought sample drawings into a meeting with the editors and art director, and they hired me for the job.

The cover was designed by Hazel Burton.

These are a few examples from the 40 line drawings I created for the book.

It was a rare opportunity in the Tucson market that I felt fortunate to land. Soon after this book came out, HP Books was sold and moved to new offices in California. Hopes of steady book illustration assignments left with them.


bio index.................previous chapter