Below the Fold
01/12/2023 - 03/23/2023
Michael Coleman was born in Provo, Utah, in 1946. As a child, he spent every possible moment outdoors. When he wasn’t fishing, hunting, or trapping, he wandered around, looking at everything he could see. When he got home, he’d draw what he’d seen, not only to recapture the images but also the feelings; the whole experience.
Coleman studied art at BYU for three years before deciding that he didn’t like the way they painted, nor did they enjoy his personal style. He did, however, use the opportunity at BYU to introduce himself to those artists who appealed to him-Thomas Moran, Alfred Bierstadt-generally, 19th century members of the “Hudson School of the West.” Coleman then set out to teach himself to paint. Her credits his ability to see, honed by the years spent in the outdoors, for much of his success as a painter. He says that just looking has taught him “…more about painting than anything else.” Trying to avoid preconceived notions about how things look has allowed him to see all kinds of details, like colors as they really are; a multitude of subtle shades making up generalizations like gray the color of a deer hide.
At age of 21, Coleman had his first one-man show. Since then, Coleman has spent, and continues to spend, enormous amounts of time immersing himself in the subject matter he paints. When asked recently about whether his immense collection of wildlife and artifacts has been assembled in order to have them to look at to inspire him while he paints, or whether he paints those things because he has collected and likes them, he simply answered “yes.” Michael Coleman paints what he knows and loves.
While in the field, he may use pencil or gouache to flesh out one specific section of the drawing or to give him color ideas, then, back in the studio and using his artifacts and trophies, the ideas will be painstakingly painted, using his props for authenticity and color.
Coleman’s paintings of Native Americans, trappers, hunters, and wildlife, all evoke a similar emotion. Although the details are accurate, the view is of nature and man at peace and unified. Michael Coleman is a romantic. Throughout all his paintings, Coleman’s love for the atmospheric effects of Bierstadt and his contemporaries can be seen; you can almost feel the delicate mistiness and the pre-dawn chill or the golden warmth of the sun on an autumn day. It is probably for his ability to rekindle our senses that Michael Coleman’s work is so popular. His paintings are the distillation of all our memories of those perfect moments in the wilderness.
Although Coleman tends to shun group shows and contests, he has won awards such as the prestigious Gold Medal from the National American Wildlife Association, and he has paintings in galleries, innumerable private collections, museum exhibitions, and has been published in books and magazines.
Davis, Tom. The Art of Looking Closely: Michael Coleman. Wildlife Art News IX No. 6: 36-45. Minneapolis
A Hunter’s Sketchbook. Sports Afield Vol. 191 No. 7: 64-69 New York