For CA John Coleman, a love of art fostered in high school would have to wait decades to be fulfilled. Growing up in Manhattan Beach, Calif., he studied art during his youth while drawing celebrity portraits on the side for a syndicated columnist who frequented the hair salon where he worked. Later, after a stint illustrating parts catalogs for airlines, Coleman set aside his affinity for art to pursue a more mainstream occupation: real estate development.
In 1972, Coleman and his wife Sue moved to Prescott, Ariz., where they spent the next twenty years running a thriving business in real estate and contracting. There came a time after the wedding of his youngest daughter when Coleman felt his responsibilities shift. “I had fulfilled my financial responsibilities to my two daughters, and I had money in the bank,” he remembers. “It was like a symbolic retirement.”
At the age of 42, Coleman embarked on his second career: art. “It was like being reborn,” he says of the decision to begin sculpting. Though Coleman hadn’t done any sculpture before, he had always had a knack for working with materials. He decided to begin his work in resin, which he was familiar with from his days working in construction.
He just as quickly settled on a subject matter. “I have always talked about western art as mythology,” he explains. “Portraying Native American cultures allows me to create nice metaphors in my work.” After three years, Coleman’s wall art began getting noticed. “I decided to go mainstream and began working with bronze,” he says.
His work caught the eye of many, including CA Ray Swanson, who became Coleman’s mentor. “Before I knew it, he took me in and started showing me the ropes,” he says. Eventually, Swanson invited him to apply for membership to the CAA. The day he applied, he was asked to set up his work in the hotel boardroom where the CAA members were convened for a meeting. Coleman was asked to wait at the hotel in case any CA members had questions for him as they evaluated his work.
“After ten minutes, they called me in the room,” laughs Coleman. “Ray said to me, ‘See that empty chair? That’s yours. You’re in the group.’ That was the best, and I have never had another experience like it in my life.”
Today, nearly ten years after he joined the CAA, Coleman sculpts out of his 5,000-square-foot studio in a wooded area a few miles from his home. His studio includes a library and a gallery that collectors can visit to view his body of work, as well as the many pieces he has collected over the years. It is there that he is working on his next phase as an artist. “I’m sneaking up on the idea of doing some painting,” he reveals. Now, he is back in the classroom studying painting techniques from other artists in preparation for this new chapter in his career. “My painting needs to be at least as good as my sculpture,” he insists.
~written by Julie Wilson, JFW Communications