By Bonnie Gangelhoff
There was a time when Utah landscape painter Morgan Coleman dreamed about becoming a doctor. His mother wanted one in the family, he says, and he was only too happy to oblige, albeit temporarily. In college at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, he immersed himself in biology classes. It was about that time, however, that a friend demonstrated for him the many capabilities of an Iris printer—a large-format color inkjet printer known for its highly accurate prints, commonly called gicleés. Coleman was hooked. In 1994 he started a digital printmaking business in his basement and became one of the first gicleé printers in the country. The business flourished over the years, and at one time he had 10 employees working for him.
During college, in addition to biology, Coleman also studied etching and oil painting. In his spare time away from his printmaking business, he eventually began to paint again. The decision to return to his art came about quite serendipitously, he recalls. One day in 2002, his wife, Char, was rummaging through a closet and spotted two of his old paintings—one was a depiction of a wild rabbit, and the other was of a fisherman’s catch. Impressed, she asked him, “Why aren’t you painting for a living?”
Coleman remembers that her question was the catalyst that spurred him on to pursue fine art once again. It wasn’t long before he was invited to a show in Salt Lake City, where he sold his first painting. “After that I just started selling paintings as fast as I could paint them,” Coleman says.
In 2008 he sold the printmaking business, and today he pursues fine art on a full-time basis. In addition to the education he received in his art classes, Coleman learned a great deal about the life of an artist from his own family. He regularly observed his father, well-known painter Michael Coleman, at the easel. His younger brother Nicholas is also a painter and carrying on the family tradition.
Many of Coleman’s evocative paintings, such as AFTERNOON PASTURE shown above, feature the western landscapes of Utah and Wyoming—the meadows, valleys, streams, and forests where he has lived most of his life. When going out on location, he always packs a camera to capture eye-catching scenes that he will use later as reference material (in some cases recently, he has also used the camera on his iPhone to snap images).
While on location he looks for very specific subject matter: “I love the quiet landscapes. The peacefulness speaks to me,” Coleman says. “I tend to prefer scenes where there is not much hint of human influences. I like painting gnarly tress and interesting mosses as well as fences and backcountry roads.”
On occasion he still asks his father for advice, and he still watches how he paints trees, rocks, and clouds, Coleman says. Although he has a looser style than his father, he continues to learn from him. “I’m always trying to make a better painting,” he says. “If it pleases me and feels good to me and makes me happy, and it’s something I like to look at, that’s what I am after.”
Legacy Gallery, Jackson, WY, and Scottsdale, AZ; Montana Trails Gallery, Bozeman, MT; Williams Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT; Big Horn Gallery, Cody, WY; The Churchill Gallery, Newburyport, MA; www.morgancoleman.com.
Two-person show with Chad Poppleton, Legacy Gallery, Jackson, WY, July 15-25.
Featured in July 2010