Artists’ Studios | Nicholas Coleman

Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Nick Sokoloff

Describe your studio. I built my house and studio about five years ago. I wanted the studio to have an old English feel to it or to have the feel of some of the old ateliers and studios in Paris, London, and New York. So my studio is really a throwback to earlier times. My dad helped me with a floor plan and helped to make sure the windows faced north. We antiqued the wood and made worm holes. There’s a rich patina on everything. I have vaulted ceilings and big beams with handmade wooden pegs. My idea was that things would be handmade and craftsmanship taken seriously, like in earlier times.

What do you enjoy most about the studio? It’s a nice, quiet place to work, and, if I need to relax or find reference material, I have a place to be able to think. I have lots of books here. I have art books and books about illustrators, like N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell, as well as wildlife reference books.

Describe the physical surroundings. I live and work in the foothills of Squaw Peak in the Wasatch Mountains. Up the hill from here there are pine trees and aspen trees. Every morning, 30 or 40 quail march down the hillside and then go back up at night. Deer wander by 
every now and then, and there is a fox up there somewhere. The fox is a rarer visitor.

Does the environment inspire you? Yes. I grew up here in Provo, and now I live in the foothills. I paint the great rivers, canyons, and the mountains behind us. Early in the morning, when I was growing up, my father and I would walk around the area, and we would see nice big cottonwood trees. Sometimes we would go fishing and trapping. He would often point out the river bottoms and the early morning light. I grew up loving everything my dad pointed out. And I now do my own take on it in my art.

Your father, Michael, and your brother Morgan are artists. Do you talk about art and critique each other’s work? We definitely commiserate. We live only a few minutes away from each other. Every once in a while we do a friendly critique. Most of the time we wait until one of us asks. But if something is blaringly obvious, we will say something. We go to shows together, if it’s a local one. Even if one of us isn’t in a show, we will go because we want to look around. We all love going to museums. One of my favorites is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. My first memory of a museum was going with my father to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, when I was about 8 years old. I remember seeing a big Winslow Homer painting.

Are there any other artists in the family? Morgan’s daughter, Sarah, has just started painting, and she is better than all of us. We give her books, and she slowly dissects them. She is only 16, but she has a lot of enthusiasm, a love of art, and a great work ethic.

How do you describe your subject matter and style? My style is realistic but with an impressionistic feel to it because I don’t paint every hair. There is a looseness to my work. And my subject matter is tied to my love of natural history and the West.

What do you keep in your studio? Books; 
photographs of landscapes, animals, and my family; and my beadwork collection, which consists of moccasins, knife cases, and pipe bags.

Do you have other artists’ paintings in the studio? I have works by E.I. Couse, Dean Cornwell, and Frank Tenney Johnson. And I also have a painting by R. Tom Gilleon; one of my little boy, Henrik, by Jeremy Lipking; and a painting by Ray Harris Ching.

What impresses you about other artists’ works? Their draftsmanship, the way they capture the light, and the way they build texture with paint.

Describe yourself in one word. Driven.

If your studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? I would save my Couse painting and some 19th-century Sioux and Cheyenne moccasins, because they are near the painting.

Where is the one place people will never find you? A bar.

When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing? Being with my family. I enjoy painting, so, even if I am fishing, I have a sketchbook and camera with me.

Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY, and Scottsdale, AZ; J.N. Bartfield Galleries, New York, NY; Valley Fine Art, Aspen, CO; Altermann Galleries, Santa Fe, NM;

Featured in January 2012.