Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Thinking Artist

     I wanted to tell you about a conversation I had with my friend and noted sculptor John Coleman.  He was kind enough to attend my exhibition of paintings from Cow Country Cooking.  We exchanged pleasantries and moved right to the meat of the discussion.  I asked John, “What’s new?” And in his quiet, direct manner he let fly with his usual to-the-point, and concise, opinion. 
     John explained he was carefully trying to ride that line between doing what’s working, and still trying to move forward to create something new, brilliant and original.  We all know this familiar and well-traveled road.  One group says, “dance with the girl you brung”, and yet the very nature of being an artist is to push the envelope and create something that hasn’t been done.
     In effect this means ditching that girl you brung.  So here we stand staring that old conundrum directly in the face again.  Do you “play it safe” with what’s working for you?  Or do you get out of your comfort zone and push the creative process?
     I like talking to John because he is a careful thinker.  I always feel comfortable talking shop with an artist of his caliber, because John is securely rooted in the foundation of his craft.  Though I don’t sculpt, I secretly wish I could attend a workshop with John.  I know I wouldn’t make a splash as a sculptor, but I would learn fundamental concepts that I could carry over to my drawing and painting. 
     How can I be so sure?  Because I have seen John’s handiwork with drawing and it’s to be highly regarded.  The fact is you don’t sculpt at his level and not have some basics to fall back on in other media.
     If you talked with John for 5 minutes, you would no doubt come to the abrupt realization that whatever John Coleman sets his sights on artistically, it will become a success.
     Not only is John a professional success, but he is also a nice guy.  He always takes the time to talk with artists, is always approachable, and can focus his efforts to provide you with positive input.  In short, he genuinely cares about helping his fellow artists.  I get the feeling he focuses on those who take their craft seriously, and are constantly seeking to raise the bar on their own efforts.
      I enjoyed our visit, John, and thanks for the wise words. 

All images © John Coleman.  Content © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. Go for the sculpting workshop!
    What a wonderful opportunity to add new and different artistic skills to your creativity toolbox.

  2. When I saw John's photograph and read your comments on his thoughtful presence, he reminds me of our friend Brue Alford that you wrote about earlier. They both have that quiet wisdom and ability to inspire. Men like this are rare.