Michael Coleman’s sculptures influence his approach with painting
Works on display at Hoffman Fine Art
April 28, 2017
Don Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, remembers when he first met Provo-based painter and sculptor Michael Coleman 45 years ago.
"My sister and I had a gallery called Lido in Provo, and a man came in with one of Michael's paintings that he wanted to sell," Hoffman told The Park Record. "I was new at selling art and put it in the window."
A few days later, Coleman stopped by the gallery.
"He told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn't sell his painting," Hoffman said with a laugh. "He didn't want just anyone carrying his work, even if it was on the secondary market."
These days, Coleman has no qualms about Hoffman selling his works, and Hoffman enjoys seeing what Coleman can create.
The public can see some of Coleman’s sculptures and paintings at Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, 4207 N. Forestdale Drive.
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"Michael is a stickler for detail, and I remember visiting him in his studio," Hoffman said. "His paintings were at one end and his sculptures were at the other. He was working on a painting, but kept looking at this bear sculpture. I knew there was something bothering him about it. Finally, he stopped painting, walked over to the sculpture and ripped the head off."
Coleman, whose works have been exhibited at the National Academy of Western Art, began sculpting a few years after he had established himself as a painter.
"I loved looking at sculptures so, I thought I'd like to try it," Coleman said.
His first was a clay bear he created when he and his wife Jackie were first married.
"I made the model out of clay when we lived in a little apartment," he said. "When we moved, the sculpture got banged around, so I eventually had it cast."
Over the years, Coleman started sculpting more animals, but it took a little time for the sculptures to catch on like his paintings.
"I kept doing it because I loved it," he said.
The big difference between painting and sculpting are the dimensions.
"Working with three-dimensions has helped me look more closely at the subjects, and that has helped my paintings a lot," Coleman said. "I have to look more at the anatomy."
Coleman remembered working on a rhino sculpture years ago.
"This was funny because I wondered where its [reproductive organs] were located," Coleman said with a laugh. "When I paint a rhino, I didn't need to know that kind of stuff, but if I'm sculpting something, it helps if I do, especially if I want to be accurate."
Coleman called Hogle Zoo and they referred him to their veterinarian, who wasn't in at the time.
"I was able to track him down and he started laughing at me," Coleman said. "Eventually, I got the information from him, but that shows how much information you do need for a bronze."
Coleman, who grew up fishing, trapping and hunting in the Provo mountains, said he learned to pay more attention to animal physiology.
"I've been to Africa and different places and I like to look at the muscles and the make up of different animals, because it's the stuff you need to know," he said. "It's part of the whole process."
Coleman creates miniature and life-sized sculptures, such as the moose that stands outside of Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art.
"While they are both hard to do, the big ones are most difficult, because the detail is magnified on the pieces," he said. "That moose at Don's is life size and I can't tell you how many times I had to climb up and down the ladder to do it."
The moose, however, isn't the most difficult sculpture Coleman has ever created.
"The trickiest one was a life-sized grizzly that sits on a beaver dam called 'Who's on the Roof?,'" he said. "Getting the fur textures right nearly drove me nuts, because it looked one way in clay and then another way in bronze. But as far as the overall form, the silhouette and muscle tones, it turned out really well."
Coleman, who has been drawing and painting since he was 8, said the hardest part of sculpting and painting is knowing when a work is finished.
"You have to keep working on them until it feels about right," he said. "But a lot of times when you have deadlines, so you don't have the luxury of putting things aside and going back to them later. But when you can do that, that's the best way to tell when a work is done.
"You can go back to it and see what has been done and what needs to be done. I mean, you can beat anything to death, that's for sure."
While selling a piece is always nice for Coleman, he gets more joy out of seeing something that was in his mind become a reality.
"I think any painter or sculptor likes it when things work out," he said. "If someone buys something, sure, that's great, but to see how something comes together in a painting or sculpture is great.
"I've ruined a lot of sculptures because something didn't work out, but when it does work out, wow."
The paintings and sculptures of Michael Coleman are on exhibit at Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, 4207 N. Forestdale Drive, Unit B. For information, visit http://www.hoffmansfineart.com. For information about Michael Coleman, visit http://www.colemanart.com.