What I’ll be teaching? I will be teaching technique and materials for painting in oils. The emphasis will be on plein air painting, with the goal of using on-location studies as reference for studio work. Painting the landscape from life will add authenticity and true light and color to your studio canvases. Weather-permitting, we will head out into the beautiful Texas Hill Country for days 1 and 2 of the workshop. On days 3 and 4, we’ll work outside in the mornings and return to campus for afternoon studio sessions.
Jim Coe is an artist with a passion for birds, nature, old barns, and relics of our rural heritage.
Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, he was fascinated early on by the egrets and shorebirds he noticed in nearby salt marshes, and he taught himself to identify the birds he spotted around town. He began to paint as a teen when he and a friend set out to compile a guide to the local birds.
Jim went on to Harvard, where he earned a degree in biology (with the goal of becoming an ornithologist), but received little formal training in art until he attended Parson’s School of Design in New York as a graduate student. There he studied in a traditional atelier setting, working primarily from the figure and still life, under the guidance of painters Paul Resika, Leland Bell, and John Heliker.
Immediately after earning his master’s degree at Parson’s Jim shifted gears and immersed himself in the art of field guide illustration. He contributed work to several books, including the recently reissued Easy Bird Guide: West, and Birds of New Guinea, and to Frank Gill’s classic college textbook Ornithology. But he is best known as the author and illustrator of the acclaimed Golden Field Guide Eastern Birds, first published in 1994, and reissued in 2001 by St. Martin’s Press.
Finally, after more than fifteen years of painting nothing but bird identification plates—each carefully rendered in watercolor and gouache—Jim stepped back across the divide into the world of ‘fine’ art, and he turned his attention to painting landscapes in plein air. For motifs, he zeroed-in on the hills and streams, farms, and historic barns of the Hudson Valley region where he lived. He found that many of the skills needed to capture the fleeting light and dynamic conditions of the landscape are analogous to those he had previously developed for sketching an active bird as it foraged or preened. Both rely on careful observation, practiced visual memory, speed, and instinct. But the vigor and physical energy that it takes to dash a quick field study in oil paints were new to Jim’s work at that time, and they clearly helped shape his approach to painting.
Today, Jim’s studio work is essentially a synthesis of the two genres: his paintings combine his passion for landscape with a finely detailed knowledge of natural history. In his recent canvases, he integrates birds into his landscapes, while striving still to maintain the freshness and vigorous brushwork of a plein air study. The chosen bird is usually one that Jim heard or observed while working on location. But the bird is not simply pasted into the scene for illustrative or narrative purposes; instead, Jim’s goal is to introduce an element of movement, color, or interest to the landscape. He hopes to evoke the poetic quality of birdwatching: that magical moment when bird, environment, and atmosphere merge into one memorable image. Kathy Foley, director of the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI has described Jim’s recent canvases as being “ethereal, moody, and sensitive all at once.”
Jim is a Signature Member of the prestigious Oil Painters of America, as well as the American Impressionist Society and Society of Animal Artists. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Animal Artists Jim currently serves as the Jury Chair and oversees the selection of the SAA’s annual exhibition. For more than 30 years he has been a regular exhibitor in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s prestigious “Birds in Art” annual and in 2011 was recognized as the Museum’s 32nd Master Wildlife Artist.