"I like to create a mood, a look - something interesting. I want people to find my work interesting to look at. An emotional reaction from the viewer: that's the end game." Dave Coleman's studio is a serene and pristine space, an ideal setting to intentionally draw visitors' attention directly to his photography and digital work on the walls.
These framed pieces are indeed compelling, with a variety of subject matter and qualities in each photograph that is not only subdued and mysterious, but can also be defined by Dave's studio name: Disparate Images.
"Disparate means unrelated. An artichoke and oranges have very little to do with one another but together, in this one image, it works. My photo collages can be summed up in this one word."
The vast majority of his work are compositions and photographs that portray landscapes or objects and are often devoid of specific faces. "I am drawn to things that have the fingerprints and evidence of human existence," said Dave, "like, man-made objects." He finds inspiration for his artwork everywhere - in TV, his travels, nature, landscapes, and oceans.
Dave has been collecting images his entire life to incorporate into his collage work. Each digital collage holds anywhere from five to eight separate images and Dave's goal is combine them seamlessly into the composition he envisions. The pool of images Dave draws from is a collection of his own photography and striking images from magazines and publications like National Geographic and ARTnews. Dave respects the original artists by only using fractions of their photographs and manipulating their work in Photoshop. Layer by layer, Dave compiles the images and arranges them into a new image, manipulating the lighting, composition, contrast, and colors. Once he is satisfied with his composition, he adds finishing painterly touches using Corel Painter. Since the mid-1990s, Dave's primary tools to create artwork have been his camera and Adobe Photoshop. When it comes to cameras, Dave has stuck to Canons, beginning with an manual FX and now using a digital S5 IS. The very first camera Dave ever used was his mom's Kodak Brownie camera.
Dave's mom provided him with dozens of coloring books and encouraged his artistic abilities throughout his childhood in Youngstown, Ohio. He fondly remembers numerous trips he and his mom took to the Butler Institute of American Art in his home town. Butler is one of the few museums in the country dedicated solely to American Art. Dave attributes these trips as the inspiration for his burgeoning creativity. On rainy days, he would look through old photo albums, inherited by his parents, of friends and family long gone. Their faces became so familiar to him they felt like his own friends, only frozen in the past. An interest in photography developed out of this fascination. He continued to explore his artistic pursuits independently until his high school introduced an art class during his senior year. With just a year of training under his belt, he continued on to college at Youngstown State University.
At the time, YSU's art department was focused on experimental abstract teaching in lieu of classic representational instruction. "The world lost one or two generations of classically-trained artists due to the fad of abstract expressionism. Andrew Wyeth never got the due he was worth," insists Dave. "Eventually, in the 1970's, the photo-realists came along and broke the trend." Focusing mainly on painting and collage work, both of which factor greatly into his work today, he did very little photography during his college education. Dave majored in Art, earned a minor in Education, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. Immediately after graduation, Dave began teaching art at Princeton Junior High School in Ohio. During this time art classes were beginning to be cut. This motivated Dave to earn a minor in General Science and teach science classes for the next eight years. Despite the slight career change, he began photographing more often and built a darkroom in which he developed his own film and made prints. He also joined the Youngstown Photographic Society where he served a term as its Vice President.
At this time, Dave's wife Candice (Candy) was the director of the Youngstown Playhouse Children's Theatre. She went on to work with the Kenley Players, a professional theatre company headquartered in Warren, Ohio, enabling Dave to photograph the famous actors and actresses performing.
Candy later earned her PhD in theatre history and the couple moved to Augusta, Georgia to begin jobs at Augusta University. "I floundered a bit, artistically, during our time in Georgia," Dave admitted. It was when they moved to the Saint Louis region in 1990 that Dave's artistic vision was reignited. Dave developed his style while teaching digital art classes at North Technical High School in Florissant, Missouri. He retired from teaching after a career spanning forty years and continues to substitute teach at North Tech.
Around the time Dave retired from teaching, the Foundry Art Centre held a Studio Jury for vacant studios. Not a fan of the art fair scene, he was attracted by the possibility of having a storefront to sell his prints and a space to work out of. He submitted his work and was accepted in July of 2014.
Dave has certainly earned a space of his own to create artwork in after a lifetime of teaching. His advice to students whom wish to be professional artists is rooted in staunch realism. "Have a day job that pays the bills. It can be something you still enjoy but the nature of the beast [of art] is this: the art collectors are looking for the newest thing. The art world is fickle, so always have a back-up plan." Dave's advice may seem heavy, but the weight is supported by substance and experience.
"Art is often a solitary endeavor," continued Dave. "Having artists around is a luxury. It's so nice to have artistic people around to share ideas with and bounce ideas off of." Another facet of the Foundry Art Centre that Dave enjoys is the absence of competition among the FAC Studio Artists. "Everybody supports everybody. We have a good administration, as well, who are pushing forward with new ideas. The Foundry has a good class of galleries, shows, classes, and more. It's about art and for art."
"I'm currently creating some pieces based on photos from my recent trip to Palm Coast, Florida. At the same time, I'm incorporating them into the images I plan to enter in the Humankind exhibition." Dave is in his studio often throughout the week and prints his artwork in-house to sell in his studio and in the Foundry Gift Shop.
Studio Images & Article by Jillian Schoettle.