Jim Coston - Artist
As a painter I have been preoccupied with trying to reconcile abstraction and realism. I’m interested in the look of nature but also enjoy using paint in and of itself. Most artists know it’s impossible to copy nature so I look for nature's equivalent through basic design principles. It becomes a matter of making decisions about how real or not so real I should carry out the picture according to my initial idea. As a result I have gone through periods of exploration from the traditional portrait to the purely abstract. I've found that for me, abstraction is basic picture making principles and that for a painting to be successful it must have this visual impact.

My present work is mostly about painting landscapes and subjects that convey the effects of sunlight and color. I find it challenging to try and push the limits of deep space in the traditional method while at the same time painting for the sake of painting, emphasizing the formal elements of the two dimensional surface; shape, values, line, color, edges and paint quality. The success of a painting is largely due to these elements. Of course in the end a painting must convey a feeling for what it is I'm trying to say. I believe it is through these formal elements if put together right that are mostly responsible for that feeling.

My formal training was under Richard Lack (1928-2009) at the Atelier Lack School of Fine Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1977-1981. The Atelier provided a foundation in the art of drawing and painting. Here we learned to "see" nature. By that I mean to paint objects and scenes with a breadth of vision that would result in a work of art. The success of this depends on the quality of seeing on the artist's part. That of judging edges, values, colors, and shapes and then put together into a harmonious whole. The art of seeing can challenge most any artist for a life time.

This is accomplished in the atelier system through the drawing and painting of plaster casts from antiquity, figure drawing from the live model, still life, portraits and interiors with the figure. Spending many hours of close study and observation, the student would also study anatomy, design, color theory, perspective and practice visual memory exercises. Several traditional ateliers for painting that are now in the U.S. are a result of Richard Lacks teaching either through students that have handed down information by opening Ateliers of their own or through some direct contact with the school and Richard Lack. In addition R.H. Ives Gammell (1893-1981) was Richard Lacks teacher and was influential in helping to pass along traditional painting ideas and techniques from the Boston School of painting and the 19th century academies.