Collie Coats, a resident of Richmond Heights, is 76 and art has been a part of his life for most of those years. His father helped him get an early start.
“I remember that when I was very young my dad had just painted the house white and as far as my little hands could reach I had ducks all the way around it,” Coats said. “So he started bringing me pieces of plywood, painted white, and he would get me paints. So I had that kind of material since I was a little boy.”
Coats went to Mays High School and studied at Miami Dade Community College. He has praise for his teachers and the impact they made.
“I had great teachers in high school, Mr. Hollis, Mr. Leon and Mr. Smith. Jose Leon went from Mays to become an artist at Disney in the animation department.”
When he was growing up he loved the work of classical artists like Michelangelo, and later when he was in the military he was able to see one of that artist’s best known works in person.
“I had a chance to see the Sistine Chapel [in Rome] while I was in Germany,” Coats said. “I took a trip on the weekend and it was awesome. And to think about it, they didn’t have the colors that we have now, they had to mix the paint themselves.”
He works primarily with acrylic paints now, since he became allergic to an ingredient in oil paints. His style is essentially realistic —seascapes, landscapes, occasionally still life subjects — but sometimes with a twist. His paintings have vibrant colors and a lively style that reflects life and a positive outlook.
Although he was born and raised in South Florida, principally the Perrine area, not all of his paintings are tropical.
“When I was in Germany in the military, I saw fields with snow and a little village, so those kinds of things I would paint,” he said.
He has participated in large group shows like Art Basel and has had his work on display at small exhibits like ArtSouth and recently at the Glendale Missionary Baptist Church, where his uncle, the Rev. Joseph Coats, previously served as pastor.
When Coats had to give up oil paints, he learned to paint with faster drying acrylics, developing a technique that would allow him to paint in somewhat the same way he was used to painting with oils.
“I found that if you continue to work one area at a time you can go ahead and do your sky and blend it to almost nothing at the bottom. You can go back in with those same colors later. You can cover those colors up with a little aluminum foil or something like that and they will stay wet and you can go back into it again the next day.
“Sometimes I would sit at the canvas a lot longer than normal. My back is bad now probably because I will sit 13 hours at a time sometimes. That way you get what you want.
I mix up all my colors as I go, real fast sometimes, right on the canvas and sometimes I don’t even bother about drawing anything, I just start painting.”
He did a lot of work in social services. He was the youngest youth director back in the days of the Teen Clean Program. He also worked for many years doing artwork commercially.
“I’m retired now, but I was teaching art at the Homestead Job Corps at the Air Force base for over 16 years.”
He currently is on Facebook and plans to have a website featuring his work soon. He says that his granddaughter is going to be his agent.
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