The most common misconception about the Disney Corporation is that, given the nature of the work, every day on the job must be “entertaining.” The truth of the matter is that when your mission is providing entertainment 365 days each year through a variety of media, there is no such thing as a holiday. The folks at Disney work incredibly hard to achieve that “carefree spirit.” It is extraordinarily hard to continuously be fresh and alluring year in and year out, especially for loyal patrons who return time and again to the theme parks or the theatres, expecting a high-caliber experience. James Coleman has been steeped in the Disney culture, living a Cinderella story that mirrors the rags to riches theme which is so beloved of our cherished Disney classics.
Though born in Hollywood, James did not seek the limelight of acting nor did his agility drive him in the direction of stunt work. Another famous fellow started small at Disney but grew to be larger than life in some respects. Steve Martin got his start at Disney first selling guidebooks and then on stage performing magic tricks. However, that wasn’t the desire of or the destiny for James Coleman. The more you get to know him, you come to understand his deeply spiritual nature and his humble approach to life. Quite content to remain in the background rather than in the “it’s all about me” spotlight, James literally started his Disney career in the mailroom. While sorting and delivering the packages and correspondence, Coleman continued to nurse an avocation for fine art and film. Chancing to enter one of his paintings in Disney’s periodic art shows held on the studio grounds, James soon received encouragement from the Disney staff. It was extremely fitting that James found his niche working on the backgrounds of major animation film projects.
Animation in the 1970’s doesn’t resemble the hyper-digital environment of today. The bulk of Coleman’s career with Disney took place when hand-painted cels were still in use. James’s creative “fingerprints” can be found on a long list of Disney favorites, beginning with that “willy, nilly, silly old bear” and concluding with two lovely young ladies, one who lived under the sea and one who loved a veritable beast. The final movie, one on which James worked, to be released in the “hand painted cel” era at Disney was The Little Mermaid. Starting with The Rescuers Down Under, Disney made a switch to a system they called CAPS which utilized a combination of hand drawing and digital colorization according to the website “tested.com”. As such, during the final two years of his illustrious Disney career, James proved that he could “change with the times” byshifting from the “cel” process into the CAPS method. Simultaneously, however, his muse was calling him to give up the corporate office and engage with his true calling. After more than two decades sharing his talents with a worldwide audience through film, James took the plunge and devoted himself full time to his passion.
Though Coleman favors traditional materials, his work is very non-traditional. Whether you visit galleries in the Far East or closer to home, his work is highly sought after. Perhaps his ability to capture light, that most elusive of prey for artists worldwide, draws you in or maybe you are mesmerized by his signature treatment of captivating images of nature. Many, however, find Coleman’s spiritual devotion to be most compelling. In a recent discussion with Christian interviewer Hilary Carr as published on “theevidence.org” website, Coleman clarified his faith-based approach. He views himself in a partnership with God, seeking to create more than “just…a pretty painting.” He went on to say that the creative process may at first be a function of executing a methodology but at some point it shifts so “that part of your heart and soul become the most important element in a painting” and that’s because “we are made in the image of God and He is part of us and we're part of Him.” His frank revelation of his spiritual connection to God as he paints enhances our understanding of his work.
James recognizes that his gifts and those of his artistic peers are all the blessings of God. This positive attitude and abiding love for the Lord envelops his paintings adding both meaning and mystery to his impressionistic work. Though James has come a long way in the twenty years since his retirement from Disney, in some ways it is as if his body of work has come full circle, rotating 360 degrees, in that he still paints with the vigor and dedication of the Disney work ethic, opening up windows into imaginative landscapes. To risk the use of a colloquial phrase, James helps us to discover “It’s a small world after all.” Join us at FineArt360 as we proudly represent the work of James Coleman.