Jeff Coldren has been a computer programmer, publisher, insurance salesman and roofer. And now, he’s a painter too. It’s been a long winding road to reach this point in his new career that involves a scary clown, impulse buying on Craig’s List, and trial-and-error with different techniques and finishes.

In order, then:

  • The Scary Clown: “My grandmother painted, mostly landscapes, and she was pretty good. But for some reason, she painted a clown picture for a friend’s child and it was … not right,” Coldren said. “For the last 30 years, my mother and I have been surprising each other by hanging it in each other’s homes when we come to visit.”
  • The Craig’s List Buy: “Do you ever just go on Facebook and look at everything for sale? Me too,” Coldren said. He said he found a sale of paint supplies that were dirt-cheap. Turns out the woman was selling all of her husband’s things after he confessed to a lurid affair in pre-op. Later she would learn he had also cleaned out all their savings, hence the sale. “I ended up renting a U-haul to get it all back.”
  • The Trial and Error: “I painted this barracuda on a six-foot canvas. It was nice. I was content,” he said. He wanted to seal his creation and sought some advice that turned out to be bad. “The protectant I used crackled the painting.” He’s gone on to paint it four more times but said he doesn’t like the result. “Now I’m trying just the head. That’s turning out pretty well.”

Coldren’s first attempt at art was over the summer. He started with a simple logo design for his business — Sunshine Quality Roofing. Then a self portrait. Then some landscapes. Mostly, though, his art has a marine theme.

“I like to paddleboard and I have two GoPro’s set on a time lapse. Most of the images are repeats, but every once in a while I get something that I can use,” Coldren said. From there, he sketches it out or brings the image up on a larger screen to get the right perspective.

Most of his marine paintings have a very unique focus and look as if the viewer were underwater, too, viewing the turtle or spearfisherman, with a naked eye. The paintings’ “pixels” are somehow exaggerated, yet the overall work still retains interesting detail.

His grandmother notwithstanding, Coldren’s talent is native. He’s never taken an art class, although he does occasionally call on fellow artists for advice about particular techniques.

Coldren paints with acrylics on frames he stretches himself — “I get to tie in my carpentry and construction skills” — and most are oversized. (Remember he has all those Craig’s List supplies to work his way through.)

He said he doesn’t consider himself a full-fledged artist. And yet, he has already sold one canvas for a considerable amount of money. Plus, he plans to exhibit his work at a vendor booth during the Craft Beer and Bubbly Fest on Saturday, Dec. 27 in Marathon.

“I can’t keep them all. They are stacked seven deep in front of my fireplace and I already throw away the ones I don’t like. I have to find them good homes,” Coldren said. “This is therapy, and it’s also fun.”

Coldren first came to the Middle Keys in 1984. After a four- or five-year stay, he moved back up North before returning in 1995 to open Sunshine Quality Roofing. He has two children — a daughter at University of Central Florida and a son who is a senior at Marathon High School.

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