coles’s portfolio includes a miniature watercolor self-portrait (above)
he painted ten years ago in Florence, Italy, in the style of Piero della
Francesca. In addition to decorative painting and murals, Coles’s career
involves portraits of dogs and houses (facing page, left). Sketches and
tools cover his studio work spaces (facing page, right).
Trained as a classical artist, Coles is also
a decorative painter whose brush has transformed endlessly diverse surfaces, from his
own dining room walls and ceiling to recent
skilled conservation work at Boston’s Isabella
Stewart Gardner Museum.
Though it sounds like the corny title of
an old-time B movie, Coles seems to have
been Born to Paint. A native of Manches-ter-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, where his
mother still lives, from the age of 12 he spent
summers in drawing classes under the tutelage of renowned sculptor and teacher George
Demetrios, who was a star in the Lanesville
artists’ colony in nearby Gloucester, Massachusetts. “Learn to draw first; it is the backbone of painting,” expounded the teacher,
while he himself worked in bronze.
Always aware that serious art is a precarious professional endeavor, Coles tried to
be pragmatic, majoring in political science
and minoring in art at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. But a
postgraduate year in Florence, Italy, where
he studied watercolor sketching, made him
realize he wanted to spend his life making art.
Back in Massachusetts, his first job as
a janitor at the Boston Center for the Arts