When he first started out, artist Patrick Coffaro wouldn’t think of using bright colors. “I did a lot of nature,” he said. “Weeds. Thistles. Stuff like that. Basically, it was all earth tones.”
Now, the East Valley painter is known as a master colorist of Southwest landscape, using bold and bright colors to illustrate the desert.
“So many of the homes are done in beige or white or taupe or whatever, and you need a spark of color,” said Marilynn Spiegel, director of Joan Cawley Gallery in Scottsdale, where Coffaro shows his work.
Coffaro was born in Chicago, where he attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art.
He later moved to California, where he worked as a framer and cabinetmaker.
“I did that to support the habit of painting,” he said.
He started in watercolor, and eventually moved to print-making and chine-collé, a process where paper and paint are layered on a canvas to form an image.
That was when he broke out of soothing earth tones and moved on to painting the desert in vibrant colors.
“Some of his paintings seem to radiate their own light,” Spiegel said.
Coffaro said he paints several days a week for hours at a time in his Mesa home.
He built his own studio, which has windows facing his wife’s flower garden and a bird feeder that attracts parrots.
Often, he will take bike rides through the neighborhood or the nearby Superstition Mountain desert to gather inspiration for his paintings.
“I think you have to paint where you live,” he said. “If you paint where you live, you’re familiar with your surroundings. And I think you’re being more honest with it.”
Spiegel said Coffaro’s work supports the mission of the gallery, founded by Joan Cawley in 1974.
“What she wanted to do was bring Southwest art — Native American, but also Southwest — into the public’s realm,” Spiegel said of Cawley. The Joan Cawley Gallery represents living, working artists who paint Southwest Contemporary and who are well-established, Spiegel said.
Coffaro is collected internationally, she added.
“He’s a Valley treasure because he lives here,” she said.
Artist: Patrick Coffaro
Gallery: Joan Cawley Gallery, 7135 E. Main Street, Scottsdale
Medium: Print-making, chinecollé,, watercolor, bronze, oil
Other locations: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, IN, Laguna Beach Art Museum, Desert Botanical Garden
Web site: www.jcgltd.com
Note to readers
The Scottsdale Artist Spotlight is a monthly feature in the Scottsdale Tribune. Each month, the paper will profile a different local artist who shows work in the city to inform readers about the burgeoning Scottsdale arts scene. Submit an artist at www.eastvalleytribune.com/page/artist_submission