stephen coates watercolors


Artist’s Biography

The experience that first led me to consider art as a career was a college class in watercolor landscape painting. My fellow students and I painted outdoors in a beautiful setting along the Mississippi River. Several years after completing my B.A. in fine arts, I attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, where I had various studio experiences. I worked in other media for 15 years, and then returned to plein air painting in watercolors. I have focused exclusively on watercolor painting for the past 20 years.

Although I received all my formal training in watercolor painting from James Green, an American painter whose early work is identified with the California school of watercolors, I model my own work principally on the British painters of the nineteenth century. Among the British practitioners I most admire are J. M. W. Turner, Samuel Palmer, and Peter De Wint. Winslow Homer is the single American watercolorist whose work I have studied closely, and, as I learned in the 2008 Homer show at the Art Institute of Chicago, he learned many of his techniques in England.

With the aid of equipment of my own design, I have painted in all kinds of weather, snow and rain included. I find much of my subject matter close to home along the shore of Lake Michigan and in the parks along the Fox and DuPage rivers. Excursions farther afield have taken me to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Nantucket, and Texas.

These days, I no longer take painting equipment into the field; I take my camera and a sketchbook to record the scene. I paint entirely in my studio. I find that this new approach enables me to paint more complicated subjects, with better results, though I do not think I could have worked in this fashion without my experience painting outdoors.



Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Principia College, Elsah, Illinois, 1970

Studied printmaking and painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1973–1977



Several group shows at the Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago, 1981–82

Group show of emerging artists, Chicago Cultural Center, 1984

Three-artist show, Peter Jones Gallery, Chicago, 1995

One-person show, Cliff Dwellers Arts Club, Chicago, 1996

One-person show, Fine Arts Building Gallery, Chicago, 1998

One-person show, New Moon Gallery, Benton Harbor, Michigan, 1999

Group show, Byron Roche Gallery, Chicago, 2004

One-person show, Main Street Gallery – Atelier, Evanston, Illinois, 2009

Two-person show, Open Books, Chicago, 2011

One-person show, Capitol Lakes, Madison, Wisconsin, 2013