Nathaniel David ‘Nat’ Coalson (born 1970) is an American visual artist, designer and entrepreneur. He has worked professionally in the visual arts since 1987 and is known for his work in fine art photography, abstract mixed media and graphic design. Coalson’s work has been exhibited internationally and is held in private and corporate collections. He is a published author with several photography books in worldwide distribution and is also a teacher, public speaker and presenter, business consultant and mentor. Originally from Colorado, USA and also living in England since 2012, Coalson owns and operates fine art businesses based in the USA and UK with an emphasis on hospitality design.
Nathaniel David Coalson was born 1970 in Wyoming, USA to Edward and Gail Coalson. He has three younger siblings: brother Samuel and sisters Elizabeth and Margaret. The Coalson family moved to Denver, Colorado in 1972, where Coalson lived throughout his youth.
Coalson’s parents encouraged his interest in art and music, which he developed at a young age. As a child, he also studied drawing in pencil, charcoal and pen-and-ink. At age 10 he received his first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 110, and began practicing photography.
Coalson attended Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In 1987, while still in high school, Coalson worked at a local print shop as a graphic artist and printing press operator. This provided his first experience with desktop publishing, using early Macintosh computers, and established the direction for his career in the visual arts.
Throughout his childhood, the Coalson family traveled extensively to cities and natural areas across the United States, often camping in the wilderness. This instilled in Coalson a strong interest in travel and exploration, which as an adult would contribute to his professional travel photography.
In 1992 Coalson joined a group of friends for a backpacking trip through Yosemite National Park, California. Having been familiar with the work of renowned nature photographer Ansel Adams, it was during this trip that Coalson’s love of photography was renewed as he made black-and-white photographs of the landscape.
By age 24, Coalson became Prepress Manager at Monterey Graphics, a digital prepress service bureau in Los Angeles. His responsibilities included producing graphic layouts, drum scans, film separations and contract color proofs for commercial publishing clients. In addition to digital graphics, during this time Coalson also practiced airbrush illustration, mixed media sculpture and life drawing. During the mid-1990s, Coalson developed an interest in 3D computer animation and special effects for motion pictures, which he studied at Silicon Studio/LA in Hollywood.
Coalson moved back to Denver in 1996. Along with his continued work in graphic design and digital illustration, Coalson began designing websites and interactive media. He studied multimedia at Art Institute of Colorado and in 1998 formed Mindlight Media Design, Inc. with his sister, Elizabeth. Together with his staff of designers, Coalson’s work with Mindlight earned various industry awards and won contracts with corporate clients.
In 2003, the end of the internet boom and subsequent downturn in web development business resulted in the closure of Mindlight and its subsidiary, Stark Raving Media. Coalson shifted his attention away from web design to begin his career as an independent fine art photographer. In 2003 Coalson began photographing with a Canon 10D digital SLR; in the following year he began making fine art prints with a large format Epson printer. In December 2004 Coalson held the first public exhibition of his photography at the Aspen Park Art & Frame shop in Conifer, Colorado.
From 2005 to 2009, Coalson owned and operated Coalson Editions, a fine art digital printmaking service for photographers and artists. He worked for KD Moore Gallery in Evergreen, Colorado in 2005 and was trained by a master framer in conservation art framing methods.
Coalson has said that his work has been influenced and informed by artists, photographers and writers including Galen Rowell, Ansel Adams, Freeman Patterson, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko and Claude Monet. Coalson has also developed his photographic body of work learning from respected photographers including John Paul Caponigro, Tony Sweet, William Neill and G. Brad Lewis.
Coalson’s work in photographic abstraction began in 2003. Drawing upon his background in graphic design, Coalson creates abstract photographs based purely on shape, texture and color with an emphasis on eliminating representational elements from his pictures. During this time Coalson also began experimenting with mixed media works, made by printing photos on canvas and subsequently painting over the prints with acrylic paints.
In 2007, Coalson wrote, “I like to make photographs that look like they could be made in some other medium. In this sense, the medium itself is not important, only the final image is.”
Mixed media process
Coalson combines abstract photography with his expertise in graphic design, digital imaging and printing. He often uses exotic materials and experimental methods to create his finished works. Coalson’s abstract mixed media artworks originate as digital photographs. The images are printed on canvas and painted over by hand with acrylic paint, transparent gels and texturing mediums. Some of these contain synthetic fibers, lava flakes, suspended glass beads or other materials.
Fine art travel photography
Coalson creates photographs of travel, scenic and nature subjects in color and black-and-white. He has worked in many international locations including China, New Zealand, Europe, Scandinavia and many areas of the USA.
Coalson’s travel-based photographs are reproduced as fine art on a wide variety of materials including fine art papers, metal and acrylic panels, fabric and glass.
In 2014 a photograph by Coalson of the Yorkshire Dales, England was featured in a UK national television advertisement for Asda supermarkets.
Art exhibitions and representation
Coalson began exhibiting his art in 2004 and has since has exhibited regularly. As of July 2014 he has participated in 27 exhibitions including five solo shows and three invitational shows.
Coalson’s first major solo exhibition An Intimate Look at Nature was held July-September 2011 at Denver Photo Art Gallery, owned by nature photographer John Fielder. Denver’s 5280 Magazine said of the show, “[Nat] manages to capture just the right amount of light in his images, drawing the viewer in to the surreal behavior of elements in nature.”
In 2013 Coalson entered into a collaboration with Graphic Encounter, a Colorado-based art consultancy providing art to hotels throughout North America and the world. As of July 2014, Coalson’s abstract photography is also represented internationally by HG Arts based in Orlando, Florida and DAC Art Consulting in Atlanta, Georgia.
In November 2013, Coalson self-produced Ignes Fatui, a solo exhibition of 18 large abstract, mixed media works on canvas at Pedestrian Gallery in Leicester, England. The opening reception for the show was held at the Belmont Hotel, also in Leicester.
International art business
Coalson has owned and managed six creative businesses since 1998. His current commercial art company in the United States is Nat Coalson LLC, registered in Colorado.
In 2011, Coalson’s specialization in the hospitality sector increased and he began studying interior design that year. Coalson collaborates with interior designers to create custom artwork for private residences and commercial projects such as hospitality properties, healthcare facilities and corporate offices.
In 2012, Coalson established Nat Coalson Ltd, a limited company registered in the United Kingdom, and serves as its Director.
Coalson has been a member and director of many industry trade associations throughout his career. He is a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) since 2009. In 2013, Coalson became a member of the Royal Photographic Society in the UK. He is also actively involved with NEWH, the hospitality industry network, and as of July 2014 serves on the United Kingdom chapter’s Board of Directors as Publications Chair.
Clients and commissions
Coalson’s art is held in private and corporate collections and in commercial installations around the world. He has also produced numerous design and media projects for international clients.
In 2011 Coalson was commissioned by Clear Channel Outdoor to create large format photographic prints for its headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. Ron Cooper, former CEO of Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, stated “Nat delivered a creative and clever interpretation of our ‘product’ that is now an integral part of the new corporate office decor.”
In 2012 a single private collector in the US purchased ten fine art prints of Coalson’s nature photographs.
Some of Coalson’s other notable clients and collectors have included American Airlines, Archstone-Smith, Colorado Ski Country USA, Coors Brewing Company, Denver Broncos, Diners Club, Italian Institute, MacMall, McGraw-Hill, Shaquille O’Neal, Wind Creek Casino and Vecta Oil & Gas.
Books and publications
Coalson is the author of a series of instructional books on Adobe photography software, Lightroom: Streamlining Your Digital Photography Process. Four editions written by Coalson were published by Wiley between 2009 and 2013 and distributed worldwide. (The version for Lightroom 5 was co-authored by Rob Sylvan.)
Wiley also published Coalson’s book Nature Photography Photo Workshop in 2011. A review by Scott Bourne on PhotoFocus.com said, “Nat tells you everything you need to consider from ethics to gear, to composition, to planning to execution.”
In 2012 Coalson self-published the book Astratto Uno featuring his abstract photographs.
Teaching and mentoring
Coalson has taught classes, workshops and private instruction in various aspects of photography, digital imaging and fine art printing. He has taught Adobe Lightroom since 2006. Photographic design and composition is another of his areas of specialization.
Coalson has been invited to teach, speak and present at art and photography venues including the University of Denver, Art Academy of Cincinnati, Colorado Photography Festival, Moab Photo Symposium, Boulder Digital Arts, Illuminate Workshops and Colorado Photographic Arts Center (formerly Working with Artists).
Coalson taught classes on digital photography and imaging workflow at the 2010 annual convention of the Vermont Professional Photographers. He gave a keynote presentation on nature photography for the 2011 Professional Photographers of Massachusetts annual convention.
In 2011 Coalson was a keynote presenter and lead instructor at the Colorado Photography Festival.
Coalson’s field photography workshops and photo tours have been held throughout the American West, including Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and European locations including UK, Italy, Spain and Croatia.
He has led photography classes and workshops in the UK since 2013, beginning with a two-week photo tour of England in June 2013. In 2013-14, Coalson taught photography classes at Leicester People’s Photography Gallery and the National Space Centre in Leicester, England.
Nathaniel Coalson is an Adobe Certified Expert in Lightroom and Photoshop. His other professional certifications include those for 3D animation platforms Alias PowerAnimator and Wavefront Explore and digital prepress system Scitex StarPS.
Coalson’s photography and teaching has garnered sponsorships and endorsements from leading photography and imaging companies including Adobe, Hasselblad, Think Tank, Black Rapid and Hoodman.
Coalson has served as a juror for many photographic competitions including the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
Coalson has received industry awards for his photography, graphic design and web design, including the Communicator Awards, Axiem Awards, Art Directors Club of Denver, and the Denver Advertising Federation. One of his photographs was a finalist in Outdoor Photographer’s 2nd Annual Nature’s Colors, 2009.
Nat Coalson is married to Ruth Coalson, née Harvey, who works as Business Development Manager for NSC Creative at the National Space Centre in Leicester, UK. Nat and Ruth met in Hawaii in 2010, when Nat was teaching a workshop on Adobe Lightroom and Ruth was attending a film industry conference. In 2011 they became engaged in Breckenridge, Colorado. Their marriage was held in Derbyshire, England in 2012.
Nat and Ruth live most of the year near Birmingham, England while also maintaining a family residence in Colorado. They travel and lead photo tours worldwide.