Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paint the Trail

A reader suggested I contact artist Jim Sonksen who has begun an ambitious public art project. On October 23rd, I drove to his Longwood home. I parked in front of his house, I saw him at work in his garage which doubles as an artists studio. Jim's parents have a house that is right on the Seminole County Trail which is a long trail for bikers and joggers. Jim began painting his parent's wooden fence that faces the trail. Fence panels are covered with celebrity faces and sayings. One intriguing section had an image of the Florida panther in relief. As you walk past the panels the image changes twice depending on which angle you are viewing the piece from.

Jim knew I was coming to visit his studio and he did his research to find out my story online. I was surprised to find out he planned to do a painting of me as I sketched him. The outlines were all in place and all that was needed was color to fill. He likes to dip the brush deep into the paint well beyond the bristles so that more paint can flow down and cover a larger area. Jim uses old house paint which he sometimes picks up for free from the dump. He worked quickly as I sketched. He explained that painting has become a compulsion. Not a day goes by where he isn't working on this project.  His mom drove his daughter home from school that day which gave him a bit more time to paint.

He drove me to his parents home to show me the trail. His parents fence is completely covered with paintings and he has expanded the project, now painting neighbor's fences. His dream is to cover a five mile section of the trail with art. On weekends, cyclists, joggers and walkers congregate at the painted panels. This art sparks conversation and brings people together. This is a labor of love for the artist all the expenses are out of his pocket. He has started recruiting people to paint the panels for him so the fence can expand faster. This is a paint by numbers project that then becomes public art. The trouble is that not everyone completes the panels he gives out.

The Doctor Who phone booth is build out in one section of the fence and a shark lunges up dimensionally in front of the fence. Perhaps a hundred yards of fence panels are now covered with art. Unfortunately not every neighbor is keen on having their fences covered with art so there are gaps. Perhaps in time they will change their mind. Jim painted a car for a friend, making it like the trail but on wheels. The guy drove it through a car wash and those huge brushes started tearing into the thick paint. It's art dude, hand wash if from now on.

Some panels are done for charities like, Save the Florida Panther, Save the Sea Turtles, or Autism. Jim said that these panels were some of the most rewarding to do. As the project progresses, it has picked up steam, essentially taking on a life of it's own. His website takes donations to help keep the project going. Jim humbly doesn't consider himself an artist. He projects the images and uses color coded outlines to define color breaks. He is a carpenter by trade but work is scarce. Like myself, he is sort of between vocations because of hard times and he had to reinvent himself. This project keeps him busy to say the least. He claims anyone could do what he does, . But he most certainly has an artist's drive and sensibilities..

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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