jim coe's biography

Learn to make art at home with my art lesson ebook.

Art Head Start
- Author's Bio

Four decades of image, light and color work - distilled into an ebook, blog and web site dedicated to your success in art.


~ A few major milestones ~

Teaching and creating learning materials

San Francisco Art Institute - 3 years

Taught all levels of private fine art college photography students. Developed all my materials and assignments, taught field work, lab work and classes. Taught both basics for beginners and Ansel Adam's Zone System for advanced students. Even had the privilege of visiting Ansel at his home to discuss aspects of his Zone System with him.

One of jim's 3D modeling scenes.
‘Orgasmatron’ - One of Jim's 3D scenes (rendered in 2D) made with Vue Infinite

Touring Audio Engineering classes - 3 years

Created and taught a series of 12 week classes in all aspects of audio engineering for Rock touring. Class included sections on electronics, audio engineering, acoustics, touring, crew management and tour planning.

Personal Computer instruction - 29 years

As part of my personal computer consulting company, I teach the use of personal computers, operating systems, the Web and applications programs. Built my first PC in 1976, inspired by the same Popular Electronics magazine article that started the Bill Gates and Paul Allen adventure.

Sisters first evening on colony world - 3D scene by jim coe
One of Jim's 3D scenes (rendered in 2D) made with Vue Infinite


A passion for light, color and modeling

I've always been passionately interested in light and color. And like so many kids, I was fascinated with building models and making them as realistic as possible. Of course I grew up in the late 1940's and early '50's - long before personal computers. So I gravitated toward photography.

Started making photos at the age of 9, with a snapshot camera. My father gave me a 35mm camera at age 14 and I began developing my own film and making contact prints a couple of years later, eventually saving enough from working to build a darkroom with an enlarger.

While working on my high school's paper as photographer I learned the basics of photography and applied it to some of my many other interests - modeling, aviation, science, electronics, science fiction.

Cloud Canyon - 3D scene by jim coe
One of Jim's 3D scenes (rendered in 2D) made with Vue Infinite

Born nerdy

As the neighborhood nerd, I got some friends to hook our houses together with a private telephone network strung along back fences. I also started a rocket club and we made and fired small rockets (our motto "Bad rockets make good bombs"). Also built a 6" reflector telescope for amateur astronomy, a 500 power microscope to peer into the micro world, some image and effects projectors and a few miniature scenes.

The fine art major

Following High School in Southern California, I enrolled in a Junior College near San Francisco as an art/design major with some photo courses. Fortunately, they didn't have a specialized photography major, so I was in with all the art students and learned a lot about the theory, tools and skills of general visual communication and design.

Photo by jim coe
Photo by jim coe

Off to college - and what a college!

After Junior College, I enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute Photography Department. Bought a 4X5 view camera and learned Ansel Adam's Zone System. Studied art history and the masters of painting, sculpture, graphics, writing and photography. Made photos full time for the first time, as well as doing printmaking and oil painting. Had to hold down 2 and sometimes 3 part-time jobs to pay tuition - as well as working summers digging ditches and such.

During this period, I also attended some great photography workshops and discussion groups and visited with many of the region's fine art photographers.

At SFAI, I studied the photo and darkroom techniques (and experimented with the photo chemistry) of such masters as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. Learned the best materials, built several darkrooms and used a densitometer, spotmeter, quality lenses and other tools to improve the technical quality of my work. I became the official goto guy in the SFAI photo labs.

I viewed many photo gallery shows and books and began working in earnest on my own creativity and personal vision.

At this time I also completed some science experiments for the science requirement of my degree. In one experiment, I created 100 1"x 1" chips, evenly stepped from black to white. I had both graduate photo students and people off the street try to arrange these in the correct sequence from black to white. The idea was to see if trained photographers were any better than average at seeing subtle tonal values. Result: They sure were!

In another experiment, I wore deep red filtered welding goggles for 5 days and nights, to see what would happen to my color and tonal perception. Strangely enough, in a couple of days my vision started to compensate and I began perceiving color again from the very subtle color differences that got through the filters - and almost as well as before. But when I finally took those dark goggles off, I really experienced color!

Photo by jim coe
Photo by jim coe

The new teacher

After graduating and tiring after a few months of a tedious but necessary dead-end job, the only one I could find, the head of the SFAI Photography Department asked me to sign on as an instructor - I was delighted to do so.

I taught Saturday and night students, as well as full-time day students at all levels. My teaching included both beginners and advanced students of the Ansel Adams Zone System and I specialized in giving creativity driven assignments.

Photo by jim coe
Photo by jim coe

Avoiding commercial art by building careers from hobbies

After my first teaching stint was finished (wisely, 3 years was all they allowed artists) I decided once again not to pursue a career in commercial photography. I'd seen too many photographers loose their joy and creativity after taking on commercial work.

Because I have many interests, I've always been able to earn a living based on my various hobbies, while still doing some photography, and later computer graphics.

3D model by jim coe
Jim's 3D Earth model (made of 4 nested spheres), made in Vue Infinite


Electronics and Audio Engineering

Besides learning electronics for light control and creating several light sculptures and light machines, my interests in electronics and audio led me to make a living as a recording studio technician and engineer in the first Northern California 16 track studio. This later led to a job as the head touring soundman for the Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna/Jefferson Starship music group.

I also took courses in Electronics and Electronics Math at the College of Marin, between rock tours. This lead to my creating a lot of audio circuitry and other fun stuff, such as brain wave monitors, inventing a new kind of noise canceling microphone and helping design and develop the band's other touring audio equipment.

3D scene by jim coe
One of Jim's tutorial illustrations made in Vue Infinite

Home business, before it was ok

After leaving the band in 1980 (8 years on the road), I started my first one-person business, designing small listening rooms, recording studios and sound systems.

Later, I built on this experience to become an Acoustical Consultant and Sound and Vibration Engineer. Eventually, I helped found an international high tech engineering partnership in Acoustics and Vibration. We invented methods of testing soil systems for vibration and advising the big semiconductor manufacturers on which land to buy for chip manufacturing, and we consulted on the design of their building structures and air-handling equipment for vibration control.

Personal Computer pioneer

I built my first Personal Computer from kits and scrap in 1976 and bought Bill Gate's first product - a 24k BASIC interpreter for writing programs. It came on a big roll of punched paper tape. This was years before you could buy a ready to run out-of-the-box PC. This led me to become the computer expert for our engineering company.

When I decided to leave the partnership and head out on my own again, I started a one-person personal computer consulting service. During a couple of decades of doing that, I became interested in the Web, as it came online, and started building web sites in 1995. In 1996, I launched my (now ancient) fine art photo site: Everyday Magic.

The first computer I built (much soldering required).  
1st computer Jim built (much soldering and surplus gear) in 1976, and ASR-33 Teletype “console”


Four years ago I moved the major focus of my business from PC consulting to Web services and have been doing Web site planning, development, webmastering and online marketing ever since.

Art on the Personal Computer

During all the years since the San Francisco Art Institute, I have kept doing photography, and occasionally experimenting with light projection effects. During the last five years, I've been experimenting with computer graphics, starting with a bit of digital photo collage in Adobe Photoshop and then moving on to 3D scenes and 3D modeling.

Was a top beta tester for Adobe's 'Atmosphere' web-based 3D immersive, interactive, chat enabled, scene maker for 3 years. After Adobe killed Atmosphere at 1 year of age, I discovered Vue 4 Pro and began learning that. Currently I'm using newer versions of Vue Infinite, learning polygon modeling with Silo 3D and posing DAZ figures with DAZ|Studio.

Violence & Hope, by jim coe
One of Jim's 3D scenes (rendered in 2D) made with Vue Infinite. This one became a magazine cover.

A bit of flying

Flying has also been a lifelong interest. After building a hang glider from a kit, I attempted to launch a low cost flying hobby. The partner of my very safety-conscious hang glider instructor was killed before I got very far and I decided to find a safer way to fly. So, I learned to fly sail planes at a wonderful glider port in Calistoga California. Space flight and interplanetary exploration are extensions of my interest in science and flying.

The type of sailplane I learned and soloed in.
Like the sailplane Jim learned in, a Schweizer 2-33
Towed aloft by a powerful modern crop-duster

~ End ~

Wishing you a creative future!
   _jim coe

Fine Art Prints on Demand