Adam Koltz is a self-taught artist whose earliest memories include drawing ships and birds. His first real encounter with boats was sailing a 40-foot sloop on Lake Michigan. He is an avid sailor and marine historian. Adam’s attention to detail stems from his intimate knowledge of the subject, including the purpose of every line, sail and spar in his pictures. The wind-water relationships in his work show his appreciation for those elements and give his pictures life and vitality. Adam is well known in Navy circles on both coasts for his depictions of naval vessels, which highlight hundreds of commanding officer’s and crew member’s collections of mementos.
His show venues have included Mystic Seaport Maritime Gallery International Marine Art Exhibition, Coos Art Museum Annual Maritime Art Exhibit, Ventura County Maritime Museum, Maritime Museum of San Diego, St. Clair Gallery in El Cajon, CA, San Dieguito Artists Guild, San Diego County (Del Mar) Fair, San Diego Marine Art Festival, the Annual Tallships Art Festival, Dana Point, CA, and several Fine Art Festivals at the San Diego Museum of Art. He has served as President of the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild. Adam is also a member of the San Diego Watercolor Society, San Dieguito Art Guild, Maritime Museum of San Diego, International Society of Marine Painters, National Maritime Historical Society, and the Naval Institute.
I was fortunate enough to meet Adam and his lovely wife VoegeEtte at their home in Encinitas, California. During our time together I learned about Adam’s history as an artist and observed his incredible work up close and personal. Below is my featured interview with this very talented San Diego artist.
When is your earliest memory of creating art and what made you interested in it?
I can remember drawing as early as two or three years old. In third grade we had an art show and I won first place in every category, which encouraged me at a young age to continue with art as a hobby.
Where are you from and what is your educational background?
I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs. I later attended Iowa State University and majored in Forest Management. This is where I met my wife VoegeEtte, who I am still married to today. After achieving my bachelors, I went on to get my Masters Degree in Range Management at the University of Arizona. After achieving my first masters degree I joined the Navy. During my time in the Navy I received my second Masters Degree in Environic Design at the University of Notre Dame.
What is your favorite thing to paint?
Ships have always been one of my favorite things to paint. Following my 20-year Navy career, I developed an expertise in watercolor and sometimes combine that with pen and ink to get a high level of detail in my paintings. I often match within a single frame a watercolor portrait of a ship with an antique chart that depicts an important geographical aspect of the ship’s history.
Most recently, I have become interested in painting jellyfish. Painting a jellyfish is like “throwing paint” at the canvas. This type of painting is not driven by accuracy and I am able to let my creativity run free.
What do you like most about being an artist?
I have found art to be extremely relaxing and therapeutic. I enjoy creating things that people like. When it comes to ships, I am passionate about making sure they are painted precisely correct. In particular, having spent so much time on ships in the Navy, I have an appreciation for a ship’s possessive unique design, so it is important to me that my ships are drawn accurate to their original design. I present more than just a portrait of a ship; I give the viewer a vibrant historical presentation. I research each work in detail to highlight the historical or current relationship between the ship and the chart upon which I often draw it. For those with a personal connection to a vessel, I bring forth memories of special moments at sea.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments as an artist?
There is a painting of mine featured in the Reagan Library of the USS Ronald Reagan. I also painted for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, a picture of the space shuttle Challenger, framed with a picture of the ship SS Challenger. In addition, I did an art piece for Merv Griffin.
What artist do you identify with most or enjoy the work of?
I have an entire bookshelf filled with books on ships and nautical works of art. I would have to say that Jack Spurling inspired me the most, to create realistic sailing ships.
Are you currently working on any pieces of art?
During my time in the Navy, I was the first Operations Officer aboard the USS Kirk. I am going to work on a painting of the USS Kirk and am looking forward to it. This is the ship upon which I first began creating ship portraits on nautical charts, which is a trademark of mine. As a fellow officer, the ship’s navigator wanted me to draw a picture of the USS Constitution. Lacking any drawing paper, the navigator offered me the reverse side of an out-of-date nautical chart. I decided to use the front side of the chart and an idea was born, which inspired many future pieces.
I would also like to do a painting inspired by the song, “Proud Mary.” I imagine a close up of a paddle wheel with water spraying out of it.
Outside of doing art, what have been some of your favorite hobbies?
I have enjoyed many great adventures in my life, including; traveling with my wife to all seven continents, back packing and sailing. My wife and I even went to Antarctica together in 2000.
Below is Adam at home with his favorite jellyfish watercolor painting.