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Marshall Center event coordinator Craig Coder stands in front of his exhibit on the opening night of a local art exhibition featuring his work. (Photo contributed by Andrew Brinkmann)

By James E. Brooks,
George C. Marshall European Center Public Affairs

A lifetime hobby of drawing celebrity photos with pencil and charcoal put George C. Marshall European Center event coordinator Craig Coder in the spotlight on Jan. 31.

A series of drawings based from on celebrity photos Coder drew in his spare time are on exhibit at the Kurhaus Garmisch as part of an exhibition of artwork done by the Künstlergruppe (art group) Minerva Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a local community group of artists.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up at the opening of the exhibition.  It was the first time I’ve experienced a crowd like that.  I exhibited some drawings at the Garmisch Library last year but the opening event there wasn’t that crowded.  It was really great to see that size crowd,” said Coder.

Coder says he has been drawing his whole life.   Before he joined the Air Force, he was creating drawing photos he tore from magazines and other places.

“I used to take the pictures from the record and CD advertisements that came in the mail.  I decided to start taking art and drawing classes at my community college and I’ve been drawing on and off since then,” he said.

Coder’s love for drawing, and later painting with oil and watercolors, was always just a hobby.  He retired from a successful Air Force career that began with aircraft mechanics and later transitioned to logistical support in 2006. Starting a second career at the Marshall Center in 2012, Coder found more time to pursue his hobby.  He joined Garmisch’s community art group “Minerva” shortly after arriving in Garmisch.

“Bavaria has many local art groups and each feature local talent.  Here in Garmisch, the group is named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade and strategy.  Each art group has its own reputation so it’s pretty fascinating,” said Coder.

Coder is modest about his talents despite the praise received from his friends and from others who saw his work at the exhibition’s opening night.  As much as he enjoys drawing in his spare time, he doesn’t see his talent leading towards a new career.

“I have drawn and painted photos for other people but when you start to do it for someone else, then it becomes work.  Pressure is added to the equation and that’s not where I want to take my artwork,” he said.

By his own admission, Coder says he’s not good at drawing landscapes.  He prefers to draw with graphite and pencil though he also paints.  He wants to do more with colored pencils.  One thing that hasn’t changed is finding inspiration in celebrity magazine photos from the 1980’s.

“I’m drawing a photo right now of singer Bryan Adams.  I liked how the spotlight was hitting his face and the angles.  One side is light and the other half of his face is angled in dark shadows so it was a challenge to me,” he said.

Coder plans to eventually exhibit his artwork on a personal website. Until then, people interested in seeing his drawings and those of other local artists can visit the exhibit at the Garmisch Kurhaus through Feb. 29.  There is a small admission price to the exhibit.  A few of Coder’s drawings are also on the Künstlergruppe Minerva Garmisch Partenkirchen website.