Drive, dreams and aloha: Cindy Coats welcomes Ironman with her annual painting

  • Cindy Coats shows her annual painting for the Ironman World Championships at her gallery in Kailua-Kona. (Elizabeth Pitts/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Alongside the 40th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship, Kailua-Kona artist Cindy Coats is celebrating a small anniversary of her own.

Ten years after opening her gallery on Palani Road, Coats has created her 10th painting celebrating athletes from all over the world coming to Kona to compete in the test of strength and endurance. The Cindy Coats Gallery is located right in the heart of Ironman territory, and it’s only fitting that Coats’ paintings are some of the race’s most well known art.

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“I’ve actually partnered with them to use their logo in the past, and over the years it’s been kind of a cool thing,” Coats said. “I opened here in September of 2008 and a couple of weeks later it was Ironman. And I was like, this is interesting. I’ve lived here for a long, long time but that was the first year I had been in the middle of it, so it really inspired me. So that’s how it all started.”

Like the previous paintings, the 2018 painting has different elements that reflect on the year that has passed.

“This year, my inspiration was the fact that it’s the 40th anniversary. I have a theme every year, and this year my theme is drive, dreams and aloha,” Coats said. “I wanted it to look almost like a celebration. That’s why it’s just a mixture of colors and movement. And I always feature the volcano. And this year, I featured the volcano as a question mark.”

Coats’ inspiration for all of her colorful paintings stem from her previous life in New Mexico and growing up as a child in the ’60s. She listed black light posters and “Yellow Submarine” as examples of what kick-started her imagination in art.

“My color palette has pretty much stayed the same my entire career. I hope my technique has been refined in all these years,” Coats said. “I’ve always been really lucky that I just paint what I like. And I paint from my heart. I’m just very fortunate that people relate to it and like it.”

Coats’ main medium for both her Ironman paintings and the paintings found year-long in her gallery is acrylic on canvas. The original 2018 Ironman painting is listed at $4,200, but she likes to make the painting as available as possible.

“I do the original, I do limited editions on canvas, and then I do prints of all different sizes starting at $45,” Coats said. “So somebody who’s really stretching it to get here can still bring home something that’s not a T-shirt.”

Coats’ gallery stays open during the race, as one of her biggest customers for the Ironman paintings are the athletes themselves and their families. Coats said the gallery’s most lucrative day is the day after the race, when athletes who completed the race come in to commemorate their accomplishment with art.

A constant customer over the years is Paul Dauber, a triathlete from New York who has developed a close relationship with Coats through her art.

“He’s been buying a piece from me for 10 years,” Coats said. “He comes every year, for 10 years. And he said, ‘You are part of this race for me.’ It was just the sweetest thing.

“He said, ‘When our family thinks of Ironman, we also think of you.’ Because I’m in their house all year long, hanging on their walls. And that’s an honor.”

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While Coats herself does not compete in triathlons, the artist says she still relates to the athletes’ drive and intensity.

“What is interesting, I find, is I have very little in common with triathletes, except an intense passion,” Coats said. “And that seems to carry over. They have a passion for their sport. I have a passion for my art.”

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