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Meet Jeff Sonksen … Artist


Who Helped Me In My Pain



By Tina Johnson


Meet Jeff Sonksen. A guy usually physically and literally most always up to his neck in paint. Carpenter turned artist, Jeff has quickly made a name for himself in the creative realm. When the recession hit and work got slow, Jeff tapped into his creativity and really went to work. He created fence panels out of pickets and started painting pop culture icons. He then installed them along the Seminole-Wekiva Trail in Longwood, Florida and thus began his vision and local phenomena “Paint the Trail”. Jeff originally set out to paint about 5 miles of the Seminole County path. He would paint whatever came to mind. Then community members started to approach him and made requests.. favorite bands, movie stars, animals, even memorials. Jeff happily obliged. Most of what he did for others, he did out of the kindness of his heart. No money involved. Sometimes he would even draw up these requests, color code them, provide the paint and paint brushes, directions, and give them to those requesting these paintings for them to paint them themselves. Jeff began to see how, many times, people could heal through art and even find a sense of closure if needed. 

Jeff loves to get the community involved in his artwork. He has been featured in local magazines, news reports, and community functions. He has painted fallen officers, missing persons, celebrities who have passed away, causes, current events, and many, many more topics. Just about anything you can think of, he has painted. Well, and then some. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff back in 2013. One day as I was cycling along the bike path, I noticed Jeff had painted his contact information on a fence panel. It was close to Father’s Day and I wanted to do something special for my dad as he was in the hospital fighting stage 4 lung cancer and we weren't sure if he was going to pull through. I contacted Jeff and told him the story of my dad and how I call him Superman.. because he is the strongest man I know. Without hesitation, Jeff asked for a photo of my dad and we talked about what I would like painted. Within hours, Jeff had my dad’s face drawn up on a wood panel, the paints in containers, a few paint brushes ready, and he met up with me to pick everything up from him. Jeff even walked me through via text as I painted my father’s face. This guy has talent! I was nervous he was setting me up for failure, but as I kept painting, I was amazed. It was beautiful! Once I completed the painting of my dad, Jeff put it all together and in the early hours of Father’s Day, he installed the painting on the trail right next to one of my dad’s heroes- Tim Tebow. My dad was still in the hospital, but I showed him pictures of what Jeff had done for him. My family and I were all in tears. Happy ones. My dad did pull through, and today is cancer free. The painting is still along that (envisioned) 5 mile bike path and I get to see it and smile every time I cycle the path. And, I now have 2 heroes.

Throughout the years, Jeff and I have remained friends. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia. On Facebook, Jeff saw this and kept me encouraged throughout my brain surgery and recovery. We would meet up every so often and I would help him paint during various local events. And come to find out, we have a couple of mutual friends who share my same diagnosis. Because of this, Jeff quickly became involved in fundraising events I hosted to help support the Facial Pain Research Foundation. Generously, Jeff donated his time, talent, and paintings to help raise funds to support the research in finding a cure for TN. Now, this has evolved into an online fundraiser Jeff has created using his website where he will donate 50% of sales of his art therapy kits to the FPRF!

When you visit, you will see a link at the top of his page that states, “Help us find a cure for Trigeminal Neuralgia”. From there, you can either select one of his already designed paint kits, a TN related paint kit, or you can send in your own photo that will be printed out on a high quality 16”x20” canvas that will be mailed to you with directions, paint, and paint brushes. You MUST enter “FPRF” at checkout so that half of the proceeds go to the foundation. How cool is that!! Trust me, I am no artist. These paintings are easy, fun, and beautiful. There really is something about painting your own work of art that is therapeutic. Even on days when my pain is intense, painting in the quiet brings a bit of solitude, and sense of accomplishment. I encourage you to paint one of these beauties and see for yourself! 

In the meantime, Jeff continues to selflessly give of himself and proves he is an integral part of our local Central Florida community and beyond. One of many projects Jeff is currently working on is the Orlando Traveling Memorial where he is drawing up paintings of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting tragedy that occurred in Orlando, Florida in 2016. The families of these victims and the first responders are an integral part of this venture. Some of the family members will be painting their loved ones. As you can imagine, this has been an emotional endeavor, and yet healing to some, and has even helped to bring a sense of closure to many. Jeff has spent countless hours on this project, and it just proves time and time again how caring and generous he continues to be towards complete strangers as well as those he knows. 

In addition to his painting talents, Jeff has also become quite adept at making fun and eccentric videos that he shares on social media and his YouTube channel. Many times, he creates time lapsed videos as he paints, adds fun effects, and has them uploaded within minutes. Fun fact, they most always end with a dive, fully clothed, into the pool while filming with his GoPro.. one of his signature moves! So.. paint, coffee, videos, and pools pretty much sums up 4 guarantees in the daily life of Jeff Sonksen. Seriously, watch his videos.. they're great! 

So please, visit Jeff’s website and order a paint kit. Not only will you get to paint your own masterpiece, you will be supporting this great foundation. And if you are ever in the Central Florida area, make a trip over to see the ever expanding Paint the Trail. You won’t be disappointed. If not, you can see much of his great works on his Paint the Trail Facebook page.

As a friend, I want to again personally thank Jeff for all he has done for me and to support the FPRF. As a fan of his work, I am continually amazed by the things he creates and the generosity of his heart.  Sometimes thank you doesn’t seem to be enough, but Jeff.. again, THANK YOU!


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