Paint the Trail brings star-studded artwork to Seminole County

Artist paints celebrities, fallen heroes

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – There's a unique trail in Seminole County that's turning heads. It's a place you would least expect to find artwork.

Six years ago, Jeff Sonksen was struggling to find work, so he turned to his hobby: painting.

"I started out doing this to irritate people. I was frustrated. I had a bad attitude. For three months I was just trying to instigate people with the art out here," said Sonksen ​​​​​​, a carpenter who also has a degree in photography. 

His paintings along the Seminole Wekiva Trail in Longwood did have an impact, but on him.

"I think I was trying to uplift myself. In hindsight, I realized -- almost a couple of years later -- it didn't dawn on me, but if you look at all, almost all the paintings have quotes on them and they're all positive," Sonksen said about his realization.

The first two years, the artist and father of two mainly painted requests from residents and people whofollow him on social media. Many of those creations are iconic pop culture characters and artists.

There's also an educational mural with animals for children to learn about.

But the pieces Sonksen constantly thinks about are the portraits of first responders and service members.

"I feel like those are the true heroes ... and I don't know, some soldier gets killed overseas and nobody ever remembers their name. We glorify basketball players and musicians and stuff, and we don't know the name of police officers or the service men that have died protecting people," Sonksen said.

He honors many of Central Florida's fallen along Ronald Reagan Boulevard. Sonksen recently paid tribute to the Queen of Soul, the late Aretha Franklin, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. It's a passion he embraced as a child.

"It's just something that when I felt inspired I had to get it out of me. I'd go through these phases where I would sit in my room and just paint for weeks," Sonksen said.

What started as a way of making his voice heard is now a place people enjoy along the Seminole Wekiva Trail. 

"I never really had that kind of experience before where I felt like I was doing something positive and I really like the way that made me feel. I've benefited the most from this experience and maybe that's why I keep going," Sonksen​​​​​​​ said.

To see more about this artist's work you can click here to visit his Facebook page.

About the Author: