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10 Country: Michael's Hidden Art

January 22, 2008

Tifton -- Most artists want as many people as they can to see their creations, and the more the better. But one artist who visited 10 Country last week adds something quite special to many of his works, and often people never find his hidden visual treasures.

Seeing an exhibit of a person's work can show the rippling effect of his professional evolution.

"I haven't done a show in about 25 years," says Michael Collins because it often takes too much time to create enough pieces to show, and, frankly, he doesn't need the work.

People routinely seek him to create a piece of art just for them and will wait literally years to get it.

Most people see beautiful paintings at an art exhibit. Wildlife artist Michael Collins sees challenges, sometimes expressed in the background.

 "It gets darker as you go up in the painting. It raises your vision level of looking up," says Michael about a pheasant rising from a field.

He has a very interesting artistic technique that he used with a red-tailed hawk.  Anywhere you look at the hawk; it looks as if the hawk looks back at you.

"I like the challenge of doing a lot of detail. That's why I picked birds," says Michael, since birds come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

 A painting of a dove's extended wing offers a scientific lesson the naturalist James Audubon would love.

"That's just to show the wing. It gives everything that makes up that bird," says Michael.

Where does he start?

 "The eye sets the whole theme of the painting," says Michael.

 From the eye, he finds painting the rest of the bird comes rather easily, but he's spent hours and hours researching his subject.

Accuracy to him, "I think it's from my mother," says Michael involves spending literally hours to satisfy a harsh critic.

 "I don't want to be wrong. I might not always be right, but I try never to be wrong," says Michael who won't run the risk of the slightest mistake because one person out of a hundred might notice.

In Michael's life time flies by like one of the birds he paints.

 "Time is something I have to go through to get to the end of a project," says Michael.

Some projects take as long as three years to finish.

 "If I start a painting that's all I work on," says Michael.

In some of his paintings, Michael plays an artistic form of a treasure hunt.

"I started hiding things," says Michael, a self-taught artist who wanted to set himself apart from other artists.

"I'm in the entertainment business," says Michael, a rather unusual way to look at art.

About 50 to 70 percent of his creations include an artistic bonus most people never see.

Take his painting of a group of Macaws flying in a rain forest.

"One, two, three, four, five," counts Michael, but remember he's known for adding something not readily identifiable.

Count again.

"Follow the six tail feathers. It runs under this bird and the beak is just barely sticking out," says Michael about an almost imperceptible white dot just below the beak of one of the other birds. That white dot is the beak of the sixth bird flying in their formation.

Two hidden treasures lurk in his turkey-in-the-woods painting.

"There's a little squirrel," points out Michael. Now, all those who have purchased the print will know about it.

The other hidden treasure?

"There's a little hole right here formed by a bullet from me hunting turkeys," says Michael as a male turkey looks at the tree that holds his bullet, sparing the gobbler.

The hidden elements add value to Michael's creations since many artists paint wildlife.

People have been known to spend more than a year trying to find a hidden element, if he included one.

 "It's so nice to have them pay that much attention to one of my pieces for that length of time," says Michael.

 The Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage has Michael Collins' first exhibit in 25 years through February 1st. The Museum is located at 255 Love AV, and is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11am to 3pm, Thursdays from 5 to 7pm and Sundays from 11am to 3pm.


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