The Big Picture
April 27, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Michael Peterson is proof that if you're good, someone will find you.
Don't search for the 23-year-old Tampa, Fla., native's name in NFL Draft coverage.
It's not the skill set of Michael Peterson, the defensive back who played 50 games for Georgia Tech between 2007 and 2011 (he graduated in December 2010 and played in 2011 as a grad student), that is being recognized.
Instead, it's Michael Peterson, the artist.
Peterson will get an opportunity to display some of his works tonight at the James K. Holder Studio and Gallery (it's located at 291 Peters Street in the Castleberry Arts District). The showing begins at 7 p.m. and runs until around 10 (Click here for directions and more information about the Holder Studio and Gallery.
While getting an opportunity like this was always a goal, this opportunity actually caught him off-guard.
"It kind of came out of nowhere," said Peterson, who had been attending SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) in Atlanta. "The opportunity kind of came to me instead of vice versa."
Peterson met Holder, a renowned photographer as well as a Georgia Tech alum (class of 2008), through a mutual friend, and after a conversation, knew there was going to be a future working together.
"[Holder] was always interested in my work," Peterson recalled. "He said, 'One day we'll do a show.' So it's kind of funny that it came out of nowhere now. It was kind of last-minute. He was like, 'Let's do a show.' I had some work I was proud of so I was like, 'Let's go for it.'"
Art had always been a passion for Peterson, yet it was something he'd put aside when he came to Tech. That changed his junior year, when he started painting again, starting with portraits. Among his subjects were quarterback Joshua Nesbitt and defensive end Derrick Morgan.
That was the spark he needed to find his avenue as a painter, which is more abstract. It also was a necessary step in perfecting his technique.
"That was an excellent time because that made me focus on my technical skills and in painting you really can't skip any steps," he said. "So in order for me to get to where I am now, I felt like I had to learn that technical tightness of the work. It's kind of total opposites, but I feel like it was necessary for me to learn that and to be able to go back to it if I want to or be able to kind of pick and choose when I paint.
"I enjoy the way I paint now," he added. "Whenever you do stuff for people, it kind of becomes a job or a task or just becomes not as fun. The inspiration and the journey of it is not as thrilling as not knowing where you're going because when you're doing stuff like that you kind of know the destination, you know the finish. But to kind of be excited for a journey but not know where the journey really goes is more interesting to me now. But then it was a great time. I loved painting then, I loved painting my teammates."
Football may no longer be part of Peterson's career path, but there are things he learned on the gridiron that he has transferred to art.
"Football's a good life teacher. It correlates in different aspects and it definitely correlates into art," he said. "I went through two football seasons while I was painting. Especially [the 2011] season, I was at the studio probably every day except for game day. But that's also the kind of the work ethic I took to the football field. I started going hard at it the same way I was going hard with football, which may have distracted me from football a little bit. All the things that I learned from football, I took them and brought them into art. This is something I'll do all my life regardless of whether money is involved or not."
Peterson likes the direction he's going as an artist.
"It's a growing process. The paintings have evolved from more portraiture and renderings to pure abstracts and mark-making," he said. "It's kind of been a long, fun journey. I'm getting more comfortable with myself to where you can look at a few of my pieces and say, 'This is a Mike Peterson.'"
Having basically lived in his studio the last couple of weeks to put the finishing touches on his works for the exhibit, Peterson is ready to go. He anticipates tonight's showing in much the same way he might a big game.
"I have this confidence about my work and about myself and about my skills but you always have this -- you don't question it, but you kind of weigh both sides," he said. "But once the night gets going, family and friends will be out. I think it will be a great evening."