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This Egg Yolk Jellyfish image is one of Drew's favorites. (Image: Drew Collins)

Artist of the Week: Drew Collins

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and today marks the first weekly artist feature on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Here's the thing about art - depending on the passions of the artist, anything can be fascinating, and anything can be studied in depth. In Drew Collins' instance, he bought his first camera and began scuba diving within months of each other. Two seemingly unrelated things, right? Wrong. Drew began taking his camera on dives, and became mesmerized by what he was seeing under water.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Drew Collins: I've been a professional photographer/videographer for about three years. I bought my first DSLR camera 8 years ago, and I began scuba diving a few months later. Four years ago I began to seriously wonder if my underwater shots of Puget Sound were beautiful enough and interesting enough to sell. I created a 12-month calendar which sold out almost immediately. Soon after I consulted with three of the world's top photographers. Each gave me amazing advice and help. I printed a few pieces and put them out there for sale, and the rest has been history.

My fine art, giclée prints are on canvas, metal, acrylic and mat prints. All of my pieces are ready to hang. I also create a new and unique 15-month calendar every year.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
After completing more than 150 dives a year in Puget Sound for almost eight years I have substantial knowledge of where to find my subjects. No two dives are the same, and while working with nature and wildlife almost anything can happen. I'm always ready for the unexpected to occur. Working underwater is a completely foreign and potentially dangerous environment. Tides, currents and weather all play extremely important roles in planning a dive/shoot. I dive very slowly and calmly to become one with my environment. This allows me to get very close to my subject(s). I work to capture the animal's personality and tell a story with each shot. I also work to capture the shot completely in the camera, allowing for minimal post editing. My goal is to find and shoot interesting animals in their most beautiful and natural setting.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I grew up in and around Puget Sound. I am driven by the amazing and diverse life that resides and thrives just below the surface. Whenever I'm near the water I wonder what is living there. I want to explore and learn more about the life here, and expose people to what I see almost every day. I believe once people see and learn about all that we have in our local waters, they will appreciate it more. People may take better care of our environment and help our local life survive and thrive.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I dive in cold waters and tropical waters around the world. I've snorkeled with 40' Whale Sharks and dove with tiny shrimp. My first love though is the cold, green, murky waters of Puget Sound. We have such tremendously diverse local life. Although there may be days with very little visibility and truly challenging conditions for a photographer, I truly love the rich canvas our local waters provide. Octopus are one of my most favorite subjects and fortunately, we have plenty in Puget Sound. I also love Wolf Eels, Stubby Squid and the elusive Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
A couple years ago I was diving at night at a popular local dive spot in Elliott Bay. While finishing the three-minute safety stop in 20' of water, I captured a few shots of an Egg Yolk Jellyfish. It was just floating past my camera and has become one of my favorite and most important shots. I love the colors and complexity of these animals. Everyone, including myself, can appreciate the beauty of these creatures.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
From childhood, I've been much of my time in, on or around our local waters. For many years I wanted to learn to scuba dive. Once I picked up my first DSLR and married diving with photography I had found my calling. Witnessing the birth of thousands of tiny Giant Pacific Octopus', or swimming through a massive school of beautiful Rockfish are both awe-inspiring. I am witness to so much life underwater, but can only bring a small fraction of what I witness to the surface. Even shooting HD video, I am only able to show people a part of what I experience underwater.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
Much of my work is on my website. I am also at many of the important local art shows around Puget Sound each year. I invite anyone to stop by, say hello and allow me to tell you a few of the stories behind my shots.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
2017 is promising to be a fantastic year. My art business is growing. I am constantly working on new and informative HD videos, all available to view on my website. I'm also being asked to speak to local groups and organizations. In February I will be at the 'Sound Waters University 2017' on Whidbey Island. Finally, some of my work will be printed in a few publications.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
Usually just black, but sometimes with half-n-half. I really prefer strong dark roast.

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