Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Milton Firefighter Also Artist Michael Melson

Pursues both his passions every day
By Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers /
May 30, 2007

Milton firefighter Michael Melson shows off his other great passion, art. He holds two drawings of horses, one of his favorite subjects.

When one of Milton's new firefighters, Michael Melson, brought his art to City Hall for this article in the Milton Herald, nearly everyone in the public safety department was clamoring for a view.It appears they had heard in advance about the veteran smoke chaser's other passion.They marveled at Melson's measured line work, his delicate coloring. They studied his take on nature, which ranged from ultra-realistic ink work to impressionist mosaic.But most of all, they were just proud to have such a multi-faceted person on staff."I bet you didn't know we had such talent here, did you?" said Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom.

Melson, a 13-year firefighter from the Acworth Fire Department, showed off his work humbly – he's used to the acclaim. The collegiately trained artist spent years as a commercial graphics man in Tennessee and Florida before making the jump to fighting fires 13 years ago."I've loved art ever since I was a child," he said.At 9 he won an adult art contest with an oil painting his parents entered for him. By high school he sold his first piece.From there Melson attended Middle Tennessee State and received his Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts.

He parlayed the degree into a career as a graphic designer in Nashville specializing in the music industry."About 70 to 75 percent of the work was for country music," he said.During that time, he got to meet many of the biggest names in the Nashville scene."[Recording artist] Kathy Mattea really made an impression," he said. "She was so down to earth."He enjoyed the work, but saw the industry changing around him. More artists were using computers to create artwork, and he said he just didn't want to put down his pencil and paper. Facing a sea change in the industry, Melson decided to make the jump into public safety."My mom worked with the Rockdale police [for a long time] and a lot of my clients [for private commissions] were firefighters," he said.

One of the things that excited him about the position were the hours. Firefighters work a standard 24-hour shift, then have a day off."It piqued my interest that you had days off for working on art," said Melson. "The hours let you pursue your dream. I mean, art is as big a part of me as my love of being a firefighter."Melson said his favorite subjects always come from nature – specifically dogs and horses, both of which he owns at his farm on the outskirts of White, a city in Bartow County."I've got a big heart for animals," he said. "We've got two Tennessee Walker stallions that we trail ride and five dogs."

At this point, Melson said he's very satisfied with the position he's in. He gets to help save lives and lead a rich, calming internal life through his paintings."I just love traditional art, though it seems to be dying," he said. "And while I understand it from an economic standpoint, I'm glad I just never gave it up."

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