Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
State Rep. Brooks Coleman, center, reads House Resolution 915 to Britt Taylor Collins, right, and his wife Patricia at the Gwinnett Gallery in Duluth on Friday. Collins, “The Veterans’ Artist” of Berkeley Lake, is recognized for his artistic abilities and talents by the resolution. Many of Collins’ paintings are displayed in military homes and museums across the United States and Europe, and he also has collections displayed at the White House.
DULUTH — Britt Taylor Collins created his first military painting when he was 8 years old, using oils to paint the Battle of the Coral Sea.
But Collins didn’t pursue a career in military paintings until his wife’s father, Lt. Col. Edward S. Hamilton, encouraged him to do so. Collins worked as an illustrator and designer, creating art for book covers and advertisements, before he began painting military subjects.
“My heart’s always been in it,” said Collins, a Berkeley Lake resident. “I’ve got the heart of a soldier, but I’m still an artist.”
On Friday, Collins was presented with a Georgia House of Representatives resolution honoring his work portraying the selfless sacrifice of America’s military heroes. The resolution was presented to Collins by state Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, during a ceremony at Gwinnett Gallery, where some of Collins’ work is on display.
The resolution states that Collins has demonstrated through his work “an unequaled capacity to portray his passion for the military and military veterans, capturing the American soldier’s sense of courage, heroism, patriotism and honor.”
His work can be found in collections at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History in Tennessee, the White House, the Musee du Normandie at Utah Beach, the Kotzting Rathaus in Germany and more.
He was also commissioned to produce the official limited edition painting and print for Operation Homecoming 2005, which commemorates America’s military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1975 and serves as a tribute to those who served during the conflict.
“This is nice. I appreciate this,” Collins said of the resolution. “This means a lot to me, but, in a real sense, this has nothing to do with me. What this has to with is the men and women ... who have served this country to preserve its freedom.”
Although Collins served as the U.S. Army Reserve ambassador for Georgia, he’s not a veteran. He said he volunteered to serve during the Vietnam War, but he was not selected because of his poor eyesight.
His wife, Patricia, is a retired captain of the Army Nurse Corps and a veteran of the Gulf War. Two of his sons are also military veterans.
Whenever he’s hired to do a painting, Collins said he always honors the veterans with the truth.
“I’m not at liberty to make stuff up,” he said.
The process of creating a painting includes hours of interviews with veterans and research that includes reading after-action reports and visiting the National Archives and the scene of the battle.
“We go in the (military) theatre and take photos of the actual position of the battle (using models) and put it all together and paint it,” he said.
Bill Crissey, who owns the Gwinnett Gallery in Duluth, said Collins’ passion and commitment to honoring the military is unsurpassed.
“It’s not very often that we come across anything that are of this quality and magnitude when it comes to military art,” Crissey said.