A Fortuitous Path [UPDATED]Published 7:36am Thursday, May 10, 2012 Updated 8:08am Thursday, May 10, 2012
Take one look at Winnie Collins’s art, and you think she’s been painting forever. You would be wrong.
Winnie began painting a little more than ten years ago – after she and husband, Tom, moved to Battle Lake – after thirty-five years in Montevideo, where Tom had a chiropractic practice and Winnie ran the office.
Winnie was all set for retirement in Montevideo. They had a beautiful home and grown sons who had moved back to start businesses. But Tom had another idea.
Shortly after his retirement, Winnie made a trip to New Hampshire to spend time with her dying sister. While she was away, Tom went fishing. By the time Winnie returned, he had his heart set on living at the lake.
Before long, Winnie was in a new home with paint brush in hand overlooking West Battle Lake. But, of course, the story wasn’t as straightforward as that.
New Home – Winnie and Tom spent time looking for a place that suited them. Eventually, they found a location on West Battle Lake that had good lake access and deep water for ease of fishing and water activities. Thus satisfied, they put steps in motion for the move.
The Montevideo home – the one Winnie thought she would live in forever – went on the market. Within a short time, the house sold. But while the lake location was perfect, the house wasn’t so much so – they would need to rebuild. Winnie sketched plans for a new home, while they put household goods into storage.
Paintbrush in Hand – Winnie knew Tom would be content on the lake, but she would need to get involved if she were going to have a successful move. She and Tom joined First Lutheran Church. Then one day Winnie stopped at Art of the Lakes, a gallery in downtown Battle Lake. She loved art in high school and started the University of Minnesota as an art major. But she had turned from art to business courses.
She never lost interest in art, though. On that day at Art of the Lakes, she picked up a brochure and signed up to take a watercolor workshop. She started painting with other artists and has continued to take classes in Minnesota and California, as others encouraged her to keep painting.
Tree-Top Studio – By the time Winnie was sketching plans for the house on West Battle Lake, she knew she would need an art studio. She would locate it on the second floor of the house, overlooking trees that lined the lake: its name would be Tree-Top Studio.
In the studio, Winnie paints at a table from where she can watch birds come and go, summer sunrise, and storms whip waves into froth. Her focus is on art, though, and tools – paint brushes, water colors, rags, cups, and brush cleaner – are close at hand. A nearby special storage closet was built to house her art supplies and paintings.
But one hardly notices the work area, because of the magnificent art that lines the walls. Like hieroglyphics on a cave wall, the paintings tell the story of Winnie’s last decade.
On the walls hang paintings of Honfleur Harbor – which was accepted in a National Show – of Porto Venere, a village on the Mediterranean in Italy, of Montmartre with its picturesque walkway to Sacre Coeur in Paris, and places in Hungary and Austria. Three times she traveled to Europe with art groups, each time painting plein-air, capturing the essence of place.
Palm Springs, where she and Tom winter, and its many festivals inspired some of her work. One of her pieces, done at home, is a montage of Battle Lake, which reflects her fascination with architecture and buildings.
Winnie’s art, of course, is on display in places other than Tree-Top Studio. A series of seven powerful watercolors, depicting the creation, from the Living Bible in the book of Genesis, is located in the First Lutheran Church atrium. Three more paintings on the opposite wall depict the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. She continues to exhibit at the Art of the Lakes Gallery and at the Battle Lake City Hall.
The watercolor workshop that started Winnie along her present path was fortuitous for her, but equally so for the gallery. Back in 2000, the organization had just moved to its downtown location and was still getting established. Today, the gallery is very different from what it was then. Winnie has played a big role in its evolution both as past president and continuing member.