Mike Zapata is officially retired from municipal government, but he continues to enjoy his long-time photography passion. It started in high school as being a photographer on the yearbook staff, back in days of film.

Years later he picked up a digital SLR camera and he was hooked.

Zapata was always interested in nature and wildlife so he obtained his Texas Master Naturalist certification. He was able to use his developing photography skills to capture nature and wildlife. Eventually, his photographs were being exhibited in art galleries and he found himself winning contests.

“All of this helped me to be an admirer of the arts and encouraged me to be involved in creating art with my photography,” he said. “It also gives me an excuse to look at and admire all the beautiful work from other artists.”

Winner of several best in shows and some very prestigious galleries, he has been exhibited internationally and published multiple times. However, the one that means the most was winning first and second place in the State Fair of Texas Black and White and Color Portrait divisions, respectively.

“Competing against thousands and to be chosen as the best is quite an honor,” he said. “Also I'm not sure that she counts as a project but I'm so proud of my daughter Jenna. It's been incredible to watch her grow up and evolve into an amazing young adult and into an incredible artist. Watching her be a leader in our community and contributing her skills and talents in such a positive way and being a role model for young people and adults has made me such a proud parent.”

Zapata gushes earnestly.

Zapata continues to explore outside the box and try new things. He wants to enjoy the life he has left and use his art as a positive inspiration to others who might not explore or even discover their own unique talents and creativity.

“ I enjoy sharing what I've learned with others. It gives me great pleasure to see others I've worked with have success with their own incredible creativity. “

His biggest enemy in pursuing photography is not time or money but himself.

“My laziness has been the greatest obstacle,” he said. “It is so easy not to care. Fortunately I've had some great artist friends who have encouraged me to get off of my fanny perpendicular and be creative. Just seeing how hard they work and the beautiful things they create inspires me to make a stronger effort in being creative.”

For people pursuing art, Zapata advises to not be afraid to try something new but most importantly, find people that can inspire you.

His family moved to Denison because of art. As new residents to Denison he has been moved by how amazing the art community has been.

“They are always so willing to help the community and to help each other as artists,” he said. “Watching them encourage each other has been a refreshing and inspiring experience. Denison has such great potential to be a huge art destination for artists to get established and to bring art lovers to our community. Denison's close involvement with art, artists and the art community is what will separate our city from the over 1200 other Texas cities. Denison will discover, as a few other successful cities have, that a vibrant and healthy art community is what will make our little Town a cultural treasure in our state and a destination spot on the map.”

Zapata is also co-owner of the upcoming Zig Zag Galleries at 125 W. Woodard with his daughter Jenna Zapata and wife Jennifer Zapata. They are hoping to open before the end of the year.

Mike Zapata sells his work in various art galleries and is available for commissions. His Instagram is the_masterz and his photography website is http://www.zapataimages.com.