Although he was born in Atlantic City, Michael Waters left the Jersey shore at age 19 in a period of "self discovery."

He spent about 20 years living in various places around the world and pursuing a variety of careers and interests, but when he finally returned for good, he found his true compass in life through his art.

Waters - an award-winning abstract artist who has served on the boards of the Ocean City Fine Arts League, the Atlantic City Arts Center and the Ventnor Cultural Arts Center - is currently featured in a solo exhibit at the Holtzman Gallery in Ventnor.

"I'm really excited about the works in this exhibit because of what they represent, which is my interpretation of life," said the 56-year-old painter.

It is the gallery's third solo artist exhibition.

Gallery owner David Holtzman said he has received a lot of positive feedback from his one-man shows so far and expects Waters' paintings will have a similar result.

"I love the exposure I get from solo exhibitions. An artist needs feedback. We can create all we want, but unless people are looking at it, what's the point?" Waters said.

The artist said his style comes from within, as he allows his intuition and imagination to guide him through the creation process. Nature, symbolism and hieroglyphics are all incorporated in his works, he said.

His work has earned him numerous awards throughout the region and has been exhibited by The Society of New Jersey Artists, The Toms River Artists Community, the Willingboro Arts Center, the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts and the Noyes Museum of Art, where he is a signature Artist Member.

"I paint for pleasure, and that's what I want viewers to feel when they look at my paintings. Art should not bring you down, it should be thought-provoking and elevating," Waters said.

After he graduated from Holy Spirit High School, Waters attended Parsons School of Design from 1977 to 1981, where he studied illustration and pursued a career in the fashion industry working as an assistant designer and illustrator. He left New York and relocated to Key West, Fla., where he worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years.

Although he made "pit stops" back to his roots in South Jersey, he traveled frequently and spent long periods in Torremolinos, Spain, and in New Orleans, where he supported himself through various occupations.

After moving back to the resort area in his late 30s, Waters re-educated himself as a painter and became involved in the local cultural landscape. Most notably, he served as director of the Ocean City Fine Arts League in 2006 and served on the board of trustees from 2007 to 2010.

The full-time professional artist's paintings can also be seen in Ocean City at Accent Gallery and Art on Asbury Gallery, and in Margate at East End Gallery. He is represented by The William Ris Gallery in Stone Harbor.

Viewers can meet Waters during a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. April 19 at the Holtzman Gallery. Hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served, and the event is free and open to the public.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

If you go

What: The art of Michael Waters

When: The show runs through May 12

Where: Holtzman Gallery, 5301 Atlantic Ave., Ventnor

Information: 609-822-8482 or holtzmangallery.com