Have You Heard

About Mike Sherman?

Mike with his mom at the Baraga Powwow 2019
Mike with his mom at the Baraga Powwow 2019

Biography

Mike Sherman is from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the residents are known as “Yoopers”- and is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.  He  received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Michigan University but continued his education, receiving a Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling. 

Working full time in human services has enabled him to hone his art skills by doing “art for art’s sake” for decades. When Mike Sherman lived in Marquette Michigan he exhibited in galleries and shows and has sold his work at Artreach of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  As Mike approaches retirement, he wants his work to be recognized, owned, and appreciated by others who also share his love and vision for Nature. 

For more about Mike Sherman’s life as an artist see his blog post Being Fearless: Inspired by Art, Nature, and Native Culture.

A Selfie of Mike Sherman, and a digitally manipulated background depicting one of his paintings

Artist’s Statement

Painting and drawing is how I define myself. Although these are generalizations with much overlap, essentially I paint with my heart but draw with my head. Emotions and spirituality are expressed in my painting while analytical  study is expressed through my drawings. The former sees spirit and life in everything and tries to enjoy the moment without labels and categories; the latter tries to be as objective as possible, labeling and categorizing what I see and draw and is the more “naturalist” part of me. 

Sometimes there is conflict or contradiction between my subjective and objective self,  but there is a lot of overlap as well. Having the skill to do both loose paintings and detailed drawings is integral to my expression and identity as an artist and a thinking, spiritual person.

Winter Distressed Red House
Winter Distressed Red House

The Artist

Beautiful landscapes make up much of my portfolio.  However I’m not just into beautiful; Gravel pits, junkyards, abandoned structures-anything that is evidence of the natural processes breaking down human influence on the landscape-are also appealing subjects. Forest trails, meadows, and the water’s edge looking for something to paint or draw can put me into a meditative state that is very relaxing. 

Michigan weather often prohibits working outside, which is why I love driving down country roads to paint old farm structures and landscapes from my car window. 

I consider myself a regional artist; most of my creations are from the Mid-Michigan rural farm country.  As a result I have many paintings and drawings of barns, farmhouses, etc. I have come to love the hills, farms, and fields of western Isabella County and living downstate in “the middle of the mitt.”

Imminent Collapse
Imminent Collapse of a farm outbuilding

However there are two other regions of the United States that has deeply influenced how I make art. 

The first is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I grew up. The U.P. is a rugged, remote land on the shores of Lake Superior. The sublime beauty of Kitchee Gumee”, the inland sea, always inspires-not just me but anyone who goes there.

Living downstate, I miss the feeling of being in the wilderness that stretches for miles where wolves, bear, and moose call home. 

 

image of a painting titled Keweenaw Bay Sunset
Keweenaw Bay Sunset, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Maui, when I can get there, has become further inspiration. It shares much with the Upper Peninsula (climate is not one of them!). They both have a distinct native culture that despite the distances, have much in common. Except for the “Road to Hana”, Maui’s north shore is extremely isolated; this was a surprise to me as I thought of Hawaii as being overcrowded with tourists.

 

A painting of Sugar Beach, Kihei, Maui
Sugar Beach, Maui

Both the Upper Peninsula and Maui are well known for their beauty. This beauty, and the similarities of the native people’s history and culture, often brings me to tears and is the source and wellspring of my creativity.

Mike Sherman chasing dragonflies

The Naturalist

In general, watercolor painting is more of a subjective experience that brings everything together while drawing detailed nature studies is more objective and analytic. 

I describe myself as an “Artist Naturalist” even though most of my education has been in the visual arts but I did take a few classes in college in ecology and natural history. 

Most of what I have learned about nature is through intense observation, being in the field with scientists and other informed people,  and voracious reading. I have always been lousy in math and really struggled with science labs; this led me to formally pursue art rather than science.

I am not a trained scientist and therefore I consider myself an amateur naturalist. However I follow the tradition of the artist naturalist like John James Audubon and Kieth Brockie; those who draw and paint directly what they see in order to learn more about there subject.

 

Flicker Drawing
Study of a Flicker Road Kill

I tend to define the term “Naturalist” in the broader, more historic sense “An expert or student in the study of natural history.” I don’t consider myself an expert in anything but I am interested in learning about all things natural: examples include zoology, natural history, paleontology, astronomy, geology, etc. 

Over the decades I have learned much. For instance, identifying and studying dragonflies, birds, terrestrial orchids, rocks and minerals of Michigan, and the evolution of our species.

I do consider myself a citizen scientist and I contribute my resources, observations and data to a variety of organizations: eBird, iNaturalist, Odonata Central are some. I am a member of the Chippewa Valley Audubon Club and I donate to the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy.

Drawing a Beetle
Drawing a Beetle

Media

Although skilled in many types of media and materials, I have developed some strong watercolor techniques over the years such as wet on wet, dry on wet, and dry brush.  Painting subjective and emotional landscapes is a very spiritual and deeply personal experience. 

Watercolor is preferred because the physical properties mirror natural processes. Light is affected by the transparency and opacity of the paint. In addition, watercolor pigments interact with each other in much the same way light interacts with the moisture in the atmosphere and earth. 

Art Supplies
My Art Supplies

I love charcoal, conte pencil, graphite pencil for its quick and accurate way it records observations.  Lately however I’ve been also enjoying the ease and versatility of the digital medium which I have used to incorporate my artwork into logos and some of the images on this website. 

By the way, I use no stock images; except for icons and other logos, all images on this website-art and photos-are copyrighted and created by me. 

digital drawing of an Indian Elephant
Ranchipur, digital art, based on a sketch I did at the San Diego Zoo.