drawing of a killdeer chick in hand

Killdeer Chick, graphite and mixed media on tinted paper, 2020, Available Here

Introduction

“Drawing Michigan” is about sharing some of my portfolio and experience  with you and the inspiration that is found in this great lake state. I am fortunate to have lived most of my life here both in the Upper Peninsula and Mid Michigan. Enjoy the drawings and perhaps they can inspire you too!

a drawing of a newborn fawn
My most recent drawing inspired by this blog!

Subject Matter

Drawing is the foundation of all my art with a lifetime of practice outdoors to hone the skills I learned in high school and college.  I love drawing Michigan nature, especially interesting shapes, colors, or relative rarity. The following are some of my favorites.

Orchids

Starting in the nineties, I set a goal of drawing every native orchid that grows in Michigan.  I haven’t met that goal yet, but I have still managed a few. Perhaps this year I will get to see the extremely rare calypso orchid-I just may take a trip up north to look! Below are a few of the many orchid drawings in my collection, all drawn on-site.

Insects

Insects are interesting critters and are everywhere, so they make great drawing subjects. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that there are just not as many insects now as in decades past and coming across an insect I’ve never seen before is a rarity. 

Around 15 years ago I lived in a cottage in rural western Isabella County, and insects were still plentiful. Here are a few pages from a Stonehenge sketchbook of that time period. 

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory

1998 was a tough year.  August through September, I decided to spiritually heal by volunteering at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory where biologists captured birds in mist nets and collected data before releasing them. This fulfilled a dream of drawing birds in hand. 

After the biologists were done with their measurements, I did a quick pencil drawing with notes and then released the birds, afterwards filling in the drawings with watercolors and opaque white. It was extremely rare, but sometimes a bird died in the nets but this afforded an opportunity for more detailed study.

Barns

I love painting and drawing barns. Using pencil, usually Graphite, is more direct than the paintbrush and I can get lost in the details of the wood and shading. The following barns are available for purchase on my website artistnaturalist.com

Going Digital

My eyesight has been getting much worse due to aging and retinal scarring from mulitple laser procedures done to prevent retinal detachment. In addition to relying on photography more now, I’m slowly transiting from traditional media to digital drawing-the brightness of the screen really helps me see what I’m doing! Here are some examples of my digital art:  

Conclusion

This blog features wildflowers, insects, and birds. However I have thousands of drawings that include more of these subjects as well as trees, landscapes, rocks, and of course people. I’d like to end on a few thoughts about drawing0and photographing-Michigan :

-I hope to be able to study nature around me through drawing for years to come. I particularly cherish those rare opportunities when I come across something rare or unique. 

-Painting has been the priority lately; however as can be seen by some of these works there can be a lot of overlap with painting and drawing. 

-I tend to do more studio work now because it is very difficult to see in detail outdoors. I’m finding that with a good smartphone camera and DSLR, photography is quicker and less intrusive to nature. For instance I came across a fawn once and prior to digital photography would have sat down beside it to draw it which would have been great. However I’m sure the fawn and it’s mother appreciated I just took a quick photo and moved on.

-I always had a distaste from working from photographs but now find it a necessary tool. Besides I have a lifetime of direct observation studies to work from!

Perhaps my next blog will be about painting-and how some of my bests pieces have no pencil work in them at all!

Mike drawing an orchid with the result

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