Artist Studio: Sullivan’s Cabin at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Inside the cabin

Sullivan’s cabin is a 1940’s, 2 bedroom with single beds. It has a living room with a couch, two lazy-boy type chairs, a fireplace with insert and propane heating. For cooking it has a nice kitchen with modern appliances, and a dining area with a table for two. Note that it is off the grid, and is powered by solar electricity (with a propane backup system). The water pump has it’s own smaller solar panel. Artists that need a lot of natural light should know that he cabin is a little on the dark side, naturally, due to being surrounded by woods.

That said, there were plenty of lights (they all had LED bulbs). I brought some of my own lighting (with LEDs) so I could direct the light to my table. Being concerned with running out of power, I was conservative with my energy usage, as I didn’t want to test out the propane backup system (however, I brought lots of backup lights/lamps). During the 3 weeks I was at the cabin, there were very few cloud covered days.

Space

Space was not an issue with one person. Sullivan’s cabin was larger than I thought and I was able to move things around for my studio.

My art tables were set up in the living area due to the larger windows. The lighting was somewhat better in bedroom 2, but the living area had much more space. I work on several paintings at once so the larger space won. It’s ok to move things around as long as it’s put back to it’s original setting.

Communications

Being that it is in a remote location, there is no cell phone coverage (as of October 2017). I was a bit worried about this, but it ended up being very good. There was nothing digital to distract me! The Park provided a walkie talkie radio for any emergencies.

You can also drive about 10 minutes towards Grand Marais to receive cell phone reception (around the Logslide). But for real, it was great to be disconnected and to focus on art (it was like I was transported to 1993-ish before the www – ha!!).

Both restaurants in Grand Marais had wifi connection, so it was nice to visit every so often and post updates to my blog, family and friends.

Outside the cabin

The cabin is perched next to Sullivan’s Creek. A short, hidden path (with Wintergreen!)  joins the North Country Trail, leads you to a bridge, where you can check out some nice views of the creek and small cascades.

Since Lake Superior is literally across the street from the cabin, I made almost daily visits to the shore around sunrise and sunset. Also along the shore you will find Wild Blueberry. It was unseasonably warm so I was surprised to see a few Blueberries here and there.

Learn more about applying to the Artist in Residence program at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have if you are applying or accepted to the residency.

Rock On! A Lesson on Catch and Release

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As I mentioned earlier, during my Artist in Residence at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I keep my head down when walking. One of my favorite things to do is to look at all the different rocks and pebbles along Lake Superior. Down state, it’s not as colorful, so I’m just amazed by the variety, color, and textures of the rocks at pretty much any beach on Lake Superior.

Lake Superior Rocks” a watercolor painting donated to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Artist in Residence Program art collection (2017).

I tried to get a rock I.D. guide at the Park’s visitors centers, but they have sold out, and it’s the end of the season. I’ve got to keep an eye out for a good book that will help me learn more about the specifics. Until then, I will just marvel at my rock collection’s beauty…

Oh, and this is tough. It being a National Park (and other beaches in general), we are to take only pictures and leave only footprints, and not take the rocks so others can enjoy them. It’s pretty much like an angler’s catch and release!

A few years back, on Lake Michigan, my son Ryan collected a bunch of rocks (um, many of them 1/2 the size of my head) and wanted to take them home. I explained to him that it was a state park and that we are to leave no trace and lets leave them for another person to discover them. He was very upset and cried for the next 20 minutes of driving, which made me think I should have let them keep the mini boulders.

I kinda felt the same way with my rock collection. I wanted to keep them. I know there are sooooo many out there, but know that catch and release is the best policy. I took only pictures (which you can see above). So, my plate of rocks has ended up back at the beach where I found them.

They served their purpose in color study and will forever inspire my art!

Inspiration Overload (which is a good thing)!

I’m still impressed with the size of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Every nook and cranny is filled with inspiration, so I’ve been busy painting at the cabin. Here are some of the works that I’ve completed so far.

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My Favorite Things…

I thought I’d be hiking to Chapel Rock, like every day, but one of my favorite things have been just going across the street to Lake Superior. Literally across the street. I could look for rocks all day long. They are works of art in themselves.

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What does an Artist In Residence eat?

Going gourmet in da cabin eh?

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Yes, I’ve had a few PB&J’s, but also trying to keep it healthy by eating my greens. I’m very, very surprised that I’ve had several days where I have only had 2 meals a day! Very unlike me, as I love to eat.

Being in the U.P. means that there is an abundance of Lake Whitefish. I brought a good amount of food with me, but by the end of the week I was running low on fresh veggies, so when I was in the Munising area for a hike at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I stopped by the grocery store to restock. I was happy to find that they had some local, U.S. caught whitefish at the supermarket. I was hoping to buy direct from the local fishery, but I always seem to be driving by on off hours.

So, whitefish dinner it was. The cabin has a pot belly stove insert with a cooktop, which I really wanted to use, but it was so darn hot. I also discovered that the smoke alarm is ultra sensitive, so wasn’t sure how this would work out. The pot belly stove top cooking option seemed much more the way it was supposed to be cooked in a cabin.

My usual recipe is very simple (grilled, butter, garlic, oregano, sea salt), but since I had very few of those ingredients (What!? No butter!?), I tried this… and here is the recipe.

Broiled Lake Whitefish with Pesto topped with Oyster Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 Lake Whitefish fillets
Homemade pesto
Chopped garlic
Onion
Side: sweet potatoes

How to do it:

Set oven to broil (525 deg), spread desired amount of pesto on top of fillets. Pop these in the oven for 10 or so minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets.

Caramelize onions, garlic and sweet potato, add oyster mushrooms right at the end (so they retain their texture, but are warm). Top all this on top of the Lake Whitefish fillets (I separated the sweet potatoes).

Greens (I used Kale) on the side. Toast with olive oil (wish I had some balsamic vinegar too).

Since it’s just me, I wrapped the leftover fillet and sides in some aluminum foil and froze it for later (bonus!).

It’s the little things

As I hike along trails or the beach I have my head down, looking for the little things. Hope you “lichen” these snippets from Lake Superior!

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First day of Artist In Residence at Pictured Rocks, from the beginning

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Here are some notes from my Artist In Residence (AIR). I hope it’s both entertaining and educational for future artists who are hoping to get into this amazing adventure.

The van was loaded to the max (see pics). So many other things I wanted to bring but just didn’t have the room.

There were so many antique shops I wanted to stop at but had a schedule to keep as the Park Ranger was going to let me into the cabin and give me the lowdown… I’m sure close to the end of their day.

Ron showed me around the cabin, signed the NPS Volunteer forms and paperwork, and headed across the street to check out the Lake. Sullivan’s Cabin is situated right next to Sullivan’s Creek and across from the Lake Superior Overlook. Great view and a fine beach with the meandering creek output right there. Soooooo many interesting rocks, pebbles, etc. to check out.

One thing to keep in mind is distance… it doesn’t look far, but places take a while to get to from the cabin, due to the curvy, narrow roads, deer… and it’s dark! No cell phone coverage in many places to make sure you have extra LED lights, etc., if there are any issues.

I was invited to the Bear Trap for dinner with the volunteers who were finishing up for the month. Great to get tips from the volunteers and a great group of folks.

When I got back, I got right to organizing the studio by moving the furniture out of the way and putting up my tables.

The cabin is powered by solar, so I was advised to be conservative with the power usage. The water pump is also solar powered. The pump is loud, but I got used to it.

Photos from Pictured Rocks Cruise

My second day of my residency, I was treated to a Pictured Rocks Cruise, which departed from Munising, Michigan.

The last time I was on the cruise was about 20 years ago! The first time inspired my art in a huge way, and this latest cruise reinforced and heightened the inspiration.

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Marsee Selected as the 2017 Artist in Residence at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has selected Todd Marsee, of Ann Arbor, MI, for the 2017 Artist in Residence. As the Senior Graphic Designer for Michigan Sea Grant, Todd has always been inspired by nature. “Pictured Rocks is one of my favorite parks, and has had a strong influence on the compositions of my paintings. I feel so fortunate to have been chosen for this amazing opportunity.”

Todd’s watercolor paintings usually feature natural imagery overlaid on abstract, textured backgrounds. “My paintings are interpretations of the fragile beauty and resilience of nature,” Todd says. “Textures, patterns, and designs of nature inspire me to paint. I’m eager to see how my time in the Upper Peninsula will be visible in my art.”

The national lakeshore provides a three-week park residence, just a stone’s throw from the shore of Lake Superior. Todd will be immersing himself in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula’s colors and textures, and pour his experiences into his paintings. He is also planning on participating in some group hikes, kayaking, and viewing the brilliantly colored cliffs, sea caves, and beaches from a boat cruise.

As the Artist in Residence, Todd will host an outdoor painting demonstration at the Miners Castle Information Station on Saturday, September 30. Miners Castle is a photogenic rock formation and one of the park’s most popular destinations. He will also donate a painting to the park’s collection.