The Creative Endeavors Thread Takes a Look Around

This is the space for our members to discuss and share their creative projects, ranging from written works to drawings, photography, and even craft projects such as knitting and woodworking. Self promotion is welcome (websites where we can view and/or purchase your work). Please do continue to preface if content is NSFW and be sure to properly spoiler/link such content. Those of you who’d like to post future Creative Endeavors Threads, please be sure to check out the Sign-Up Sheets and act accordingly.

It was a really nice weekend around here, and though Saturday was swallowed up by work with my slow, tedious co-worker, I had Sunday off and was able to walk several miles around town, taking in both urban areas and parks (the latter involving plenty of avian encounters, even if long-range: a couple of redtail hawks flying with their offspring, a tufted titmouse singing down the neighborhood, and best of all my first ever sighting of a merganser) as well as getting an eyeful of a new acquisition by our local art museum (a mixed media painting twice my size by Chris Ofili). On returning home, I more or less finished a painting (to be posted below) and can’t help but think that a renewed exposure to my local environs (and the vitamin D) acted as creative fuel.

“Midnight Madness” on Main Street, 30 November 2018

Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a small city of a little over a hundred thousand people a little under an hour’s drive due west of Detroit (Washtenaw County is technically part of SEMCOG—the Southeast Michigan Community of Governments—and it’s often struck me that Ann Arbor’s about as far west as you can get in Michigan before many stop identifying with Detroit and start identifying against it). It is, of course, the home of the University of Michigan, and as such cultivates and attracts a wide variety of cultural amenities. There’s the aforementioned art museum, a nice little archaeology museum, and a recently refurbished natural history museum, as well as a number of student orchestras, theater companies, and arts organizations. Since its founding, the college’s cachet has spread into the town, enabling local institutions like the Ann Arbor Folk Festival and Art Fair, the latter of which more or less completely dominates downtown for a week every July. I’ve lived here now for the better part of two decades and one of Ann Arbor’s consistent benefits has been that it punches well above its weight for its size and there’s generally plenty to do.

Sunrise through Furstenberg Park, 17 June 2011

A number of parks and natural areas (even picturesque graveyards) surround the downtown area, many of them bordering the Huron River. As a result, a walk of just an hour can yield an incredible diversity of natural and artificial environments and scenery .There are a number of historical neighborhoods (with provenances of varying age and legitimacy), many of the most avowedly “desirable” featuring Craftsman houses and the like. The downtown area is a hodgepodge of styles; many of the office buildings date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, even if most don’t function as originally intended, and the mix between old and new is generally harmonious, even if some locals can be overzealous in keeping it weighted towards the former, an attitude that’s led to a number of problems (and has dominated our city politics for most of my time here, not that I’m going into those).

Older buildings on S. 4th Ave. set across from a senior living apartment complex, originally a hotel built sometime in the 60s or 70s (probably best unseen); taken for some reason on my birthday, 25 November 2018

I had a whole paragraph I was going to write about said problems in general, rather than specifically political, terms, but not sure this is really the place for that. I basically just wanted to give a rundown of my local environment and how it’s affected my own creative work.

While my fiction tended to use an amalgam of Ann Arbor and Akron, Ohio as its primary setting (the geography resembling, perhaps fittingly, Toledo), the “realistic” painting and illustration I’ve done (and of which I plan to do more) draw overwhelmingly from where I’ve been living now for so long (I think I’ve done one drawing of my hometown and none of Akron, where I lived for a few years around the turn of the century). There’s an obvious energy and vitality to the place simply due to the University’s presence, even if the frequent population turnover can keep it in a little too much flux, and there’s a longstanding artistic and musical scene, though it can be more than a little clannish. It’s threatened in general, too, by high rents and the growing dispersal of artistic energies in the direction of Ypsilanti, the smaller town next door that’s long been hailed as the Brooklyn to our Manhattan (and the same thing that’s happened to Brooklyn’s more or less happening there now, too). So, there’s confusion, uncertainty, and inequality: a deadly combination when it comes to the civic fabric but arguably great for a certain kind of art, though I honestly try not to think that way and hope what I might do can help change things for the better.

Weird that, having said all that, I’ll be spending much of today in Detroit for Paczki Day, but that’s life!

Washington Street by night, 22 January 2020

Here are a few examples of creative work drawn from local life.

Election Dawn
“Election Dawn”; drawn on location (including self-portrait) outside the downtown library waiting to vote in November 2018 (archival ink on paper, same)

Sunday Nights Gone
“Sunday Nights Gone”; tribute to my secondary local’s Sunday night happy hour (archival ink on paper, August 2019)

Staff Partiers
“Staff Partiers”; set at a local park’s crew dock and popular sunbathing spot (archival ink on paper, July 2019)

How does your local environment influence or affect your own creative work, if at all? And how’s that work going?