Artistic inspiration in Lake County

Michigan Artist Loralee Grace takes up month residency in Baldwin

BALDWIN—Lake County is a popular travel destination with endless tracts of untamed forests and miles upon miles of rushing rivers and streams. Michigan artist, Loralee Grace, 28, from Grand Rapids, jumped at the chance to stay in Lake County during the month of August. This was the repose she needed to prepare for a full year of traveling in New Zealand.

Having prior connections to Baldwin area resident Beth Anne Murphy, she took up a month’s artist residency at the Murphy home, a wooded scenic area that overlooks the Baldwin River.

This was not Grace’s first time at the Murphy residence.

“We visited them a few years ago in the autumn. It was the most gorgeous time and we fell in love with their spot in the woods by the river,” she said. “We connected through her and when I knew we were going to be making a big leap to New Zealand I proposed a month-long artist residency to Beth Anne and Jim, as a way to aid us in our transition. It was really helpful to have the time away from the city before we left.”

Grace has been very creative since childhood.

“Art has always been the only thing I was really talented at, and painting transfixes me like no other medium, so it was the obvious choice for my future,” she said.

She not only unleashes her creative talent through painting, but also uses it as a channel to be a voice for issues she cares deeply about.

“I combine landscapes with a native cultural pattern belonging to that land,” she explained. “I also add futuristic elements of air filtration devices, which signifies my concern for the future of our environment. To me the patterns represent both the cultural history of the land, as well as a spiritual symbol, something that you cannot always see but it is there. This is why I often place them in the sky, or on a pathway that someone is traveling on.”

“My paintings are a combination of past, present and future, and I hope they inspire people to both appreciate the unique beauty of other lands and cultures, and want to preserve the nature and culture nearby,” she said.

Grace’s art has received wide attention. She won a competition for the U.I.C.A. Exit Space project in 2015 with a sketch she submitted for a mural painting. She recently was a featured artist in the September issue of the Revue Magazine. Her art is represented at the Richard App Gallery in Grand Rapids.

While in Lake County, Grace painted by the riverside.

“The sound of the water flowing and the birds and other wildlife singing really inspired me and helped me focus on painting. In the city the noises are much more abrasive and distracting,” she said.

During her stay in Lake County, Grace worked on paintings that included patterns of Pottawatomie textile.

“I wanted to paint something relevant to the area while I was there,” she said. “I also started an oil painting set in Israel, which I wasn’t able to finish before we left, but now I am making it again on a smaller scale with watercolor and gouache, just to have a sense of completion with it for now.”

She described some highlights of her time in Lake County.

“The entire month was like a dream,” Grace said. “Having such a beautiful place to stay and paint, and such welcoming, laid back hosts was a real and rare treat. We had the pleasure of attending the Gould cemetery dedication in Pinora township, which was a really moving and inspiring experience. A few more highlights were hiking around Bowman Lake, wading in the Baldwin River, and kayaking with Beth Anne.”

Grace’s artistic dreams, along with her husband who does filming featured at website stonekeyfilms.com, has led them to many travel destinations. These travels began with a trip to Iceland in 2011, where she really developed a love of painting landscapes inspired by “vast, barren, mountainous land.”

Additional travels have led the couple to Denmark, Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Uganda and Kenya.

“Every country inspired me in some way, and I am trying to paint them all,” she said.

Currently in New Zealand, Grace said, “We got one year working-holiday visas, so we are planning to work and live out of a camper-van for the year (a common and affordable way to travel here.) I know we will love the mountains, natural landscapes, and learning about the historical Maori culture. We are excited to get out of the city and experience the nature.”

Although she is thrilled to have adventures of the lifetime traveling overseas, the Michigan native says she will miss the autumn hues of fall, her favorite season.