Mary Blocksma Exhibition - May 2003

What's On the Beach? An Unusual Memorial Weekend Event showcases two new Great Lakes books and art

Michigan author and artist Mary Blocksma, always prolific, has outdone herself, this year the author of two new books - What's On the Beach? A Great Lakes Treasure Hunt and Great Lakes Nature: An Outdoor Year - plus over a hundred pieces of original art celebrating Lake Michigan, all of which will be present, including the author herself, Saturday and Sunday of Memorial weekend at downtown Saugatuck's Timmel Collection gallery. As always, Blocksma's fresh, vibrant painting and writing styles invite exciting new ways to see and appreciate the Michigan lakeshores. The weekend Timmel event will be the only time that all Blocksma's original acrylic illustrations for her new children's book, What's On the Beach? will be included in a booksigning event.

Forty Sleeping Bear Dunes watercolors produced during Blocksma's stay last fall as artist-in-residence in Glen Arbor will also be shown, as well as her second book this spring, Great Lakes Nature published by the University of Michigan Press.

What's On the Beach?, a 48-page paperback from Beaver Island Arts, is Mary Blocksma's eighteenth children's book, but it's the first children's book that she has illustrated herself. Bright acrylic paintings of birds, butterflies, snakes, frogs, fossils, insects, animal tracks, and much more, practically leap off the pages, offering easy clues to over a hundred Great Lakes natural wonders.

"I did several paintings for each illustration that made it into the book," says Blocksma. "I tried to make the art accurate enough for identification, but whimsical enough to appeal to kids.

But What's On the Beach? is not just for kids. "I spent years of my life on the Lake Michigan lakeshore before I realized that a tern was not a gull, or that fabulously colored waterbirds migrate in huge crowds along the lakeshore," Blocksma says.

"People often don't really see what's right in front of them. I'm hoping that this book will help lake lovers of all ages explore our shores a little further than they might have before."

A contributor to many reading programs from major textbook publishers, everybody Blocksma decided to write the book at about third-grade level, "so that could enjoy it, from young kids to high school kids to adults."

Blocksma combines the expertise of a Great Lakes traveller, amateur naturalist, painter, and seasoned children's book writer.

Not only has she traveled more than 6,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, writing about her encounters in her book, Great Lakes Solo, but she has also written one of the only thorough introductions to area wildlife and plants, published by Penguin in 1992 as Naming Nature, and reissued by University of Michigan Press as Great Lakes Nature: An Outdoor Year.

"I did over half thre research book right here in the Douglas/Saugatuck/Holland area," Blocksma explains. "I learned to identify our natural wonders by taking four or five walks a week for a year, each time identifying one new thing. It's a playful way to learn the names of more common natural neighbors."

Blocksma's watercolor posters, Window on Lake Michigan I and II, each showing 36 views of Lake Michigan, will be available in a new edition called Lake Effects I and II, at the Timmel event. The poster paintings are reproduced in Lake Lover's Year, Mary Blocksma's journal of an eight-month stay in a cottage between Douglas and Oval beaches. During her time there, she painted the view from a water-facing window 160 times.

"I did it to learn how to paint," Blocksma explains. "I had always wanted to illustrate my own work, and I've also wanted to find a way to communicate the incredible lakeshore colors. Words didn't do it, so I used watercolors".

Lake Lover's Year was featured in a five-page spread in last October's issue of the national art magazine, Watercolor Magic. In 2002, it was runner-up for best memoir by an independent publisher, a national award.

Blocksma is in Saugatuck as part of an extensive booksigning tour which includes, Schulers' Bookstores and Music in Grand Rapids and eight Border's Bookstores in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. Originally from Grand Rapids, Blocksma has lived all over Michigan, presently residing in Bay City.

Find the author along with her books and art Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25, at The Timmel Collection, 133 Main Street, Saugatuck. Call 269 857-7274 for more information.

May 24 & 25, 2003

Mary makes new friends at her
One Woman Show and Book Signing.

A constant crowd allows Mary her
most successful book signing ever.

Movie Star Gary Criner is all smiles
with his new acquisition.

Mary's ever increasing audience.

Private Dinner for Mary

After signing and selling over 100 books, Mary
relaxes with Gallery owner
"JoJo" at "Treetop's,"
his summer residence.

Gallery patron and Saugatuck resident
Nancy White with