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Ever since I was a child, I’ve drawn pictures of boats and ships. I also, drew dinosaurs, rockets, castles and dragons. But, ships were my favorite. I built models of ships, and imagined strolling their decks. I memorized the names of the parts and learned their purpose. As I drew, I learned the language of the sailor and my fascination grew as my drawings improved.

My father taught me to sail at an early age. He shared his love for the sea, through books by Slocum, Mellville, Conrad and Dana. Through their words, I imagined sailing to adventures in far-off places. The more I learned about ships, the more “real” my drawings looked, to me. They became 3-dimensional and full of detail, as I became a sailor, on a small boat, on an inland lake.

As a teenager, I crewed aboard racing sailboats on Lake Michigan and worked in boatyards. I helped deliver a yacht down the Mississippi River and “discovered” the ocean. I worked aboard a shrimpboat off the coast of Georgia and I handlined for mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico. I turned 21 aboard the Cable Schooner, “Western Union” and sailed numerous boats in the Florida Keys. I drew them all, and sold my drawings, first as a street artist, then through galleries in Key West.

As a child, I watched the Longships and Salties making their way up and down Lake Michigan. Their distant silhouettes, by day, and long rows of lights, by night, filled me with wonder. In the summer of 1974, I shipped aboard the 852’ “Roger Blough”, sailing six months through the Winter Run. We hauled iron ore from the western shore of Lake Superior, to the steel mills on the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. I read every book I could find about the history of the Great Lakes, while experiencing their vast serenity and awesome power. Years later, this research and experience led to the creation of “GREAT LAKES AND GREAT SHIPS, An Illustrated History For Children”. It is also what I bring to my Illustration Workshops.

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The following drawing projects, use boats and ships of the Great Lakes as the main characters of our illustrations. Through storytelling and step-by-step instructions, students “build” their own, highly detailed, 3-dimensional vessels. They learn that every line has a name, place and purpose. The ships become our “Time Machines” as we explore man’s quest for, and use of the natural resources of our Great Lakes Region. Students add background details, shading and texture, to end with an “Awesome” illustration, in less than an hour. Multiple-session workshops are available for all topics, resulting in 4-8 page books. These workshops are a great introduction to an area of study, emphasize and develop art, research and writing skills, and, best of all, are FUN.

“Your presentation was just great with the children – one of the best I’ve seen. The children were thrilled with their new found ability to draw ships!”

– Jan Timmer, Teacher, Mary A. White School, Grand Haven

Select from the following topics, to introduce or compliment your Michigan History Curriculum: You’ll find Native Americans, Explorers, Fur Traders, Sailors, Shanty Boys and more…

Ship Workshop Topics I have done In the Past 



1 . Canoe-Dugout .  3000 BCOld Copper Culture-Mines in the U.P.

2 . Canoe-Dugout .  1500 ADIroquois Culture, Costumes and Customs

3 . Canoe-Birchbark . 1500 ADAlgonquian, Huron and/or Sioux Cultures

4 . Canoe-Birchbark . 1700sVoyageurs-Fur Trade/Cultural Interaction

5 . Viking Ship . 1100sNorse Voyages to the Great Lakes?

6 . Carrack . 14-1500sEuropean Exploration-Two Worlds Meet

7 . GRIFFON . 1600sLa Salle’s Ship-Exploration and Fur Trade

8 . OSWEGO . 1750sEuropean War Fleets on the Great Lakes

9 . NIAGARA . 1812Commodore Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie

10 . WALK in the WATER . 1820sFirst Steamship on the Great Lakes

11 . Canal Boats . 1830sThe Erie Canal and Immigration West

12 . PHOENIX . 1840sThe Perils of Immigration-Fire on the Lakes

13 . CHALLENGE   1850sThe Great Lakes Schooner

14 . Schooner . 1860sVoyage From the Shipyard to the Scrapyard

15 . Lumber Hooker . 1880sFrom Forest to Steamship

16 . PEWABIC . 1860sCopper Mining-Shipwreck & Salvage

17 . PHILO PARSONS . 1865The Civil War on the Great Lakes

18 . INDIA . 1870Passenger Steamers-Leisure and Commerce

19 . Lifesaving Boats . 1870sShipwreck and Rescue

20 . DAVID DOWS . 1880sLargest Sailing Schooner on the Great Lakes

21 . Fish Tugs . 18-1900sCommercial Fisheries-From Sail to Power

22 . ONOKO . 1880sFirst Iron Steamship on the Lakes

23 . CHAMPION1880 . sTugboat with Tow-End of the Age of Sail

24 . Whalebacks . 1890sPig Boats, Passengers and Iron Ore

25 . TASHMOO & ERIE . 1890sThe Great Race-Ships and Prosperity

26 . WAWATAM . 1900sCar Ferry-Rail Transportation in Michigan

27 . War Fleet . 1918/40sGreat Lakes Wartime Shipbuilding

28 . the FITZGERALD . 1975The Last Voyage

29 . the BADGERTodayCar Ferry-Transportation and Recreation

30 . the BARKERToday . 1000 ft. Super Ships-Commerce in Change

31 . Racing YachtsTodayLeisure and Sport-Rigging and Nomenclature

32 . Fishing BoatsTodayGill Nets to Trap Nets-Managed Resource

Single and multiple-session workshops are available.

Great Lakes Workshop Example

This drawing began as a felt tip marker drawing on an overhead transparency. In a 45 minute Illustration workshop, 4th grade students at Eastwood Elementary, in Big Rapids, drew along with me. Line for line, with pencil on paper, their drawings became 3-dimensional, rich with texture, loaded with detail – as we sailed through the Age of Discovery on our magnificent Galleons. Each drawing was as unique as its maker. Each student revealed their own unique style. Since then, I’ve added watercolor and acrylic to my drawing. Students added colored pencil and wrote stories for theirs. All were rightfully proud of their work – and so was I.

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