Rick Stevens (Artist-in-Residence, 1993)

A painting shows a lake scene
"Untitled", 17” x 21” pastel painting, 1993

NPS/Rick Stevens

Isle Royale Reflection

"When I saw a TV feature on the Isle Royale artist-in-residence program, I knew that it was exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to experience, and I was determined that I would go to Isle Royale. I began to research what and where Isle Royale was, talking to people who had been there. The myth of the wild north started coming alive for me, cultivating my imagination before I arrived.

The reality of Isle Royale was not a disappointment. I had the feeling that I was in true wilderness. The landscape is unique, both fragile and severely rugged at the same time. The woods are lush with mosses, the trees colored and textured with lichens. Large boulders softened by thick green carpets of moss add to the look that conjured up the mythical lore of the remote north. One such place is along Hidden Lake on the trail to Lookout Louise. I enjoyed watching moose, fox, beavers, and the sunsets around Hidden Lake and Tobin Harbor. There were some stunning moonlit nights also; from the perch at Dassler cabin there is plenty of water to reflect the light. Loons were plentiful around Tobin Harbor but were very elusive when I attempted to come close in a canoe. However, one evening, braving cold waters, I managed to swim within six feet of one to witness an impressive display as it rose up on its tail, beating its wings.

The unfamiliar Isle Royale landscape was a little overwhelming artistically. I think I have done my best Isle Royale paintings since my residency, after time to assimilate and develop ideas. Since Isle Royale I have been a resident at four other nationals parks and have gained experience in extracting the unique beauty of each place and incorporating it into my own artistic vision. My aim is to be open to revealing (or imagining) and expressing a spiritual landscape whether in remote wilderness tracts, rural agricultural land, or little pieces of “backyard” nature. I have a romantic sensibility for spiritual landscape that alludes to something beyond what is seen. Isle Royale is a place that I carry with me as an archetype of the wild north."

- Rick Stevens*


About the Artist*

Rick Stevens was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from August 20th to September 4th, 1993. He began his art education as a child, watching his father, a self-taught painter, paint scenes of Michigan rivers and woods. Following two years at Grand Rapids Community College, he enrolled in the illustration program at Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, which at that time was limited to commercial art. He transferred to Aquinas College’s fine arts program and earned a bachelor’s degree, then chose to live and paint in a secluded wooded setting near Sparta, Michigan that belonged to his family.

As a student he filled sketchbooks until drawing was second nature, then moved to pastels and oils and developed his own complex techniques using acrylics with drawing materials. “During my Isle Royale residency I have only pastels, but since then have completed several Isle Royale paintings in oils from sketch and slide reference.”

He now lives in the Southwest where he continues his work with oils and pastels. Rick's work can be seen on his personal webpage.

*[Source for all Rick's page content: Root, Robert and Jill Burkland, editors. (2000). The Island Within Us. Houghton, MI: Isle Royale Natural History Association. p 52. Print.]

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Last updated: January 5, 2020

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