Have you ever wished you could make a billion stops when driving from, say, point A to point B through northwest Michigan’s Emmet and Charlevoix counties? Zipping past the region’s beautiful, colorful charms, I often feel a strong desire to pull over and soak up the Caribbean greens of Walloon Lake or the serene blues of Lake Michigan. The next minute I’m dying to touch the bark of the slender, white-as-snow birch trees along M-119, and then take in the cheery reds of the cute buildings in tiny Good Hart. Oh, and is there time to pull up a chair beneath those striped umbrellas on the inviting patio at the Inn at Bay Harbor?
There never seems to be enough hours in the day to thoroughly relish all of the north country’s eye-catching beauty, these visual moments that become treasured keepsakes in my mind.
If you’ve tried to pack in as many stops as possible during a visit to this magical oasis and still feel like you haven’t gotten enough, you may want to check out the works of artist Larissa Flynn. The Charlevoix-based painter has uniquely captured many of the area’s enchanting vignettes, from pure water vistas to inns and highway/road trip scenes. Like quiet, fleeting glimpses of soulful Michigan, her canvases showcase quintessential Great Lakes State splendor.
“Four years ago I started to explore plein-air painting,” says Flynn, who’s the exhibit curator at the 12-year-old Charlevoix Circle of Arts, a nonprofit organization that strives to cultivate a more inspired and educated community through the arts. Flynn, who grew up in southeast Michigan, spent many summers as a child visiting her grandfather in the area. “He built an A-Frame in Cross Village and we would go and stay there,” she recalls. “We loved sunset swims in Good Hart, and I wouldn’t dump the beach sand out of my shoes so that when I got home, I’d still have sand from the shore.”
As an adult, she took a summer job in the area and never left.
Working with oils and oil pastels, Flynn says she has a strong drawing foundation, so her work “meanders between drawing and painting.” One of her signature shades is Marrs Green. “It’s the color of the water in the Caribbean and you see it here in places like Walloon Lake, because of the limestone deposits in the region. I’m always drawn to it and when I see it, I can’t stop staring.” The artist explains that the rich teal hue was named “The World’s Favourite Colour” in 2017, in a survey initiated by British paper merchant G.F. Smith.
Most of Flynn’s work is done plein-air, and sometimes she finishes it back at her studio in downtown Charlevoix, which does double duty as an Airbnb. She and her husband, D.J., executive chef for Stafford’s Hospitality, and daughter live a few blocks over. Flynn says she’s taken her art much more seriously in the past five years. “Being a mom takes up time, and those responsibilities are starting to wind down,” she says. Her daughter is now 20. “Art would come and go in my life, but my husband said, You gotta stick with it!”
And that she did. One who adores painting on-site, Flynn says “being on the spot takes you to aha moments, and there’s a connection when that happens.” As for the results, her paintings feature uncomplicated forms and pleasing palettes that showcase a special neck of the woods. “This area feels good,” she says. “It’s my home.”
You can find Flynn’s art at her Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/LFlynnART; at the Inn at Bay Harbor gift shop, Bay Harbor; in A Studio, Good Hart; and at lflynnfineart.com. You can also visit her studio (by appointment only, call 231-675-1716).