Michigan BLUE sat down with painter and Mackinac Island gallery owner Maeve Croghan, who shares insights on her new book, “Luminous Landscapes.” The book features a lovely introduction by her longtime friend, writer and island summer resident Sue Allen.
Michigan BLUE: You’ve been a fixture on Mackinac Island through your gallery (Maeve’s Arts), and you’ve been painting for some 35 years or longer. How did it feel to publish a book?
Maeve Croghan: I always thought it would be nice to document my work. This is my second book (the first was “The Essence of Nature,” by Jennifer Wohletz). It all started when one of the island’s summer residents, Jennifer Wohletz, came to me about eight years ago saying that she really liked my paintings. She asked if I would be interested in her company, Mackinac Memories, publishing a book. I feel these books are a lovely way, if you’re not ready to buy a painting, for people to have a bunch of my works to enjoy.
MB: The new book features not just your paintings but other artistic works, correct?
MC: Yes. It’s more comprehensive than the first book, and has wine labels I did, and a large mural I painted in San Francisco.
MB: That cover, with the gorgeous coneflowers and blue water, really screams Mackinac, but softly. How did you decide on your cover?
MC: Those coneflowers grow on the island bluff like that, and I love the color combo with the purples and pinks and the yellows. They pop out against the blue. Of course, I had to include our Round Island Light!
MB: You have a shared studio space and an apartment in San Francisco, where you go during the winter, and on the island you have a gallery in the Carrousel Shops building on Market Street and a condominium/studio near the Inn at Stonecliffe. We heard you may be closing the island gallery?
MC: Yes, that’s true regarding my gallery at the Carrousel Shops. I received a letter from the new owners that the tenants need to move out. I’m not sure what I’ll do next.
MB: Do you teach painting?
MC: I teach plein air painting classes every summer on Mackinac Island through the Mackinac Arts Council. I also teach at the Mendocino Art Center in California. I teach oil, watercolor, and acrylic painting.
MB: What are you working on now?
MC: A painting I started last fall that’s about 20 by 40 inches. (It depicts an area) near Fort Holmes. And I have a larger one of coneflowers and the lighthouse, and a smaller one of coneflowers.
MB: It seems like your family has been on the island for a very long time.
MC: Yes, I’ve been there forever. My family was extremely fortunate to have an old family home on the west bluff of the island, between the Grand Hotel and the Inn at Stonecliffe. As kids, we would come up every summer from Virginia. Being on Mackinac became part of my being. We spent our time in the woods, by the lake, enjoying the natural parts of Mackinac.
MB: How did you get started in art?
MC: From an early age, I was drawn to painting and drawing. During our summers on Mackinac, if it was a rainy day we’d do art — like, say, paint rocks. Our mother had us doing other crafts, too. By high school I had an art teacher who could see I could do stuff. I was mentored and encouraged, and I knew I wanted to be an artist. I received a bachelor’s degree from the New College of California in art and education, and focused on art and social change. But one has to support oneself, too, so for a time I had a vintage clothing store in Virginia and worked at various businesses on the island.
MB: You’re passionate about oil paint and working with it. What’s the attraction?
MC: I love oil because of its luster and its blendability. The paints have a luscious quality to them. When the colors go together, it’s alchemy; they create this amazing blend that creates almost a feeling.
MB: How would you describe your work?
MC: I paint in thin layers. I’m an old-fashioned painter — I add a little bit of linseed oil to each layer, like the old masters would do. You can look through the layers and see beneath them. That’s kind of me, more depth. I’m trying to share what I feel — the essence, the being of my subjects. Take, for example, a twisty tree; it shows a tree in its life and how it’s lived and what it’s done and how it’s coped and endured. As for flowers, I try to convey the joyous amazing ephemeral beauty, the gift.