Tag Archives: Duluth Mn.

Anchor Retired and Lighthouse Still Working.

Lighthouse-anchor_web  Pen and Ink on Illustration board 8″x10.” Plein air sketch rendered 2005 in Duluth, MN

As so many lakeside studies, there is a seagull in the picture.  Working in ink, it is difficult to capture a good likeness of the busy birds.  Duluth has many opportunities to capture these birds, and much added scenery with lighthouses, bridges, and lakewalks.  So, one must work out the seascape-landscape aspects and add a bird in, making sure that it will go into the background as erasing in ink is not possible.  If you are not feeding the birds, you must wear a hat.




Seagull In Joyful Flight

Pen and Ink on illustration board 8″x10″ Rapidograph Tech Pen.

Graceful seagull in flight; they are a joy to watch and both fun and funny characters to sit and observe. Catching them with a pencil sketch and later converting to pen and ink works best. Grabbing photo research helps, but there is nothing like watching and sketching to get the feeling of how much they enjoy flying. Makes you want to stretch your arms out and try. If you watch the children watching the birds, they mimic their flight with out stretched arms and share their popcorn to encourage the joy. Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota – one of the best places to see both children at play and birds at work.


Seagulls Through the Masts

Pen and Ink on Illustration board 8″x10″

Seagulls are great self-pilots and acrobatic performers. I did not realize that these two were in a “dog fight” (term for in-flight combat). But I had watched one stealing the food out from another, then take off through an obstacle course of sailboat masts with the other in angered response, and it donned on me there is a constant show going on amongst the birds. They are not unlike children in the sand box.


Seagulls Swarm

Seagulls Swarm – Watercolor on W/C paper 8″x10″ (2005)

Seagulls swarm over a popcorn-tossing audience, a common occurance in Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota and probably everywhere else there are seagulls.

Capturing these birds in plein air style is very tough. It takes several boxes of popcorn to keep them near enough to sketch; first one bird, then another to represent the flock in action.

I paid a kid to keep feeding them while I sketched for about 30 minutes. Later, I just started photographing them and trying to illustrate them in the studio. On site is more “real,” but studio illustrating from reference photos makes more accurate bird images.

If you wear a hat and keep feeding them, they don’t drop things from the sky on you. I have watched them try to get popcorn from some people who ignore them and they will send their own special message to them. Yep! They know who is going to feed them, and who needs a lesson.

© John Michael Cook

Seagulls on St. Louis River

Two Seagulls (Friends) 18.5"x28.75"   Friends in Flight (20″x30″ acrylic with brush on Canson Illustration board).

Standing high on a bluff (700 ft.) overlooking the St. Louis River south of Duluth, MN, I saw these seagulls crest over the edge of the bluff and swoop down over 3 miles to Lake Superior in search of food. A bird has to work hard in winter and It was winter 2005 and the lake was frozen but the river had some openings that allowed these sky hunters access to the St. Louis River bounty. With an approaching storm, I couldn’t tell where land, water and sky began and ended! Acrylic paint allowed for glazing (layering between passages), and then overpainting the bird pair


© John Michael Cook

Sail Boat Regatta

36-wednesday sailors Study  6″x8″  (Aquarell water graphite pencil on watercolor paper) I love these pencils – they are so fun to use. Draw and add water with a small brush and shade as you go.

Duluth, Minnesota at Lake Superior – study sketches. Sailing boats are always moving and a bit of a distance away so you have to plein air grab what you can or photograph them. I prefer to just find a bench or rock and give it a try. Later these boats may become a studio painting, or maybe not. The Aquarell pencil allows great range in shading and drawing on site (plein air).

The Aquarell pencil also gives a uniform look to sketches over time, with consistent shading values.


© John Michael Cook

Endion Station

endion station

Endion Station, located in Canal Park, Duluth, MN.

On site sketch (2005), rendered in graphite on illustration board 8″x10.” Some tonal work was done with the Aquarell water pencil

The Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Endion Depot is a historic railroad depot in Duluth, Minnesota.   Built in 1899 for passengers and freight. It was formerly located at South Street and 15th Avenue East. The Interstate 35 extension in 1985, necessitated moving the building; it was relocated to Canal Park.  It features fine brick and stone architectural detailing and craftsmanship. The building is designed with projecting gables that form a transept. Its architect was I. Vernon Hill. The stone came from the Kettle River quarries near Sandstone, Minnesota.