November 2010: Header image: USCG Woodrush "On Duty", by Mary C. Demroske
Header image: USCG Woodrush "On Duty", by Mary C. Demroske

Featured Artist: Mary C. Demroske

Last updated: November 1, 2010

Mary Demroske was born and raised in Detroit. Nothing in her early history would indicate that she would become a well known marine artist—a Coast Guard Artist and an eighteen year professional member of the International Society of Marine Painters. She was raised in what was the tradition for women at the time (don’t take art in school—it’s a frill—look to clerical work until you get married) so she didn’t take art classes in school and didn’t go to college. She did a lot of drawing, however. Her interests coincided with those of her brother—baseball and diving. She and her brother sketched each other, copied other artists’ work and drew portraits of the Detroit Tiger players. They took up diving at a time when so few women were into the sport that Mary’s diving suits had to be ordered from U.S. Divers in California and then cut and glued when they arrived. Her brother was her diving buddy. Non-traditional in other ways, Mary also loved to hunt and fish. She says she never dived alone, but that she hunted alone because that way she never had to defer to a man who thought he had the shot.

She bought her own boat and motor in the late fifties. It was a 16 foot, flat deck runabout, fitted with a 75 horse outboard motor, and was ideal for carrying diving equipment and for fishing. While on a diving trip to the U.P., Mary met Al Demroske, who originally from South Bend, Indiana, and who had moved to Brimley to teach biology. Mary moved to Brimley when they married in 1964. She continued to hunt and fish until her daughter Gina was born; her interests then became centered on her home and family. One day, when Gina was four, Al came home from school to find her sketching the cover of a sports equipment magazine. He suggested that she go to college and audit an art class—and he pushed, until she went to an evening workshop at LSSU, taught by Eugene Jemison. When the workshop was over Professor Jemison told her that she would be wasting a good talent if she didn’t come back as a regular student and go for grades. The rest is history.

Mary’s first love was pen and ink, and she was doing a lot of that when we met her. When SAAC first acquired Alberta House in 1985 and was first holding regular office hours, Mary volunteered to staff every Friday. This was before renovations, and the north half of the house looked as if it had been bombed. Mary would staff the office on the south side and when not busy would work in pen and ink. A lot of the time it was pretty cold in there, but she was there every Friday and never complained. She has over forty prints of lighthouses and boats from this period, done in stipple work—all dots, no lines. She also produced note cards with drawings of waterfowl and of mushrooms and other native plants. Her Brimley studio is named the Mushroom Cap Studio.

In 1976 she picked up several books about the history of the Great Lake and the shipping business, and became so enthralled that she began to paint boats and lighthouses almost exclusively. She visited lighthouses, ore docks and harbors and spent hours photographing the freighters that passed through the Neebish Island Cut. She studied techniques for painting rough waters and storms, especially the work of Winslow Homer and John Stobart, and today drama and mood are the focal points of her paintings. She took a five-day course with Nita Engles, learning about short cuts and color and water pigments, and she practiced what Eugene Jemison referred to as the “three D’s”—dedication, determination and discipline. She says that as a artist you “have to make the decisions that will make your scene believable but not photographic. . . .to catch the eye of the viewer. . . . Painting is not reality but an illusion created by the artist”. The artist makes the illusion appear real to the viewer.

In the over thirty-seven years on the road that followed, Mary has been in too many juried shows to count. She is a two-time winner of the Sault Summer Arts Festival’s Best of Show Award and has won many other awards—again, too many to count—lots of fun, she says, and lots of work. She has met crew members and captains of great lakes ships and has sailed as a guest on two great lakes freighters.

Gina is now grown and married, has a little boy, and lives on the West Coast. Al has retired. Mary is still balancing her art career and her other life. As this is written she just finished canning numerous batches of applesauce, using apples from the bumper crop produced by Al’s trees. For Mother’s Day, Al got her a small electric chain saw, with which she sawed down the pines crowding her studio and “also anything else that gets in my way”. She and Al are both wildlife enthusiasts and entertain frogs, porcupines, foxes, raccoons and a wide variety of birds. She is an enthusiastic gardener and just finished harvesting “roughly fifty pounds” of squash along with many other vegetables. And now that the busy season is over she has drained her pond for the winter, painted her deck and is off on a pleasure trip.

You can buy Mary’s work on her website, from her studio on Six Mile Road, between the two Birch Point Loop Roads (call ahead) and from numerous shops in town. She is still a strong SAAC supporter. Her auction donation is a framed, remarqued artist’s proof of Rock of Ages, a U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse situated on a small rock outcropping approximately three and one half miles west of Isle Royale. See below .

Works by Mary C. Demroske
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Bison by Mary C. Demroske


Loss of the Duek Luedthe by Mary C. Demroske

Loss of the Duke Luedthe

Rock of Ages  by Mary C. Demroske

Rock of Ages

Great Lakes Fishing Tug by Mary C. Demorske

Great Lakes Fishing Tug

USCG Woodrush "On Duty" by Mary C. Demroske

USCG Woodrush "On Duty"

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
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