Its an environment that is as elegant and interesting as Pollie herself. But thats not to say the artist doesnt have a sense of fun: friends, several of whom have been her painting subjects, pop in and out to say hello and laugh over shared stories and planned get-togethers almost as often as the never-ending stream of tourists who stop by to admire Pollies work. And this entire Harbor Springs tableau may not have happened had Pollie not, as she puts it, fallen in love with a great local guy.
Elizabeth Pollie grew up near Detroit, and spend nearly 35 years summering in Harbor Springs. She moved up to the area about five years ago after meeting local real estate executive Bernie Schaffer, and first settled in Harbor Springs proper, later moving out to Cross Village.
Bernie and I also have a little house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we spend part of our time, Pollie explains, but its Harbor Springs that we come back to.
Pollie has been involved in the arts since she was a child, working with many different mediums, but it was her work as a freelance editorial illustrator that was the real beginnings of her path to becoming a painter.
I was an illustrator for quite a while, she says, but when I moved Up North, I was painting in oils part time, and that was when I decided to commit to my own artwork entirely.
Pollie has had a working studio in Harbor Springs since around 2002, and would have about one opening per year to showcase her artwork. Those openings were very well received, Pollie remembers, and that is a big part of what helped me make the decision to open up my own gallery downtown.
Opened at the end of June of this year, the gallery opening, combined with the installation of Pollies current exhibition on Mackinac Island, has been keeping the artist very busy. Her Horsepower: The Horses of Mackinac collection (on display at the Mackinac Island library), in which Pollie rediscovered the islands signature working animal as a central part of island life instead of just as a tourist attraction, features almost two dozen pieces. And 19 of those paintings have already sold, a testament to Pollies artistic ability to translate the many moods of the gentle equine giants into compelling art.
TAKE A TRIP
The rest of Pollies work, however, tells a different story - many, actually. The pieces in her downtown Harbor Springs gallery reflect the artists travels, while other paintings are still lifes and still others are figurative studies.
I try to take at least one interesting trip per year, Pollie points out. The last few have been to Spain, Morocco, and San Francisco. Its great for inspiration.
And, while Pollie is also influenced by the beauty of her Harbor Springs surroundings, shes definitely not limiting herself to that range of scenery, as she feels that those interpretations are already being done by so many others.
I was a little nervous, at first, to make that statement, she explains, of doing a wider range of artwork than what might normally be seen in this area. But people seem to be glad to see different subject matter, they seem happy to see works that diverge from the regional art, which is, of course, nice in its own way - but its a huge world, and there are so many other amazing things to see and paint too.
Pollie also enjoys doing series work, in which she picks a painting topics and focuses on that topic for anywhere from six months to a year, exploring the different nuances and ranges within that self-imposed limit. Her most recent series, of course, is the aforementioned ...Horses of Mackinac, and before that, Pollie reports, she did a set of paintings that solely focused on the sky.
It really teaches one to become very intimate with your subject matter, she enthuses, and its good for people to see how, much like Monet and his waterlilies paintings, an artist can handle the same subject over a series of paintings and make those paintings different yet cohesive.
Visitors to West Wind Atelier will likely enjoy chatting with Pollie as much as they will enjoy viewing her works. A gregarious hostess, shes grateful for the opportunity to do what she does, and she also tries to share what shes learned by teaching her techniques to others.
Another of the reasons I wanted to open my own gallery was that I had done some teaching at the Center For Creative Studies in Detroit, she explains, and I thought the gallery would help give me a chance to teach my own classes up here.
Although its best to telephone Pollies gallery for more information, the general idea is that she will be offering six-week sessions plus separate workshops both in the studio and out in the field, a chance for fellow artists of all levels to both learn and share painting ideas and methods. Its Pollies way to share her good fortune.
As an artist, what I get to do with my life and time is such a thrill, she smiles, to some extent, I guess Im selfish about it - but I think that to paint what you love is the key to your growth as an artist. And Im lucky to be able to do just that.
West Wind Ateliers hours are generally from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the gallery is located in downtown Harbor Springs at 231 E. Main Street, telephone 231-526-2601. Pollie may also be visited online at www.elizabethpollie.com.