Artists Margo McCafferty and Tom Rudd, pictured here in front of their garden gate at their home / studio in Calumet, have introduced a variety of art to the Keweenaw, where they create, teach and involve themselves in the community. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)
By Michele Bourdieu and Jennifer Drewyor
HANCOCK -- Margo McCafferty and her husband, Tom Rudd, are an unusual pair of artists who work together, teach together, share common values and high standards of art and still retain an individualism that makes each one an artist in her / his own right.
McCafferty just completed teaching a Watercolor Painting Workshop at the Community Arts Center in Hancock. In the two-session workshop that began last Wednesday, May 26, and continued tonight, June 2, students learned how to focus on paint handling techniques and to understand pigment qualities, materials, and methods of applying watercolor techniques to other water-related media.
Artist Margo McCafferty (standing) demonstrates beginning watercolor techniques during the first session of her Watercolor Painting Workshop at the Community Arts Center in Hancock on May 26. Workshop participants pictured here are, from left, Gisela Shonnard of Chassell; Ronda Jones, Community Arts Center education coordinator; Carol Kurz of Calumet; and Andrea Puzakulich of Houghton.
Last week, McCafferty -- painter, print maker and art educator -- introduced watercolor painting to a group of community members, some of them artists themselves who were exploring a new medium, and others just learning and having fun.
"It's a different form, so that's exciting to me," said Andrea Puzakulich, fiber artist, who makes original, artistic, one-of-a-kind outfits in her Distant Drum Studio.* "It's different for me to work on paper instead of fabrics, but I love working with colors in any medium."
Andrea Puzakulich, fiber artist, explores a new medium at Margo McCafferty's Watercolor Workshop held recently at the Community Arts Center in Hancock.
McCafferty said the May 26 workshop was a step-by-step introduction to help students progress from working with one color to achieving a transition from one color to another.
"We started with some really basic color techniques," McCafferty said.
With her characteristic calm and patient demeanor, McCafferty walked around the large work table, stopping to help each individual student who had a question -- helping them master doing a flat (uniform) wash, a graduated wash (transition from dark to light) and a two-color wash (a smooth transition from one color to another in the same small space on the paper).
Artist Margo McCafferty demonstrates a watercolor technique to Gisela Shonnard of Chassell. At left is Pat Gotschalk of Houghton, Michigan Tech director of student judicial affairs, and at far right is Ronda Jones, a graduate of Finlandia University's School of Art and Design, who now teaches art business at Finlandia.
In the middle of the table were a number of green and yellow apples.
"They're going to paint lots of apples," McCafferty explained. "It's a really good way to learn to paint because of the simple but interesting shapes and colors -- green or yellow because it's easier to see the lights and darks."
During the second session of Margo McCafferty's Watercolor Painting workshop, students paint various objects on the table, including apples, radishes and plants. Pictured here with McCafferty are Tammy Gajewski, left, of Dodgeville, who is an oil painter and potter (she runs a clay co-op for the Community Arts Center) and Ronda Jones, Arts Center education coordinator.
McCafferty added the students would also work on a self-portrait in the second session of the workshop.
While noting she isn't an artist, Pat Gotschalk of Houghton appeared to be enjoying this first experience.
Pat Gotschalk studies models of watercolor techniques during the May 26 session of Margo McCafferty's workshop at the Community Arts Center.
"This is therapy for me," Gotschalk said. "This is fun. I've always wanted to take an art class. I've already learned a lot, and it's only been an hour and 20 minutes!"
Gisela Shonnard of Chassell identified herself primarily as "a Mom," but admitted she has painted before and has taken other classes at the Community Arts Center. One of her favorite artists is Monet.
"I have two children," Shonnard said. "My son is in high school and my daughter's in middle school. She wants to be a fashion designer."
Gisela Shonnard of Chassell and her daughter, Christina, work on painting apples during the second session of Margo McCafferty's Watercolor Workshop, held on June 2.
And her mother-in-law is a watercolor artist, Shonnard added.
Sharon Huhta of Rochester Hills, a seasonal resident, said this was her first experience in watercolor painting.
"I draw," Huhta noted. "I do pastels and watercolor pencil."
Sandy Cooney of Houghton, a retired tax accountant, said she was trying to find out if she has a creative side.
"I do a lot of sewing around the home, but this is the first time I'm trying watercolor," Cooney said. "Martha Hermanson started watercolor later in life, and she's my inspiration."
Sandy Cooney of Houghton practices beginning techniques of "washes." According to artist-teacher Margo McCaffrey, "washes" mean you wet the paper, then wait until the shine disappears and then put in the watercolor paint. At right is Sharon Huhta of Rochester Hills, Mich.
Carol Kurz of Calumet said she has done a lot of figure drawing but watercolor is a different medium for her.
"I'm taking the opportunity to learn from a great artist -- to learn some tricks of the trade -- instead of spending a lot of time experimenting on my own," Kurz noted.
Kurz's term, "great artist," is not an exaggeration. Despite McCafferty's modesty, her own art, the work she shares with her husband, Tom Rudd, and Rudd's own art -- particularly sculpture -- are quite famous.
McCafferty, Rudd create color reduction relief prints together
In March, McCafferty and Rudd exhibited their color reduction relief prints at Finlandia University's Reflection Gallery. In early April they offered workshops to the community and to Finlandia's International School of Art and Design students on this printing technique, which the two artists do together.
Amanda Moyer, Reflection Gallery director, second from left, introduces Margo McCafferty and Tom Rudd, with their son, Max, at the opening of their March 2010 exhibit of color reduction relief prints in Finlandia's Reflection Gallery. At far left is Jaimianne Amicueri, Reflection Gallery curator. Moyer is a student in Finlandia's School of Art and Design, and Amicueri graduated from the School this spring.
The reduction print process begins with drawings and photos. They are carved into a surface, usually a piece of wood. Rudd says cherry wood from Japan and Pennsylvania are his favorites because you can always carve against the grain. First they carve everything that will be white, then the next lightest color and so on. The colors are placed one on top of the other except in those areas where the block has been carved away to allow for the previous colors to show through. Each block can only be used once working in a “print, carve, print, carve” manner, as McCafferty describes it. They have used about 12 colors at the most. The relief ink comes to the surface as opposed to an intaglio print, where the ink sinks in.
"Runoff," one of the color reduction relief prints exhibited in the Reflection Gallery in Hancock last March. (Photo © and courtesy Margo McCafferty)
The artists say they share a similar sense of aesthetics and mutually decide which colors to use. McCafferty noted they like to think of this as colors interacting side by side instead of overlapping.
Tom Rudd addresses Finlandia International School of Art and Design students and visitors at the opening of McCafferty and Rudd's Reflection Gallery exhibit last March. With him are his wife, Margo McCafferty, and their son, Max.
“I’ve been doing this for 50 years," Rudd said, "but it took me a long time to find someone I could work with."
They now do two to three color reduction prints a year as well as other art forms.
Margo McCafferty chats with Cynthia Coté, Community Arts Center director, at the Reflection Gallery exhibit of McCafferty and Rudd's color reduction relief prints last March.
When the couple met in the 1990s they began a collaborative process that would take them various places in the U.S. and beyond. They say they learned to draw when they lived in Japan, where they discovered that their environment influenced their artistic process.
"Each place we’ve lived in we’ve done a series," Rudd said.
It took them 93 prints to make their first print, but since then they have created 150 images including the Cascade Mountains and a flood series done when they lived below Mt. Jefferson. More locally, they have done an Isle Royale Series, a Pictured Rocks Series and a Calumet Series. Their present series, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, often refers to environmental issues -- and especially the quality of water. Much of their current art is inspired by Lake Superior and the Gratiot River, where Rudd fishes.
McCafferty and Rudd have been artists in residence both on Isle Royale and at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
"Isle Royale," a color reduction relief print in McCafferty and Rudd's Isle Royale Series, inspired by their artist residency on the island in 2005. This print was exhibited at the entrance to the Reflection Gallery.
"When we did the residency on Isle Royale (in 2005, while living in Pennsylvania), we visited here a number of times," McCafferty said, "and we decided to move here. The air is so clean and there's a lively arts community and we really like the beaches -- like Horseshoe Harbor, Hunters Point, Bete Grise."
They moved here in 2007, the same year they did an artist residency at Pictured Rocks.
In April 2010, McCafferty and Rudd did a workshop on their color reduction relief print process at Finlandia's School of Art and Design, located in the Jutila Center in Hancock.
At a workshop in Finlandia's International School of Art and Design last April, Tom Rudd demonstrates to Finlandia Art and Design students and Yueh-mei Cheng, second from left, Finlandia Art and Design associate professor in studio arts, how to set up the block to be used for the color reduction relief print process. Students pictured here are Mallory Torola, left, and John Fish, right.
John Fish, Finlandia graphic design major and acrylic artist, said he was interested in learning about this print process.
"It's something I've never done before and I'm learning a new technique," Fish said. "I usually take my acrylic prints and make them into graphic designs."
During McCafferty and Rudd's workshop at Finlandia, Mallory Torola, Finlandia Art and Design student, rolls out ink on a linoleum block to be used for the color reduction relief print.
Mixed media, stone sculpture favorites
McCafferty said she likes working with a variety of media.
"I like the prints," she said, "but I really like using lots of dry pigments -- mixed media -- to paint trees, bark, roots and rocks."
Margo McCafferty sits at her drawing desk at home with her model, a birch tree -- part of the furniture.
Birch trees are among McCafferty's favorite subjects.
"Birch IV," one of Margo McCafferty's mixed-media birch tree paintings. (Photo © and courtesy Margo McCafferty)
Carving stone is "absolutely" Rudd's favorite kind of art. He does large sculpture in limestone, marble or basalt.
He has done external sculpture for Western Oregon University and Grand Valley State University and a park in Detroit -- Fish Park. A big stone fish that he carved is in the middle of the park -- one of a series that he calls "Monuments to Minnows." Rudd considers minnows "a metaphor of the common man."
Tom Rudd carves a large piece of stone in his backyard studio in Calumet.
Rudd recently designed a sculpture "pocket park" for Fifth Street in Calumet. He is a member of the Main Street Calumet Design Committee.
"No matter where we go we are active in environmental and community projects," Rudd said.
McCafferty and Rudd have also found time to work on their garden and to home school their children, both of whom are talented in their own pursuits.
Their son, Max, now 11, especially likes creating games on the computer and writing.
"I'm sorry for my geekery," Max said, after explaining some of the family's computer problems.
"He writes wonderful poetry," McCafferty said.
Max also edited the recent publication, Keweenaw: Art from Our Youth. The book, published by Miskwabik Press, is a collection of artwork and writing by 75 local youth. Proceeds from the sale of the book support Calumet Art Center programs.
Max said he did five poems and several drawings for the book.
"I try to write stories," Max noted. "I like poetry better."
Max has been in a number of home school drama club plays. The club, which consists of about 30 home-schooled students, recently did a performance, including scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, at the Little Gem Theatre in Lake Linden.
Max said he likes home school and also playing the piano. He likes jazz "to play and to listen to." His music teacher is Susan Rokicki of Calumet.
Max has an older sister who lives near Raleigh, NC.
"Our daughter, Ursula Vernon, writes children's books," McCafferty said. "Right now she's writing a series of kids' books -- the Dragon Breath series -- and she's also an artist. She has an award-winning Web comic called "Digger."
Max displays a children's book from the Dragon Breath Series, written by his sister, Ursula Vernon.
McCafferty and Rudd both have works in "North of the Bridge," an exhibit now showcasing artists from the Upper Peninsula through Sept. 2, 2010, at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, Mich.**
The couple will be doing a show at Calumet's Vertin Gallery this August.
"We'll be showing new work that we're making now," Rudd said.
While the places they have lived have allowed this artistic family to create art from the West to the East coasts and now the Great Lakes, McCafferty said they have no plans to move to another area.
"We're happy to be here," she said. "We really like living on the Keweenaw."
* Andrea Puzakulich's Distant Drum Studio is now located in the E.L.Wright Building in Hancock, Studio 101.
** See www.crookedtree.org for information about this exhibit in Petoskey.
Editor's Note: Guest writer Jennifer Drewyor, who contributed to this article, is a graduate of Michigan Tech University in scientific and technical communication.