See how these featured artists each draw their artistic inspiration from the natural beauty of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI.

A beautiful sketch by Mike Shisler of the iconic red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in Marquette, MI

Mike Shisler (@drawn.there) 

Urban sketcher

Urban sketcher Mike Shisler is drawn to inspiring places. One half of the duo @Van.There, he creates a visual record of #vanlife with his wife Jess. 

“I try to draw every day,” he said. “To get away for an hour and do a sketch.”  

He had Marquette on his bucket list and this past summer, while traveling from Montana to Pennsylvania, the former Baltimorean spent four days in Marquette sketching the beauty of the area into his memory and onto paper. 

“I would get on my bike out every day and go out with my sketchbook and wait until the scene found me,” he said. “Within 10 minutes, I would find a scene that spoke to me.”

His simple sketches in ink and ink washes capture the understated elegance of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, the bold architectural elements of the Ore Dock, the fine lines of Delft Bistro and its historic marquee, and the curved roof of Thill’s Fish House. 

“I really enjoy telling the story that goes with it,” he said. “Curiosity spurs me when I’m drawing.

Lighthouses are always fascinating, with the maritime history of the area. But what I really enjoy is that it’s drawn in the moment,” he said. “I always try to capture the essence of the place.” 

A digital drawing of the lower harbor Ore Dock at sunset surrounded by a blue Lake Superior

Ryan Steiner (@postedpaper)

Digital artist 

Lake Superior cemented itself into Ryan Steiner’s soul during his years at NMU. He made the move north after visiting a buddy in 2005. “We could see Lake Superior from his back patio.” 

He grew up sketching designs for his family’s screenprinting business. @PostedPaper came about during the quarantine as a way to showcase his favorite places from around the U.S. and Michigan. He’s currently working on a 365 Days of Michigan project. Every day since May 2020, he has been creating a new digital Michigan-themed drawing. 

“It has been a lot of fun thinking of new places. I enjoy drawing and sharing my love of Michigan with others. Lake Superior always comes to mind. I don't know if it’s the time I spent in Marquette or the massive size of the lake or its history. It’s one of my favorite Michigan treasures.”  

He starts by sketching an outline with his finger, then adds color. His Marquette scenes include a boldly colorful Ore Dock, McCarty’s Cove with the iconic harbor lighthouse, a view of the Marquette Shoreline with the Superior Dome, and the Marquette County 550 sign—the gateway to Marquette’s lush forest playground, full of magical adventures waiting to be discovered.
A look inside Madeline Goodman's art studio featuring a wall of local paintings, photographs and handmade jewelery

Madeline Goodman


Madeline Goodman is an artist who isn’t just inspired by the beauty of Lake Superior, but uses actual elements of it in her art. Working in silver, copper and resin, she takes organic material gathered from the shoreline and northwoods, freezes them, and turns them into wearable art in the form of lichen and moss earrings, pendants and even a living moss ring. The delicate lichen blooms reflect the deep blue of the lake when captured in resin.  

“The resin draws out certain colors that the eye won’t capture,” she explains. “It illuminates what’s there and captures the lake’s beauty perfectly.”

Her newest line features hammered cuff bracelets with pine needles and other textures to reflect waves crashing on stones, adorned with Lake Superior agates and other local stones. 

“Lake Superior has my heart. Every season the Lake has something to say, from the little icebergs crashing up against each other in winter, to the agates on the shore in the summer. The water is so clear, and when it’s calm, it takes your breath away.” 

A painting of the bright sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks over the deep blues of Lake Superior

Julie Highlen (featured at Zero Degrees Gallery)  

Landscape painter

Julie Highlen began capturing the majesty of Lake Superior on canvas even before it became her backyard. After exploring the area for years and building a cabin near the lakeshore, she and her husband made the move permanent after their children came north for college. 

A landscape artist, the lake and its shoreline provide her with endless inspiration.

“Lake Superior has so many moods,” she said. “It’s always changing. It is just one of those places that draws you in.”

From serene purple skies gently descending over the lake at dusk as waves tumble over the rocks, to the pristine stillness of the glass-like surface on a calm day, or a jolly little Piping Plover dancing along the shore, there are as nearly as many opportunities for inspiration as the lake is vast. 

Whether she is depicting a popular local hangout like Presque Isle or Blackrocks, a hidden cove tucked along the shore, or a lone majestic boulder rising from the lake’s surface, her paintings capture the quiet moments in soothing, peaceful scenes. 

“I like to portray nature as something to go out to and contemplate,” she explained. 

Relax and take a “visual vacation” into one of Highlen’s paintings or bring home a scene that captures your heart at Zero Degrees Gallery in Marquette, Open Wings Pottery and Art Gallery in Munising, Art in Abundance in Grand Marais, at summer art shows, and direct from the artist. Prices start at $27 for a 3” by 3” on birch panels. Large-scale works run up to $1,500. 

First Thursdays Art

Gordon Gearhart (featured at Zero Degrees Gallery)  


Gordon Gearhart had been working with sheet metal, steel and iron before arriving in Marquette, but quickly found that he ended up in the right place. 

The region’s iron history made it a serendipitous landing for a blacksmith. After college, he opened a shop in Marquette and began creating architectural, sculptural, and utilitarian metalwork. 

“I make a lot of tools, like axes and knives, so the northwoods atmosphere influences the work I do.” 

In addition to sturdy workaday pieces, Gearhart also forges iron into decorative items like gracefully twirled door handles, fierce-looking wolf head fireplace grates, simple but graceful forged bottle openers, hair sticks, hand-forged belt buckles, trophies, and sculptures.  

Much like the hammer leaves its imprint on the pieces he creates, the massive lake, has left her imprint on Gearheart.   

“It’s always an influence, although not specifically to pieces that I do,” he explains. “The Lake influences me simply because I walk to work every day and look and see what the lake and sky are doing that day. It’s just good for my soul.” 

In addition to feeding his soul, the lake also provides some vital components that are the lifeblood of some of his creations.  

“I walk the lakeshore with my dog and most every time I walk, I pick up old pieces of iron off the shoreline from other abandoned industrial sites around Marquette and sometimes those pieces get used in the work.”

Work like the sculptural fish, both fierce and prehistoric looking. 

“I’m very interested in fossils and fossilized bones, skeletons. The fish are kind of industrial fossils.”  

Whether sculptural or utilitarian, all of Gearhart’s work bears the mark of the region. 

“All have some base in the history of this area,” he said. “I know where all the parts came from.”