John Demers stands with his watercolor painting  where it hangs in the Richard and Jane Manoogian  Mackinac Art Museum on Mackinac Island.

John Demers stands with his watercolor painting where it hangs in the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum on Mackinac Island.

Photo provided by John Demers

St. Clair Shores resident takes third place in Visions of Mackinac Art Competition

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 20, 2019


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A lifelong resident of St. Clair Shores, John Demers is also a lifetime sailor who has sailed the Port Huron to Mackinac Island race many times over the years.

When his daughter was 4 years old, after one such sailing, he and his family were walking to the award party on Mackinac Island when they walked past St. Anne’s Church. His daughter told him to wait because she wanted to watch the bride come out of the church.

They did so, he recalled, and then continued on their way.

“As a 4-year-old, this was everything to her,” he said. “We continued walking down to Mission Point. Halfway (there), she looks back and said, ‘When I get married, that’s where I’m going to get married.’

“Twenty-seven years later, that’s where she got married and her reception was at Mission Point.”

While Demers spends from spring to fall each year on the water, he spends his winters working on watercolor paintings. His daughter was married Oct. 14, 2017, and while the day was “absolutely gorgeous,” the evening brought a storm to Mackinac Island that ripped a sailboat from its mooring in the harbor. It ended up on the beach at Biddle Point, and that’s where Demers’ brother spotted it as he rushed to catch the first ferry off the island after the wedding.

The brother texted Demers, who sped down to the beach on his bike to snap photographs of the damaged craft. It wasn’t until the winter of 2018-19, however, that he turned those photographs into a watercolor piece, “Morning After the Storm (October 15, 2017),” which won third place in the 2019 Visions of Mackinac Art Competition out of a field of 110 entries. The theme for this year’s competition was “Visions of Mackinac,” and artists of all mediums shared their artistic visions of the island.

All of the artwork, including photography, paintings, sculpture and other mediums, was completed by living artists within the past two years. The work was judged by Emily Lanctot, curator of collections and outreach at Northern Michigan University’s DeVos Art Museum.

The 23 finalist entries are on display at the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum through October.

Best in Show went to Natalia Wohletz for “Trail Lookout,” and second place went to Mary Bea McWatters for “West Bluff.”

“This past winter, I did eight different pieces that were focused” on Mackinac Island for a gallery on the island that sells originals and prints of his work, Demers said. The last painting in that series that he created was “Morning After the Storm.”

And although the piece has become an award winner, as a sailor, he said that he feels torn about the subject.

“As a sailor, the last thing you want to see is a sailboat washed up on the beach,” he said. “You can tell the knowledgeable sailors, (when they see it, they) will say, ‘What a shame.’”

Demers said he has been painting more seriously for the past 20 years and that most of his work has a nautical focus.

“Mackinac has always been a special destination or location, not just for me but for my entire family,” he said.

Like other award winners, he said that he is already on the hunt for inspiration for next year’s competition.

“When I was up there for the Mackinac race week, I was out there with my camera. I don’t look for it (a subject) — I wait for it to smack me upside the head,” he said.