Winter Songs & Carols: The Art of Collaboration

Leelanau County WinterIn our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents a program of music, poetry, and prose inspiring you to embrace winter. But what does it mean to embrace a season known for darkness and cold? When confronted with the dazzling merriment expected of us for the holidays, what could we learn from a season of quiet and introspection?

During winter, a season that receives more than its fair share of bad press, we’re more often tempted to find ways of distracting ourselves from the season’s sometimes harsh realities. We huddle indoors like hermits, deck our halls with boughs of holly, or fly the coop for an extended stay someplace warmer and more life-affirming.

For our 2016 collaborating artist, Ellie Harold, winter is often a season of inner discovery. With the weather outside inhospitable for her paints and canvas, daily inspiration from picture windows becomes limited and quickly exhausted. Where else might an artist turn but inward?

Last winter, desperate for a subject to Periwinkle Skiespaint, Ellie found inspiration in a most unlikely place! “A brief scrounge through my recycling bin yielded a [mostly] rinsed out ketchup container and lid. I set up a small table and started arranging Still Life With Dead Ketchup Bottle.”

“As I began to paint I was reminded how I love looking at light shining on and through a transparent object,” says Ellie. “I love how painting asks that I look more and more closely at the thing in front of me. I love how, if I look carefully and paint well enough, I actually begin to see what’s there, to feel its existence as a Presence in the world. It doesn’t matter if the thing before me is a crunched up plastic bottle with remnants of ketchup clinging to its innards – the point of the exercise is not to make a pretty picture. Rather it is to look – using paint as a medium – until I see.”

Here in Northern Michigan with many of our Winter Quietudefavorite hang-outs closing up for the winter and some of our friends and neighbors departing for warmer climes, perhaps it’s an exercise that would benefit all of us: to look at the starkness of winter and allow the innermost elemental beauty of the season to emerge. Those of us who are artists can then take those discoveries with us to our respective “canvas” and kindle in others a passion for this season of cold and darkness.

For our Winter Songs & Carols performances, this December, Ellie has graciously loaned us two of her paintings for promotion and inspiration. For the performance in Traverse City, we have SnowLight — a beautiful abstract evoking both warmth and chill, abundance and scarcity, conversation and silent wonder.

Ellie says it was during a recent winter here in Northern Michigan that her painting style underwent a significant change, leading to a series of abstract paintings. “For most of my painting life I’d been a representational artist. I painted from life or photographic references or not at all. But when the weather turned, I found myself bored with painting from photographs and insufficiently motivated to brave the Michigan cold,” she recalls. “Fortunately, the brush in my hand found its way to the palette and then to a large canvas. The result? A whole new sort of painting, one for which I have yet to develop a descriptive language. In fact, the new work seems to be its own language. It speaks to me while I’m working and fulfills a deep need to reveal my Inner Landscape.”

The painting selected for our Glen Arbor performance, Winter Sunset, explores the more literal and external landscape but its juxtaposition of light and darkness still invites us to explore a deeper landscape within. In my own musings about our winters here in Leelanau County, I marvel at how the slightest change in winter sunlight can turn an entire landscape’s mood on its head — sometimes my own mood too! There’s definitely a special magic in this season!

“Longtime residents of this area are amused at how snow continues to delight me,” says Ellie. “I tell them it’s a visual thing. I see in this winterscape fascinating shapes, colors, and contrasts — for this landscape artist that’s the whole hokey pokey. It pretty much makes up for the cold temps, howling winds, icy roads and endless layers of clothing.”

You’re invited to embark on an exploration of your inner landscape with music, poetry, prose, and a special exhibition of Ellie’s works. Our final collaboration for 2016 is an excellent opportunity to meet Ellie and see more of her work in person. Come surround yourself with winter inspiration!

For more information about Ellie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, visit

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