Made With Michigan Hands: Leelanau artist Fred Petroskey

Words too often fail us when we try to describe a person, a place, or a moment. By the end of our efforts when we realize words just are not doing justice, we often say, â??I guess you had to be there.â??

Luckily, when put in the right hands, a paint brush can go where a pen cannot.

â??Art can be just about anything, if it has the right direction behind the hand doing it,â?? Leelanau artist Fred Petroskey said.

If anyone can capture personality on paper itâ??s local artist Fred Petroskey.

â??He was dressed just like this and I said, â??You know youâ??d make a great painting, Samâ??, and he said, â??Well go ahead do it.â??â??

Petroskey was born near the small village of Lake Leelanau and that is where he spent his childhood.

â??When I was a really young child, I was brought up in an old schoolhouse, it was abandoned, and it was loaded with blackboards all over,â?? Petroskey said. â??I would search in the registers and find pieces of chalk and that is what I used to draw on the blackboard with. No one thought of buying me any chalk. I would copy cartoon characters and stuff like that. But I was fascinated with faces all of the time and expressions.â??

Petroskey never outgrew his love for art. The personalities he paints are as unique as each brush stroke on the canvas.

â??She was a little waitress in a restaurant in Lake Leelanau, and I was having a cup of coffee and I couldnâ??t take my eyes off of her. She was just a striking young girl, and I said, â??Would you model for me sometime,â?? and I said, â??I would really like to do your portrait.â??"

Though Petroskey paints landscapes and still life paintings he is most noted in Michigan and the United States for his portraits.

â??Itâ??s not whether itâ??s a person or a landscape, a scene, or a church, or a house, that makes no difference theyâ??re all portraits,â?? Petroskey said.

Some of Petroskeyâ??s most popular paintings seem to have come about by accident.

Petroskey said one of his portraits was voted best in show and it was actually his pallet painting. He used the paint left over on his pallet to paint it.

There are a couple of paintings that Petroskey did that he was not happy with at first.

â??I kind of thought it was a throw-away painting, but then when Dawn, the owner of the gallery, came by and she liked this painting, I took another look at it and said, â??Well maybe itâ??s better than I thought,â??â?? Petroskey said.

Petroskey is featuring his work from over five decades from Oct. 20 to Nov. 30 at Gallery 22 on M22 near Suttons Bay.

The opening and artist reception is Saturday, Oct. 20 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information about Fred Petroskey or Gallery 22 visit or search Gallery22on22 on Facebook.