Former Toledoan paints lighthouses as retirement hobbyWritten by Amanda Tindall | | firstname.lastname@example.org
With 3,126 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and 115 lighthouses, Michigan is a lighthouse-lover’s heaven. Hillsdale County resident Mary Segur lives in Osseo, Michigan, and spends her retirement capturing Michigan lighthouses on canvas and selling the paintings at events throughout the state.
When Segur was a first-grader living in Toledo, her mother took her to the Toledo Museum of Art for art lessons.
“They had good teachers, and they taught you every aspect you can imagine,” Segur said. “They had clay modeling, pen and ink, tempera paints; then you would graduate, and you could try watercolor and oil.”
Every day from first to sixth grade, Segur received art lessons. Eventually, having graduated into watercolor and oil, she began taking private lessons in high school.
As a high-school English teacher for 25 years, Segur saw many schools go through budget cuts. She objected to the elimination of, or reduced funding for, music and art programs.
“I always argue that practicality isn’t the whole purpose of schooling, any more than it is of life,” she said. “The things that artists create, whether it be music or literature or the visual arts, are not only expressions of their talent and their message, but they’re also a way of bonding people together.”
Segur said she’s painted both landscapes and portraits, but portraits were a lot of work.
“I must have been in my mid-20s and visited Ludington State Park and saw the Big Sable Point Lighthouse,” Segur said. “You have to walk about two miles down the beach before you see it. I just was mesmerized. I fell in love with it.”
She said it brought her closer to expressing a human bond that is often missing in everyday life.
“What drew me to the lighthouses was really what they stood for,” she said. “They’re kind of from a time when people were more willing to risk their life to save a total stranger. I don’t see people doing that today. The keeper that stayed there had to get in a boat and row out in a horrible storm to try to save people who were drowning from a shipwreck.
“Something about that beacon of light and the way it turns, it’s symbolic of a lot more than just showing sailors the way,” she said. “A lot of churches have adopted the symbol of a lighthouse because there’s a parallel there. It has a metaphorical application to your life.”
Segur’s friend and fellow artist Rich Katuzin, who draws similar subjects with pen and ink, takes photographs of the lighthouses for Segur to use as reference.
“I used to paint en plein air (outdoors) and I had an easel, and I was painting with oils,” Segur said. “I had gotten a palette knife, and I was really putting it on thick because I was doing waves, and all of a sudden that wind picked up and blew the canvas off. It went face down in the sand. And it was like, ‘Oh! Texture!’ I decided right then and there that I couldn’t do it.”
Living in a little house on Lake Pleasant in Osseo, with model ships sitting on the windowsill above the front door, Segur has filled her home with her paintings of lighthouses.
At times, Segur calls her friend Kevin Kirwan to look at her paintings and to get his opinion. Kirwan said sometimes she would make changes following their discussions. Kirwan has lived near Segur since 2006, and said he enjoys the feel of living by the lake, a feeling expressed in Segur’s paintings.
“They call her the Lighthouse Lady and, when it comes to the lighthouses, she really wants to represent the actual look and feel, the structure of the lighthouse,” Kirwan said. “From there, she does her own interpretation of the seasons of the year. She’s very intent that her rendition of the lighthouse is true to form.”
Along with her paintings, which she calls her retirement hobby, Segur sells copies of her work and cards that include the history of each lighthouse on the back.
As she travels to various art shows, Segur is able to talk with those who have similar interests, as well as with people who have never quite understood the symbolism of lighthouses.
Segur said the hobby will never make her rich, but after she sells a painting it does pay for gas, paints and canvas so she can start all over again.
Segur and her paintings will appear at the Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival at Maumee Bay State Park on July 12 and 13.
More information about the festival can be found at the website www.toledolighthouse.org.
Tags: Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Great Lakes, Hillsdale County, Kevin Kirwan, lighthouse, lighthouses, Ludington State Park, Mary Segur, Michigan, Osseo, painter, Rich Katuzin, Toledo Lighthouse Watefront Festival, Toledo Museum of Art