Cindy and Doug La Ferle would be my nominees for most interesting couple in Royal Oak, if there were such a contest. I suppose I'm embarrassing them with that phantom nomination, but after spending time with them again this week, I just get a kick out of both of them.
This column is mostly about Doug and how he transitioned from his day job and blossomed into a talented painter and multi-media artist. His example is a roadmap for any of us that are starting to consider what we do next, as retirement starts to creep up in the rear view mirror of life.
(Here's hoping our 401k and retirement plans make this possible for all of us!)
Family art night
Doug spent his career as a successful architect in southeast Michigan, which required a creative flair and drawing expertise. He's always had a creative side, playing music in early adulthood in the Windchill Factor, a band that many of my side of 50 years old will remember as fixture in the old Campus Lounge, which is now the Rock on 3rd. That sidelight began to wane when parenthood beckoned for Doug and Cindy with the arrival of their son Nate, although Doug still composes music.
While he still fiddled with music, the introduction of art began with family-night art projects as a way to encourage creativity with Nate. It did and Nate, an avid and very capable photographer, is pursuing a career in Chicago.
(Important family side note: Nate was just married to his Shrine High School sweetheart Andrea Benda. Congratulations Nate and Andrea!)
The added benefit of family art night was that it started Cindy, an award winning author, and Doug on their own path, expanding their own unique artistic talents. For Doug, as the years passed, he developed his own distinct style, eventually developing confidence to enter juried art shows. This led to acceptance into the 2011 Art Prize exposition in Grand Rapids, where a venue must select your work to gain admittance to this prestigious event. This year, Doug was honored as one of the top five artists in the MIGreatArtist competition with his film noir paintings.
One art reviewer, after seeing Doug’s work at the Grand Rapids Public Museum said:
“Such compelling eclecticism found a bridge between both context and object in Douglas La Ferle’s mixed media installation, “Mad Science.” This artist from Royal Oak has excavated domestic and industrial pasts to present an engaging work that re-envisions the future but from the vantage point of a simpler, mid-century America. The charm of the work was its nostalgia and humor, but the composition and craftsmanship was impressive as well.”
I'm not an art critic, but I do know what I like and I enjoy Doug's artistry and outlook. He is a serious artist, but not a serious guy, and his art can be compellingly whimsical. It’s hard not like an artist and composer that uses the name Doctor Pandemonium as his artistic alter ego.
"As an architect and artist, I am a more visual than verbal person. I think of my artwork as a visual conversation," Doug said. "I want to engage the viewer, but not in a loud way - just a nice, quiet conversation. Like any conversation, the viewer has to contribute something to the dialogue. Ideally, I want to say something that will make you think, maybe see the world in a different way. But, it’s not always a deep conversation. I will settle for a laugh. I like humor."
I highly recommend you take a look at Doug's work via the links below to MIGreatArtist.com, Art Prize and particularly Doug's website.
But wait, there's more! Doug is having his first art show beginning this Friday, Oct. 26 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Lido Gallery in Birmingham, which is just north of 14 Mile Road. The link to that show is also below. You’re all invited to attend and help celebrate and support a talented local artist.
"I'm a little nervous about this first show where I'm offering my works for sale for the first time," Doug said. "But it's the next step in what started as family project and has developed into a very real labor of love. I'm excited to talk with the people that come to see my art."
Cabinet of wonders
For those of us who are thinking about what can be our labor of love, I was surprised to learn that Doug has never taken a formal art lesson.
"I looked as my art as part of just taking a big bite of life," Doug said. "My life has been a 'cabinet of wonders,' filled with abundance - projects, experiences, laughter and loves."
That's a great way to approach life at any stage, but as Doug shows, what begins as family activity can blossom into an avocation and with practice and trial and error you can create whatever your imagination can let loose.
Art is one of those wonderfully ethereal parts of life. All of us know what we like even if we don't know why and on some level can be amused and inspired by the creativity of the artist. I remember my dad started painting after he retired at age 70, and while he wasn't Rembrandt, he improved over time. The watercolors I still have on my walls are warm reminder of him and allow me to keep a piece of him in my life.
I'll be at Doug's first art opening and I'm sure we'll have some fun talking about his art. I hope to see you there!