Fall Road Trips Are What Help this Artist Find Her Creativity

By: Karen Dybis | October 21, 2020

Road trips are an essential part of enjoying the fall season in Michigan – everyone has their favorite locations to see the changing colors of the leaves, to find the best spots for apple picking or even to eat one more meal outside with family and friends. 

Artist Michelle Sider is a road-trip expert. Her favorite way to travel Michigan’s roads is on her bicycle, slowing the scenery down so she can examine it through her creativity. Seeing the world through an artist’s eye is what inspires her work, which is mostly glass mosaics. 

“I am a Michigan woman, through and through,” Sider said, who also is a psychologist and an educator. “I love the outdoors and I love every season as well. I explore all the time, and I’ve taken thousands of pictures along the way.” 

Sider has a background in painting, and that is what inspires her mosaics. Her understanding of color and composition comes from that classical background. But what truly makes her pictures and works come to life is her appreciation for Michigan’s wildlife, its long vistas and – believe it or not – even its challenging roads. 

One example of how the wildlife evokes Sider’s best work is for her “Blue Heron” glass mosaic. She took an original photo from her client, which was from their favorite lake near their home. She created an original drawing and then created the mosaic itself – an array of bright blues, clean whites and sparkling green waters all created out of glass. 

The second example is for her “On the Side of the Road” series. This grouping of artwork comes from her bike rides in county and Michigan parks, including many memorable trips through parks such as those in Oakland County. One favorite is Kensington, which has inspired at least two of her picturesque mosaics from this series.

Those “On the Side of the Road” mosaics are wonderfully textured, just like the way that Michigan’s often-damaged and pothole-marked roads are. Yet Sider sees the best in the state’s oft-traveled roadways, highlighting the rocks, cool designs in the concrete or the roughness of the asphalt within the delicate materials she uses. 

Ultimately, what makes Michigan great in the fall for road tripping is the idea that there are so many destinations to see and ways to see them. 

“Some of my favorite places for inspiration are my own neighborhood,” Sider said. “I love exploring Michigan in any way I can, whether it’s hiking, skiing, by boat, in a kayak, in a canoe, whatever.”

And everything around this great state inspires her, it seems.

“There are times when we are driving up north when I make my husband stop the car so I can take a picture” that will inspire a mosaic later,” Sider said. “If I see a farmhouse that I like, my husband knows I’m going to ask him to stop and take 30 pictures of that farmhouse at 30 different angles.”

But above all else, Sider believes: “Avoid I-75 at all costs,” she said with a laugh. “My favorite drives are off of the main highways, including: 31, M-115, M-22, M-204 and M-72.”

Here are some of Sider’s favorite fall road trips around Michigan. 

Island Lake

Sider said that of all of the elements that help her create, water is one of her most significant inspirations. This little recreation area is close to Metro Detroit but you’ll feel like you’re a world away from people and any problems that typically affect the modern world.

West Bloomfield

As a cyclist, Sider said she is always looking for a great place to ride or a hike along beautiful trails. You don’t have to look that far to find a beautiful place to see nature inside this city; it has many local parks and great places to stretch your legs, Sider said. 

Leland County

There’s a reason why the people who call this up-north county home tend to keep quiet about it. There is water. There are landscapes. There are sunsets that will heal whatever troubles you in Leland County. Just don’t tell too many people about it so that there is still room to roam when you need to go. 

Traverse City

This up north city also boasts the best of both worlds: It has a city feel while being surrounded by open spaces and waterfront views. There are endless things to do if you’re socially distant while doing them, such as fine dining, arts and more. Creativity seems to come from every part of this community. 

Michigan coasts

Being surrounded by five Great Lakes is one of the reasons Sider and so many other people fall in love with living in this Mitten-shaped state. “I love the Michigan lakeshore,” Sider said, no matter what side she’s on. There are so many miles of beaches and sand to walk on that she always finds a lovely vista along the way.