Source: Sherman Publications

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Love of nature inspires artist to write children's books

by Trevor Keiser

June 01, 2011

Author Mary Siefka Douglas, left, listens to Brianna Gordon read 'This Tree So High.' Photo by Trevor Keiser
At the age of 12 Mary Siefka Douglas fell in love with painting, drawing, and photography.

"I loved to paint portraits of people and watercolor landscapes," she said. "If I don't have a camera or paintbrush in my hand several times a week, I'm just lost."

About 10 years ago she expanded her artistic ability and wrote her first children's book. She set it aside and forgot about it. When she moved to Independence Township three years ago with her husband Ken, she started going through some old paperwork and came across the writing and decided it was time to finish it.

"I got out the watercolor paper and started drawing and went from there," she said. "It probably took me six months to finish the illustrations."

The book was titled "This Tree So High." She said she was inspired by a tree in her yard when she lived up north that always had creatures hiding and living in it.

"I had the thought 'maybe a curious child would wonder what's living in that tree,' she said. "I spent a couple hours starting from the base of the tree and working your way through the tall grass and to the branches."

Her 7-year-old and 3-year-old grandsons gave inspiration as well.

"Being little guys, they're really curious and want to be outside and climb trees," she said.

It wasn't long after Douglas was traveling up north when I-75 crossed a river and she felt inspiration for a second book "Where The River Runs Blue."

"It's just this tiny river winding back into the trees and it came to me. I pulled out a piece of paper from my purse and started writing really fast, so I had it all written by the time I got to the lake," she said. "Then I started drawing the illustrations from there."

Douglas currently has plans for a third book called "Geez, Mom It's Just A Mouse."

"Living in a farm house every once in awhile you'd get a mouse in the house," Douglas said with a laugh. "I'd be the one on top of the counter screaming like this mouse is 10 feet tall."

Douglas said her books are geared towards young children, preschool to first grade.

"I love children, they're so innocent and they're like little sponges, they absorb everything. You want them to have good information, good life experiences, not lose their innocence too soon and not grow up too fast," she said. "Keep them happy and free for as long as you can."

Along with that she believes children and adults alike spend too much time indoors and need to get outside and explore the natural beauty that surrounds them. Douglas said that's where her photography comes in.

"Just trucking around in the woods and just finding those simple pleasures out there you would normally miss if you spent a long time inside," she said.

When it comes to taking photos of people, Douglas said she doesn't like having people sit and pose, she rather follow them around and photograph them doing what they do.

Her photos can be purchased at A New Leaf Flower Shop off Clarkston Road.

She also enjoys doing murals in children's bedrooms.

"That's fun," she said. "I don't really like doing the Spiderman and some of those things, I like different things like trees and little animals."

Douglas was born and raised in Gratiot. She has three children from a previous marriage, Eric, 28, Casey, 25, and Spenser, 23. She also has two step children, Julia, 18, and Jacob, 16. Being the nature lover that she is, Douglas loves going up north to spend time at their cabin as well as gardening.

"If it has roots on it, I want to grow it," she said. "I love to grow plants, vegetables and flowers."

Douglas said her hope is that her art work would impact at least one person.

"I think if one photo makes a difference to one person or if one of my books are remembered by a child 20 years later and they say 'oh that was my favorite book,' I've met my goal in life."

To order the books, visit and type Mary Siefka Douglas in the search box.

For more information, call 989-330-4490 or e-mail