Jeff Morrison loves visiting Detroit. Its reputation is steeped in history and the never failing resilience it’s become famous for. He loves walking the city and seeing downtown’s rebirth firsthand.
But, amidst all the modernism that has invaded the city in the last decade, Morrison, an Oxford resident and 1977 graduate of Oxford High School, couldn’t help but notice the detailed and slightly medieval architectural figures sitting on buildings that watch the city below.
So he started taking pictures of the gargoyles and Greek figures that sit atop the buildings and is printing a book with the Wayne State University Press called “Guardians of Detroit: Architectural Sculpture in the Motor City” that will debut on March 4, 2019. But in the meantime, he’s releasing a coloring book based on the book called “Guardians of Detroit.”
“I have always had an interest in architectural sculpture,” Morrison said. “I’ve taken a few pictures and I was going through some old photographs that I had taken down in Detroit. I had some time to work on a project, and I thought this would be a good one. I thought there was maybe enough to get 100 pages… I ended up turning in 350 pages.”
The coloring book hosts 22 hand-drawn illustrations based on the photos from the book. It’s printed on “museum quality,” acid-free paper and each illustration is given its own page so people can tear a page out without losing one of the other images. Morrison also includes a bit of history about each image in the coloring book.
“The goal with this project is to show all this architectural sculpture that most people don’t see or they pass by on a regular basis and never see,” Morrison said.
While he was venturing around Detroit finding the most photo-worthy architecture, Morrison couldn’t decide on a favorite image because he was always looking forward to finding the next great shot.
But now, he thinks one of his favorite parts of the project was capturing the faces on Ford Street Presbyterian Church that are no longer visible to the public.
“It has some sculpture on the east side of the building that, not too long after the church was built in the 1850s, 1860s, a community center was built next door and it hid that side of the church,” he said. “So there’s sculpture on that side of the church that no one has seen for 100 years.”
Morrison thinks the book will appeal to anyone who likes coloring.There are simple illustrations that children can tackle as well as intricate drawings that will present a challenge to teens and adults.
“I made a concentrated effort to put in drawings that adults would find interesting to color, that were complex enough to be challenging, and also simpler ones that kids could enjoy,” he said. “I think it appeals to all ages.”
“Guardians of Detroit” can be bought here in Oxford at the Merge Studio and Gallery as well as the Great Lakes Mercantile. It’s also sold at the local level at Green Hippo Gifts in Lake Orion.
More of Morrison’s work as well as the option to buy the coloring book online can be found at his website.