oodruff Designs  
Ships of the Great Lakes

Ever since I was a child, I’ve drawn pictures of boats and ships. I also, drew dinosaurs, rockets, castles and dragons. But, ships were my favorite. I built models of ships, and imagined strolling their decks. I memorized the names of the parts and learned their purpose. As I drew, I learned the language of the sailor and my fascination grew. So did my drawings.

My father taught me to sail at an early age. He shared his love for the sea, through books by Slocum, Mellville, Conrad and Dana. Through their words, I imagined sailing to adventures in far-off places. The more I learned about ships, the more “real” my drawings looked, to me. They became 3-dimensional and full of detail, as I became a sailor, on a small boat, on an inland lake.

As a teenager, I crewed aboard racing sailboats on Lake Michigan, worked in boatyards, delivered a yacht down the Mississippi River and “discovered” the ocean. I worked shrimpboats off the coast of Georgia, handlined for mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico, turned 21, aboard the Cable Schooner, “Western Union” and sailed numerous boats in the Florida Keys. I drew them all, and sold my drawings, first as a street artist, then through galleries in Key West.

As a child, I watched the Longships and Salties making their way up and down Lake Michigan. Their distant silhouettes, by day, and long rows of lights, by night, filled me with wonder. In the summer of 1974, I shipped aboard the 852’ “Roger Blough”, sailing six months through the Winter Run. We hauled iron ore from the western shore of Lake Superior, to the steel mills on the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. I read every book I could find about the history of the Great Lakes, while experiencing their vast serenity and awesome power. Years later, this research and experience led to the creation of “GREAT LAKES AND GREAT SHIPS, An Illustrated History For Children”. It is also what I bring to my Illustration Workshops.


The following drawing projects, use boats and ships of the Great Lakes as the main characters of our illustrations. Through storytelling and step-by-step instructions, students "build" their own, highly detailed, 3-dimensional vessels. They learn that every line has a name, place and purpose. The ships become our "Time Machines" as we explore man’s quest for, and use of the natural resources of our Great Lakes Region. Students add background details, shading and texture, to end with an "Awesome" illustration, in less than an hour. Multiple-session workshops are available for all topics, resulting in 4-8 page books. These workshops are a great introduction to an area of study, emphasize and develop art, research and writing skills, and, best of all, are FUN.

"Your presentation was just great with the children - one of the best I’ve seen. The children were thrilled with their new found ability to draw ships!"

- Jan Timmer, Teacher, Mary A. White School, Grand Haven

Select from the following topics, to introduce or compliment your Michigan History Curriculum: You’ll find Native Americans, Explorers, Fur Traders, Sailors, Shanty Boys and more...

1 Canoe-Dugout 3000 BC Old Copper Culture-Mines in the U.P.
2 Canoe-Dugout 1500 AD Iroquois Culture, Costumes and Customs
3 Canoe-Birchbark 1500 AD Algonquian, Huron and/or Sioux Cultures
4 Canoe-Birchbark 1700s Voyageurs-Fur Trade/Cultural Interaction
5 Viking Ship 1100s Norse Voyages to the Great Lakes?
6 Carrack 14-1500s European Exploration-Two Worlds Meet
7 GRIFFON 1600s La Salle's Ship-Exploration and Fur Trade
8 OSWEGO 1750s European War Fleets on the Great Lakes
9 NIAGARA 1812 Commodore Perry's Victory on Lake Erie
10 WALK in the WATER 1820s First Steamship on the Great Lakes
11 Canal Boats 1830s The Erie Canal and Immigration West
12 PHOENIX 1840s The Perils of Immigration-Fire on the Lakes
13 CHALLENGE 1850s The Great Lakes Schooner
14 Schooner 1860s Voyage From the Shipyard to the Scrapyard
15 Lumber Hooker 1880s From Forest to Steamship
16 PEWABIC 1860s Copper Mining-Shipwreck & Salvage
17 PHILO PARSONS 1865 The Civil War on the Great Lakes
18 INDIA 1870 Passenger Steamers-Leisure and Commerce
19 Lifesaving Boats 1870s Shipwreck and Rescue
20 DAVID DOWS 1880s Largest Sailing Schooner on the Great Lakes
21 Fish Tugs 18-1900s Commercial Fisheries-From Sail to Power
22 ONOKO 1880s First Iron Steamship on the Lakes
23 CHAMPION 1880s Tugboat with Tow-End of the Age of Sail
24 Whalebacks 1890s Pig Boats, Passengers and Iron Ore
25 TASHMOO & ERIE 1890s The Great Race-Ships and Prosperity
26 WAWATAM 1900s Car Ferry-Rail Transportation in Michigan
27 War Fleet 1918/40s Great Lakes Wartime Shipbuilding
28 the.FITZGERALD 1975 The Last Voyage
29 the BADGER


Car Ferry-Transportation and Recreation
30 the BARKER Today 1000 ft. Super Ships-Commerce in Change
31 Racing Yachts Today Leisure and Sport-Rigging and Nomenclature
32 Fishing Boats Today Gill Nets to Trap Nets-Managed Resource

Single and multiple-session workshops for grades 2-12. Many are adaptable to grades K-1.

Phone: 616-761-2275 tom@woodruffdesigns.com Fax: 616-761-2276