Open Doors, Open Eyes


Now that Volume 1 of The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey is almost finished, I’m looking ahead to Volume 2. The story will shift to Milwaukee of the 1880s, which will require quite a lot of reference photos for the artwork, mostly of locations and vintage atmospheric inspiration.

Lucky for me, then, that this weekend was Doors Open Milwaukee, an annual event wherein more than 150 locations citywide (many of them featuring vintage architecture) open their doors to the public free of charge.

Here are just a few specimens from my Open Doors Milwaukee tour … one that I might be better to call “Open Eyes.”

Bayview (Letterpress) Printing

Nathan and I visited too many placed too count, from the East Side to the South and back again. Naturally, I snapped a great many pictures, too.

If my guesses are correct, these locations will feature easily in Alethia Grey – Volume 2.  Just as I had hoped.

MKE Blacksmith

But I also noticed that some of the most beautiful and enjoyable things we saw weren’t sweeping buttresses and grand staircases. They were the smaller touches: a pane of wavy window glass, or a tiny carved cherub, easily missed if we weren’t paying attention.

I think I almost had more fun opening my eyes to find these “micro-moments” than I did taking in the larger ones.

City Hall

This is perhaps the greatest beauty I find in old buildings. There’s so much to see, everywhere one turns. The level of detail even in a staircase or a window casement is worth looking at.

I often try to imagine who the craftsmen were who created this beauty. Some of them, I know, were brought from Europe just to work on our buildings. Others were born and bred right here.

All were clearly as passionate for the details as they were for the greater vision.

Brewery District

As we moved from place to place, I found new artistic possibilities open. I saw scenes in the book that I hadn’t before, and to imagine how I might incorporate them into the existing structure of the book. Some scenes could be made more interesting and more “authentically Milwaukee” simply by being set in an iconic location rather than a more generic one. And how might other locations be used to actually impact the plot?

These questions sprouted in my mind throughout the day, made possible only by the chance to be inside building I would never otherwise have access to.

Churches & Cathedrals

Back home again, I’m off to organize reference photos for the next volume of Alethia Grey. The book will be richer, and more distinctly Milwaukeean, thanks to Open Doors Milwaukee.

I’m sure I missed a few details, of course. But overall I more open eyes, and more open artistic possibilities, thanks to these many open doors.

Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

3 thoughts on “Open Doors, Open Eyes

  1. You’ve wonderfully showed lesser-noticed artwork is just as beautiful as grand staircases and buttresses. The attention to details and creativity put in these aspects by artists often is missed by us… This post makes me wish that I was there too…


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