Thursday, November 9, 2023

Creative Adirondacks: Saranac Lake Artist Michael Burpoe Paints Japan


Michael Burpoe in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan, September 2023

Overseas travel is nothing new for Michael Burpoe, but the three weeks he spent this past year in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, Japan were his first time in Asia. Mike went to experience the people, food and beauty of Japan, and also to paint. And paint he did, bringing back some eighteen paintings and sketches. Mike painted for hours, day and evening both, but always making time to enjoy his surroundings and to sample Japanese cuisine. Mike travels with two backpacks, one to carry his watercolors, brushes and paper, and the other for whatever else he needs. His travel style is very relaxed, as he relies on public transportation and stays at hostels in part to meet other young people.

About Japan, Mike gives a glowing review. Mike traveled some 700 miles and painted at some 16 different locations, including Kiyomizu-dera temple, Shibuya Crossing, Osaka Castle, and
Dotonbori. He said that the metros and bullet trains are easy to use, dependable, and everywhere is very clean and safe. People are extremely courteous and respectful, and while painting plein air – outdoors and onsite- as he does, he always felt comfortable. There were sometimes onlookers, and his favorite interactions were with young children who were very excited to learn that Mike lived in New York!

Watercolor photos

Some of the plein air watercolors painted by Michael during his recent trip to Japan. Photo provided by Michael Burpoe.

Mike is best known for his watercolors, including the painting Oh How I Wish I was at the Islands that won him the People’s Choice Award at the 24th Annual Juried Art Show at the Adirondack Artists Guild. Once Mike showed me the painting, I remembered it clearly as the exquisite watercolor I had myself admired at the Guild. That award and the encouragement and help he received from artist Eleanor Sweeney of the Adirondack Artist Guild created new opportunities for Mike, and led to his being the Featured Artist exhibit in February 2023. The -31F weather did not prevent a packed house for Mike’s opening.


According to Eleanor, “It was delightful to work with Michael when he had the exhibit last winter at the Adirondack Artists Guild. His dedication and enthusiasm for painting are apparent and contagious. He captures the feeling of a place when he paints it, whether it’s the Adirondacks, Argentina, or Japan. “


The actual combination of art and travel dates back to a family trip that Mike took with his parents and brother to Italy and Germany. His parents, his dad a Forester and his mother, a resource room teacher at Tupper Lake Central School, encouraged education and learning, and the family visited a number of the famous Florence Museums. He was able to see Boticelli’s Birth of Venus as well as Michaelangelo’s David. Mike also spent a college semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and has traveled throughout Europe and South America.


A man in Japan

Kani Doraku, Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan October 2023 Michael Burpoe. Photo provided by Michael Burpoe.


Mike tells me that he can lose himself for hours in his artwork, and it helped him through the tough times of the pandemic. He attended Saranac Lake schools until he graduated in 2013. He considers his high school art instructor, John “Doc” Ward, to be one of his most important mentors, who he learned painting from. Participating in sports in high school, also helped Mike learn that it was devoting the time that helped him get better and excel.


Mike later attended the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He was humbled when he found that doing well in art at his high school was a common denominator among students there. But as always, Mike worked hard, earned a B.A. in Graphic Design and graduated summa cum laude in 2017.


More details about Mike’s trip to Japan as well as samples of his other work can be found at

Mike sells his work at:

Photo at top: Michael Burpoe in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan, September 2023. Photo provided by Michael Burpoe.

Related Stories

Linda Friedman Ramirez is a resident of Saranac Lake. She previously owned an art gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida, and appreciates how art is integral to a community. She enjoys writing about the people of the Adirondacks.

One Response

  1. Thank you so much for interviewing me for this story and for allowing me to share my art with your readers! It means the world to me!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *