Art on the Trail – a celebration of the LHT and the artists and creators of all ages and skill levels who enjoy it – is now launched and live. And, what better way to encourage our creative friends to share their LHT-inspired artwork than by featuring some of the artists who helped inspire Art on the Trail, including previously featured artists Nicky Belletier, John Marshall, Ben Nicolson, and Linda Bradshaw.

Meet Mike Ankener – a Lawrenceville resident who rediscovered his passion for art and color through nature and easy access to the incredible smartphone cameras we all have in our pockets. He has shared photographs with the LHT in the past, including interactive 360 degree photographs that have the power to transport viewers to the middle of the woods. (See end of article for links.)

LHT Mike Ankener
LHT: Can you share a biography or Artist’s Statement?
Mike: I work in media in midtown, New York City. I’ve been a Lawrenceville resident for 20 years, I’m a husband and father of two, and I make daily treks up the streets of Manhattan and try to counterbalance those with hikes along the LHT.

LHT: How long have you been creating? What inspired you to start or restart creating art?
Mike: I studied art in high school, and with my portfolio I was accepted into James Madison University’s art program. Manual color separation was my passion. I loved lithography and silkscreen, which forced me to study detailed separation into basic sets of contrasting colors. Eventually I became interested in the interplay of black, gray, and white shapes to form gestalts – and through manual separation of shapes, I screened ‘puzzled-together’ images of inanimate shiny or glossy objects such as cars.

At various points throughout my life I’ve been fascinated by how technology can aid in the separation of base colors. First black and white copiers to separate shades, then photography, then Photoshop and other basic editing applications. My life took another direction and I’ve long not considered myself an artist, but with the phenomenal digital camera on my phone and my background in art, I’ve found a new way to capture what I see.

LHT Mike Ankener Meadow

Mike Ankener, courtesy of the artist

LHT: What is your preferred medium or media?
Mike: Currently digital photography – specifically high-contrast photos. The light sensor on my smartphone captures excellent low-light images just around dusk. For example: The rich light green colors under the lamps in Village Park are framed by the undersides of tree branches and the dark colors surrounding the light-projection. I’ve always been captivated by high-contrast images.

LHT: Is all your artwork inspired by nature?
Mike: Yes, currently.

LHT: What about the LHT inspires you? What are your favorite segments?
Mike: As an Eagle Scout with some wilderness survival training, I’ve long held a deep appreciation for nature. I was between jobs a few years ago, and I began hiking a 2.5 mile loop each day. And each day from winter through spring, I watched the various grasses and trees come to life – and it occurred to me that I’d really like to chronicle the transitions somehow from a few select vantage points. I began taking panoramic digital photos from a selection of consistent vantage points on the trail on the first day of each month, and by observing nature’s transition this way, I began to appreciate how radically our landscape changes over time. My favorite segments are vantage points that offer rich transitions: trees to grasslands, creeks to meadows, darks to lights.

LHT Mike Ankener Short Bridge

Mike Ankener, courtesy of the artist

LHT: How did you discover the LHT?
Mike: I’ve lived on the backside of the Manors (along Keefe Road) for twenty years. When my kids were younger, the grasslands across Keefe Road were farmlands, and the current trails were tractor ruts. The trail became more accessible once the Keefe Road entrance was complete, and I rediscovered my love for nature almost overnight. There’s a never-ending wealth of beauty along these trails, accented by season, weather condition, or even time of day, so that no two visits are ever the same.

LHT: Do you have advice or messages for other artists (adults, kids, novices, pros) encouraging them to get outside and create art inspired by the LHT?
Mike: Just take a look, it’s astonishing. Pick a spot and really pause to take a look. Let’s talk about the greens you’ll see, just the greens. Currently we’re enjoying summer greens, which are darker and richer than the near monochromatic light greens that erupt in spring. With the passage of time, there are seasonal greens, monthly greens, even daily greens. With cloud cover there are dark blue, brown and gray greens. Then the sun pops out and there’s a sea of lighter greens. There are yellow-greens, brown greens, gray-greens, and even white greens when the leaves turn over. Inside each day there are morning greens, midday greens and duskish greens. There are just-born seed-grass greens, and near-death decaying greens. Soil-rich brackish water greens and shiny garden snake greens. And these are just the greens in eyeshot during any split second of any given day. Just stand in one spot for a few seconds and concentrate on what you’re seeing, really take it in. It’ll astonish you; I promise.

LHT Mike Ankener Long Bridge

Mike Ankener, courtesy of the artist


360° Galleries – There are five separate galleries. Click any Gallery button below. When you get to the gallery, click any image, then click the round arrow, hold your mouse button and drag for 360° view.