The Mighty Mitten: Capturing Michigan’s Beauty One Portrait at a Time

Michigan native Brian Walline has been capturing the beauty of the Mitten State since 2010. Walline’s art, The Mighty Mitten, can be found all over the state, and has even made an appearance in Hollywood. 

Growing up with parents who worked in education, Walline was able to spend many lengthy summers traveling around northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. 

Many parts of Michigan honestly feel like paradise to me, and a lot of that wonder and appreciation was unlocked through the childhood experiences my parents gave me,” Walline said.  

Walline has always felt compelled to be an artist. As a kid, he would draw constantly, and his first ever art commission was a dinosaur drawing featured in his first grade yearbook. Over the years, Walline has developed other skills and interests, but has always come back to the passion and practice of creating things out of self expression and curiosity.

Photo provided by Brian Walline.

Attending school for graphic design and illustration is where he really came to recognize and enjoy what is commonly known as “WPA Style” of illustration. WPA Style was popularized in part by the famous National Parks posters of the 1930s and 1940s. 

“Those works represent my heaviest and most direct influence, along with other travel illustrations of the time, but I’m also inspired by a variety of contemporary artists working in the ‘flat’ illustration style with modern methods,” Walline said of his artwork. 

Walline received a BFA in graphic design from the University of Michigan in 2004. In 2016 Walline was laid off from his full-time design job, inspiring him to fully commit to Michigan-exclusive work. 

From sandy Great Lake beaches, to bustling city life, to serene inland lakes, Walline’s artwork depicts the vast variety of beauty there is to find in Michigan. 


Photo provided by Brian Walline.

“I doubt I’ll ever tire of trying to capture the love I have for my home state,” he said.


Before owning his own studio, Walline would sell his work through various online fulfillment services. It wasn’t until a local framing and printing business approached him that Walline realized it might be feasible to do more of that work in-house. Currently, he is able to print and package most of his art himself, which he said has allowed him to try to make a living off of his artwork.

The Mighty Mitten is an artist owned and operated studio designed with one goal in mind: to make art as captivating as its namesake state of Michigan. The first work Walline finished in the style used for The Mighty Mitten was commissioned by a friend of his for their wedding in 2010, and he’s been doing that work in some capacity ever since.

In 2015, that first illustration Walline created five years prior had a starring role in the popular romantic comedy “Sleeping with Other People,” starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. The print featured the Student Union at The University of Michigan Ann Arbor. 

Walline shared his and his friends’ excitement when they first saw it on the screen.

“It was quite a spectacle,” he said. 

Walline hopes that his work will evoke positive emotions and restore memories of what it was like to grow up in such a beautiful state. 

“People often have a deep and tender attachment to places, whether through their childhood or family and friends, and my goal is to distill that sentiment so that when they walk by my work in their home or office they’re instantly connected back to that experience or the feeling of a special place and time,” he said. 

Walline said the most rewarding part of what he does is getting to see how people connect to his art in real time.

My favorite thing I’ve overheard was a woman telling her friend that she was going to buy a print, and when the friend asked where she would find room to put it the woman replied, ‘I don’t know, but it makes me happy,’” he said.

The Mighty Mitten artwork can be found and purchased in shops across the state. Specifically in Ann Arbor, his prints can be seen at Parrish Fine Framing & Art. His next appearance is set to be at the MSU Spring Art and Craft show in May. 

More information on The Mighty Mitten, including an online store and dates for upcoming events can be found on

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