(Above: Detail from a figure drawing by artist Michael Cross)

By Randi Bjornstad

As always, downtown Springfield’s Second Friday Art Walk offers many spots to stop along or near its Main Street thoroughfare, some on the official guided tour and others promoting art and artists on their own.

One of the standalone exhibits during the July 12 art walk features not only the work of Eugene artist Michael Cross but also a nearly new business at 338 Main St., where part of the old Econo Sales building has recently been renovated and reopened as the Cornbread Café’s second location, with its motto, “You’ll love it when comfort goes vegan.”

Besides the food and the art, there also will be a band — and dancing — starting at the café at 8 p.m.

Artist Michael Cross; photo by Randi Bjornstad

Cross’s show runs through July 13.

His art ranges from finely drawn representational portraits of people and animals to vividly photographed landscapes and townscapes. This show features a collection of his drawings, from early in his career to recent works.

“Sheree Walters, the owner of Cornbread Café, is one of my biggest supporters,” Cross said. “She called me awhile ago and said, ‘We have this great new place in Springfield — will you bring some of your art for us to show?’ “

When he did, he was amazed at the recent changes in downtown Springfield.

“I grew up in Pleasant Hill, and I hadn’t spent much time in downtown Springfield after that,” he said. “I remembered it being kind of rundown and depressed — I am so impressed how much it has changed and how much there is going on now, how nice it is.”

As for his art, Cross is completely self-taught, unless you consider YouTube a teacher, he jokes.

“When I would see artwork that I liked, I would go to it and try to figure out its structure,” he said. Then I would go to YouTube and see if I could find a technique and try to do it. I would fail over and over and over, but I finally began to succeed.”

For him, art began as therapy, as a way of pulling himself out of a prolonged period of depression after years of surgeries and convalescence from debilitating and painful back problems had taken their toll.

A figure drawing on newsprint by Michael Cross

“I began to draw as a way to pass time because my life was so restricted,” he said. “I started teaching myself drawing, and because it didn’t cost anything, I started using newspapers as something to draw on, and that became my medium.”

It actually became his passion for several years, as he created intricate drawings, mostly portraits, on newsprint with the original stories as background. He still creates his signature newsprint drawings,”but lately I’ve also been doing more with oil pastels — I guess I’m ready for more color now, and more of abstract realism. I believe that to be a truly good artist, you have to be open to looking around and feeling and creating in new ways.”

In the same way, his photography began as a means to photograph his other art work and then became an end in itself.

“As I got into it, nature photography took on kind of a biblical sense of beauty for me,” Cross said. “I started to see light and shadow as I had never seen it before.”

Wildlife such as this owl, as well as humans, fascinate artist Michael Cross

He still is disabled by chronic pain, “but I’m now more able to function,” he said. “And if it weren’t for all the health problems and pain, I have a feeling I wouldn’t ever have started doing my own art. I think probably I would have been a viewer, but probably not a doer.”

People sometimes ask him if art is his passion,” and that’s hard to answer,” Cross said. “If not having a choice is a passion, then yes. I want it to be fun, and I want it to be hard. Something easy doesn’t push you and get you to the next place.”

And while he’s happy to sell his work, that’s not his purpose in creating it.

“Art in a literal way saved my life, so I can’t think of art as being for money,” Cross said. “I don’t think I would be happy if that were my purpose in doing it.”

Art by Michael Cross

When: Through Saturday, July 13

Where: Cornbread Café, 338 Main St., Springfield

Artist information: michaelcross.pixels.com

The Cornbread Café’s new Springfield location at 338 Main St., where Michael Cross’ artwork is on display through July 13; photo by Randi Bjornstad