Common Sense Art Advise from a Career Artist
This article is part of the Living as an Artist Series.
By Derek McCrea
I have been a very busy artist for about 25 years now, lately I have started to reach what some would call inspiration and confidence in my works. The key to success is create art because you enjoy it, success will come when you least expect it, but it will not happen over night. The artistic potential is unlimited, but an artist must think outside of the box. If you do what everyone else is doing, your chances of success are limited. But, if you are unique and if you pursue limits outside of the traditional art arena, or box, you will begin to see results faster. This applies to all arts.
Lessons learned throughout over 25 years of painting include:
- Never paint when you are not inspired.
- Try to visualize what you want to paint before you paint the subject and imagine a finished product and what steps you will take to get there.
- For larger and more detailed works draw the image on the canvas first with light pencil.
- Establish your own style but learn from others. Experiment with creating art using individual techniques beginning with smaller less detailed images and working your way up.
- Techniques I have learned to use and call my own include:
- Use of splatter to create depth
- Use of charcoal on finished products to add texture and shadows
- Wet on wet, let the watercolors do their magic, sometimes watercolors when wet on wet create effects that make you say, “How did I do that?”
- Try not to use too much paint, start out with lighter colors and add layers of darker colors. Too much watercolor paint creates a mess that you can not fix. That is the difference between watercolors and other mediums that can be repaired by “painting over”.
- Use Art Trading Cards to practice your larger images before painting them large. This way if you make a mistake it will be on a small piece of paper and you can apply that lesson to your larger work.
- I have seen different techniques for holding the watercolor paper to your background for paintings, including stapling down the sides of the work. I prefer to use masking tape around the entire edges of my paintings. This also aids buyers to mat the painting with ½ inch edges all the way around the circumference of the painting.
The competition today with the age of the Internet has created stiff competition for artists. Those who stick with it, little by little, day by day, will see results in the long run. At least that has been my experience. It is easy to give up on art if you do not enjoy it. If you do not enjoy creating art, you are in the wrong profession. To me art has always been a hobby as my second source of income. Have options and alternatives to your life, but if you love art, maintain and improve your skills; it will pay off!
I set aside about one hour a day for marketing and if I miss a day I make up for it in the future. I have been doing this for many years. It does not happen over night. I initially spent months researching how to market my works and then began with local galleries, restaurants, art collaboration shows, art festivals, online galleries, art auctions, and targeting groups of people interested in the same topics I work with. Once I gain a customer I try to keep them informed by asking if I can add them to my Monthly Artist Newsletter. I have had return customers based off of what they have seen in one of my newsletters. It also provides a face and character to the work of art the customer purchases when they can remain updated on your efforts.
I am inspired both by beauty and by life itself. If I am having a bad day, or week I do not paint. I only paint when I am in a great mood. Sometimes I may go a month without painting. I will have dream about an image, or see something I think would look great painted and I get excited and feel an urge to capture the image in a painting.
Work outside of the box and paint because you enjoy it. The art world of today is not what it was 20 years ago. Take guitarists for example. In 1988 there were not that many teens growing up with the dream of being rock stars in comparison to now. Society has changed with production and the Internet. The art world is not that much different. If I were to guess I would say there are more artists now than there were 20 years ago. If this is not the case, it may seem to be as the media for spreading the word about art have increased. You only have to go on the Internet to see the massive competition. You have a better chance of being successful from my experience by working outside of the traditional box.
Most of all, paint because you enjoy it. If you do not enjoy painting you will give up. You may give up on art but art will not give up on you! The way I find inspiration is by taking photos of beautiful places everywhere I go. I have developed the eye to see art in the environment and can see a work being painted, take a photo of it and save it for the day I am motivated to create a work. Sometimes I use many photos combined to create one work.
My career is as a Soldier. My two hobbies include painting and offshore fishing. Both of which are very relaxing and allow me to express myself. Creating art for me is a way of life. Something I enjoy.
Biography of Derek McCrea
Derek McCrea is a US Army Infantry Combat Soldier with two tours in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division, and this is his stress relief. He has always loved to paint; it allows him to express emotions on paper and relax. Derek paints in a whimsical impressionistic style in plein air settings. He was born in Albany, Georgia on February 19, 1969. He presently resides with his wife, Sheila, of 20 years and his two sons. He first started painting with oils in the summer of 1984. From 1985 to 1986 he painted under the instruction of Jimmy Peterson, a well known artist from Georgia. In 1986 he won 1st place in the Georgia Arts Exhibition. Derek joined the United States Army in 1987 and continued self study and painting on landscape subjects in France, Holland, Germany, Italy and Hungary, painting in the plein air style. He has completed over 20 commissions in the past year. His works were most recently placed in the Shoppes on Madison in historic Douglas GA, and at Artsy’s on the River Street in historic Savannah Georgia. Derek has donated several artworks to non-profit and charitable organizations in the past: February 2007 to Christian Mission Hospital for HIV children run by Joyce Meyer Ministries in India, silent auction for a baby with PWS syndrome October 25, 2008, and the Annual Benefit on OCT 17, 2008 with Rescue Ink out of NYC. My website is at http://www.derekmccrea.50megs.com My blog is at
Derek is a member of the following societies:
Southern Rivers Guild, GA
North Carolina Watercolor Society
Fayetteville Arts Council
Plein Air Florida – Space Coast Plein Air Painters
Plein Air Georgia
3010 Slippery Rock Ct
Columbus, GA 31909