While art is something that has always been important to Michael Craig, he never pursued the passion full time. Since he took his first workshop about 15 years ago, the Madill, Oklahoma, resident has been the recipient of many placing ribbons at area art shows and competitions.

In 2018, Craig received the people’s choice award at the Shauney P. Lucas Community Art Show in Whitesboro. This year he is the featured artist at the free show to be held on March 22-24 at the Jimmie O. Rector Community Center in Whitesboro.

“I have been doing drawing all my life,” he said. “I used to draw cartoons a lot when I was young, but I would say maybe 15 years ago, I began getting more serious about it and started taking more classes and started to sell a little art work here and there.”

While Craig has only created a few dozen paintings in the last 15 years, he’s always working on more. He says he is constantly thinking about his next work. While he is working on a single painting, he can have as many as six more that he is working through logistically in his mind.

“Motivation is never a problem because I just enjoy it,” Craig said. “I consider it a gift and I want to use that gift the best I can. It is all about a matter of finding time from my regular job where I can a) take classes and b) keep creating art work.”

Craig retired from the military several years ago, but in his time as an aviator for the U.S. Air Force, Craig said he saw many scenes and often uses landscape as the subject of his drawings and paintings.

“I like to use my view of the world in my art,” he said. “When I do portraits, I really do like doing sort of diverse ethnic groups and sort of showing what other cultures look like in terms of their look and dress and lifestyle.”

Though there was never a time when he was not creating, Craig’s only regret is that he waited too long to start taking classes and participating in workshops with other artists. He said at the time, he really took pride in being self taught and then he realized there were opportunities for growth that he was not taking advantage of.

“I liked the idea, but when I started taking classes is when I really started improving,” he said. “I have taken a lot of weekend workshops from experienced artists. I like the two-three day workshops. When I lived in Colorado Springs, before we moved to this area, I took classes from a man named Dan Schultz, who was an artist there that taught. His classes were some of the better ones that I took.”

And, being in those classes taught Craig a lesson that he still lives by today.

“Anytime you get to hang out with other artists, it is a good experience, from the learning perspective as well as from the social perspective,” he said. “I belong to the Madill Art Club in Madill, Oklahoma, which is where I work my real job. More recently, I have joined the Gainesville art group. I like to participate in local shows and visit with local artists and seeing what other artists are doing. I have also taught a few classes with the art club in Oklahoma.”

Most of Craig’s pieces are 16 inches by 20 inches or larger. He said he prefers that size to the smaller canvases.

“I have been in the Sherman Art Festival twice,” he said. “I have been in the Magnolia Festival in Durant a couple of times. There is one at Southeastern Oklahoma State University that I have been in a couple of times. I have been in a lot of local art shows in this area, as well as in Colorado. I have won several blue ribbons, as well as first second and third place (ones). I won a people’s choice at the Madill show a couple of years.”

Craig said he believes natural ability can only take an artist so far.

“There are so many little things that people who have been well trained and have lots and lots of experience can teach you shortcuts that can get you places fast,” he said. “But, I think it was a faster trajectory or a faster way to get better. You never stop learning. I am always reading about it and trying to find ways to get better. I am always looking for other people who can teach me more.”

The two things Craig has learned that he values the most right now include how to use negative space and how to make elements within his paintings look more realistic.

“Creating a good value structure of lights to darks and darks to lights and having a good sound structure in your paintings was an important thing for me to learn,” he said. “I also have learned a lot about mixing paints to get the kind of thing that I want. It is about putting depth into the paintings.”

As someone that begins with the end in mind, Craig said he will always run out of time before he runs out of ideas.

“I always have a vision or what I want to do,” he said. “I even have four, five or six paintings floating around in my head. Motivation is never the problem. Finding time is the problem. I have always known what my next two or three paintings will be.”

And for young artists, Craig said the key is to get around other artists early and never stop learning.

“I would encourage young artists to participate in local art shows and local clubs,” he said. “The internet is not a great way to start. Maybe once you have a following and people have seen your art in person, they may buy something from a website. But, in my experience, the best way to get your work out there has been to get around people and let them see it up close. They want to see what it looks like hanging on the wall. A picture does not do it justice.”