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ARTIST PROFILE: Darrell Creek's Michael Gray

Story by Gray Bostick

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life,” or so opined Oscar Wilde in 1894. And the debate as
to which is more imitable continues to this day. But as far as one local artist is concerned, the answer
is simple: Art IS Life.

It only takes a moment and a glance to realize that the works of Michael Gray of Mt. Pleasant, who is
well-known in the Charleston area for his colorful coastal landscapes, are not just masterpieces of the
hand, but, rather, expressions from the heart, manifestations of the very soul of the South Carolina
Low Country.

Gray's works fall into the the style known as Impressionism, born of an experiment undertaken in the
summer of 1869 by two struggling young artists, Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir, who
attempted to capture the lively atmosphere around a small
pond just outside of Paris by painting the same outdoors
scene simultaneously. This style, which sought to capture the
transitory nature of light as it fell upon the water, and its
glimmer as it reflected off the faces of people along the bank,
seemed ridiculous to some at the time, but Impressionism is
today the most popular style of painting worldwide.
Gray got his own start a century later when, in the summer of 1969, as a 10-year old lad, sketchpad
and pencils in hand, he set out across tobacco fields near his rural Marlboro County home in search of
a suitable tobacco barn to draw. He found a barn that day, and many other subjects to paint, for many
years thereafter.

And after years spent studying under such noted

artists as Ilona Royce Smithkin and accumulating
knowledge in classrooms and museums of the
world's most-renowned art institutes, Gray
eventually followed his heart full-circle to return to
paint what he knew best and loved most: his
beloved South Carolina coastline.

With reason. “I have a passion for painting,” Gray

points out, “but more importantly, I have a passion
for the environments I paint.”

In his home state, Gray found not only fading

architectural icons of the Old South, but also a
landscape full of richness and texture, of color and
variety, that rivaled the beauty of any place he had
ever traveled. And for the last 35 years he has
primarily dedicated himself to painting the
incomparable South Carolina coastline, from Little
River to Hilton Head, with very little in between left

And very few people unmoved. To see a Michael

Gray painting of the South Carolina Low Country
is to see a composition made of thousands of
dots, dashes and brushstrokes.

“I seek to build a painting in a method so similar to

those groundbreaking artists of 100 years ago that
they would recognize my technique and result as
true Impressionism,” he says. “Color is my best
friend and allows me to manipulate a multitude of
variations in relationship to color harmonies and
the effect of ever-changing light, and helps me to
capture the ever-changing beauty of our coastal
When not in the studio, Gray travels
throughout the US and Europe lecturing on the
act of creativity and aesthetics or judging; he
also visits Paris and London at least once a
year, and spends a month every spring in the
Tuscan hills near Florence, Italy to soak up
atmosphere, recharge his batteries, and re-
connect with the spirit of the old Masters.

Gray's work can be seen in public, private and

institutional collections throughout the world,
and he is highly sought-after for commission
work, as well as for his uncanny ability to adapt
a work of art to a particular, pre-existing space,
which makes him a favorite among architects
and designers world-wide. Gray's most recent
high-profile project was creating a
quintessential coastal landscape piece for the
Office of the Governor and the South Carolina
Commerce Department, which was then
replicated and presented as a Gratitude Gift to
the head of international corporations who
initiated new business in South Carolina during

And Gray is nothing if not grateful for the

opportunities his art has made possible, and
deservedly proud of the accolades his pieces

“To go from the pine forests and tobacco fields

of my youth, to being chosen as the artist to represent my state and welcoming others to the power,
grace and beauty of South Carolina has been a humbling journey that has been the greatest honor of
my life.”

Michael Gray resides and maintains a studio and office on Darrell Creek in Mt. Pleasant. He is
represented exclusively in South Carolina by the I. Pinckney Simons Gallery of Beaufort, and is
represented world-wide by the Charles Wolf Gallery of Los Angeles. He may be contacted via his

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