Making Eco-Friendly Art with Digital Painter Zach McCraw
Zach McCraw is one of those rare people who spends every moment fired up to discover and create. Since late 2018, he’s painted day in and day out, creating over 4,000 digital works of art.
“I’m pushing for the future. I have to be daring. I have to feel wild.”
McCraw lives in the woods, often choosing to immerse himself in his garden while painting. His love of the natural world pushed him to seek ways to turn his love of painting into an eco-friendly endeavor, and he now exclusively paints with digital media.
“My love of nature and its preservation inspires me to champion digital art as the most eco-friendly art form, especially for painting. The amount of waste that goes into traditional paint products is done away with in my digital process, especially at the rate I paint.”
Also, if you want to get a sense of how McCraw curates his galleries, experience them virtually on D Emptyspace:
You’ve got so many artistic pursuits. Music, painting, video production… where do you feel like all this creativity comes from?
I always have to create, it’s like an obsession.
If I’m not creating, I’m thinking about creating and making each moment creative.
My creative drive is always working towards a unique approach to an original vision.
As a digital artist, you are capable of creating artwork from absolutely anywhere, at any time. Where and when do you create your best work?
Great artwork can be made anywhere thanks to the mobility of technology.
Personally, I love to paint uninterrupted, free of distraction, in the forest around my home studio. I find that drawing close to a raw, natural state of being liberates the mind. To me, art is about liberation and freedom.
Although my work is exclusively digital, I am invigorated by the wild reality of the untouched natural world.
You’re incredibly prolific, how many paintings have you completed to date? And what’s the psychology behind this mass of creative energy? Do you ever feel drained?
I began experimenting with video art and painting apps in 2015, becoming obsessed with painting the latter half of 2018.
Since August of 2018, I’ve made over 4,000 individual digital paintings. My style has evolved greatly. And in it, I’ve found and developed an original voice that I continue to refine.
Just looking at my own paintings inspires me. It’s a total experience to get lost inside of a painting, forming it to become a complete work. The process is an inexhaustible joy.
I don’t feel drained. But my painting goes through phases and the prolific nature of my creative habits occasionally produces work lacking dynamic power. A brief slump can be overridden by the divine creation of an inspired new work.
As it is, I continue to paint even if I’m not wholly satisfied with the outcome. I feel assured that a satisfactory — and maybe even great — work is yet to come.
Creativity can be channeled in many directions to escape the feeling of stagnation. Developing other forms of creative output like music production, sculpture, photography and film, fashion, or writing helps to diversify my ‘mode’ and creative ability.
Learning how to ride inspiration and funnel it into diverse creative outlets is a way to find balance.
Let’s get into the specifics of digital art. How do you create it? What apps, programs, and tools are you using?
My primary tool at the moment is an iPhone 7+. Mobility is essential. I love to experiment with new apps and also apps not intentionally designed as art apps. My early digital paintings were made with ‘selfie sticker cam’ app Camera 360.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with D Emptyspace, a virtual gallery space where you can share finished works (and even create new ones depending on your perspective).
Tell us your thoughts on how we can make art more eco-friendly?
I made physical paintings in the past, but I can work much faster with greater results digitally.
Traditional painting methods can’t keep up with my pace of painting. It is through the process of making art digitally that I found my real mission.
What I truly want to promote with my art are eco preservation initiatives. Few realize it, but digital art is eco-friendly.
To produce the number of physical paintings that I make digitally would take a huge amount of resources. Admittedly at this point, I haven’t made any active measures towards eco preservation outside of my own daily practices. But that’s where it starts, at the individual level. Partnering with a preservation organization or a charity art auction with proceeds to an initiative is my next step.
How do you see technology changing the way we create and appreciate art?
There are so many possibilities to explore with VR and AR and virtual galleries like D Emptyspace.
In the virtual world, art isn’t limited to a 2D canvas or 3D sculpture. The rules can be broken and pieces can potentially escape the canvas and exist in a theoretical limbo between conventional and newly developed frames of reference.
I like to imagine fully immersive VR art experiences that take place in a jungle, ice cavern or condemned building on the verge of caving in. The virtual environment could inform the art and encourage deeper interaction with it.
With your paintings limited to the digital realm, how do you typically exhibit or sell your works?
I helped run a gallery from 2008–2013 and I’ve had at least two solo gallery shows every year since then. To sell my work, I typically print it out as signed limited edition works.
For the show, I’m printing and framing 20–30 of my most recent landscape paintings. I will play music (that I personally composed) for the duration of the exhibition and pair the paintings with an animated slideshow video.
At the moment, I have a large stock of limited edition poster prints from my last show. I’m planning to sell these posters at this exhibition (and others) and donate a portion to an organization dedicated to eco preservation.
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