Interview & Article by: Camden Meyers
The best of both worlds. It means something different for everyone- for Father, Husband, Firefighter and Painter Craig Wellbrock it means the balance he’s struck between work and passion. Gig Harbor is a small city about 45 minutes south of Seattle and across the famous Narrows Bridge. It's also home to Craig, the minimalist painter who in just 3 years has sold his paintings internationally and has work on display in dozens of coffee shops, art galleries, entertainment centers and business offices all over the greater Seattle area. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Craig in Ocean 5, a multi-purpose entertainment center in Gig Harbor that just opened to the public, and ask him a few questions.
Craig is a family man. He has two daughters, a “perfect wife” (direct quote) and a lovely home in a safe suburban neighborhood. During the day, and night sometimes, he is a Firefighter. On Sundays he and his family attend Church, a community in which they are very engaged. Craig is a family man, but he’s also a kickass painter and artist. He describes his work as white minimalist style inspired by the desire in his soul for serenity and peace. For Craig, peace can be found not only in the solace of his artwork, but also in the real world connections he makes with the community around him. He aspires to one day own an art gallery where he can curate a museum of pieces from local artists while also creating a separate space the could be used as a work space for artists that don’t have access to a regular creative space.
When asked exactly how far he wants to take his artwork- what his dream would look like 5 years from now. The answer to that question is as unknown to Craig as it is to us, he is amazed by the places his paintings have gone in just the last 3 years and that it is difficult to tell where they might lead him next. He loves creating art, but he also loves Firefighting and his family and enjoys the balance between the steady, reliable income provided by Firefighting and the extra income he receives through his passion for painting. In addition to that, the finds that his full time job provides an element of artistic freedom that would be unattainable without. He explains that oftentimes artists will become financially desperate to the point that they let it dictate their artwork whereas he doesn’t feel that pressure and can go in any artistic direction he prefers.
Craig started out sending his paintings to people for free, or taking just the cost of materials as reimbursement. He shared with me a story about when he and his wife were younger and building their family together, they couldn’t afford to purchase what most people would consider “real art”. He remembers that, and when friends or family take interest in his art he tries to make it affordable. He also spent quite a bit of time painting pieces for auctions and schools in an effort to help them raise money. He has done this so much that at one point he was auctioning more than 6 pieces per year! From there he recalls a particular moment when a woman reached out to him through social media with the hopes of acquiring a piece of his work. After personally bringing the piece to West Seattle and delivering it, Craigs work was exposed to over fifty thousand people that followed this person's social media account. From there he steadily gained (and continues to gain) followers that love his work. Today, you can find his paintings for sale in local establishments like Bloom and Frankies and bigger art galleries and furniture stores in Bellevue Washington, one of the nicest cities in the state.
Art is the language of the soul and you can hear poems when you experience Craig’s projects. Although created in a space that Craig describes as “covered in paint” and “embarrassing” his work evokes a sense of piece and stillness in your soul when you experience it. It puts you at peace and reminds you that some things in life don’t have to be complicated. Unlike most pieces of art in a home, Craig’s paintings don’t dominate your attention, they tie the room together. His work is like the polish on a freshly detailed car or the last coat of paint on a newly canvassed wall- the work is incomplete without it.