Dean Crouser has been creating beautiful images of nature for a long time. His Oregon roots are strong and truly come alive in all of his art, which delights the eye as it depicts the beauty of nature and wildlife in each piece. DEMDACO has captured his engaging style in an enticing collection of products. Crouser graciously shared his background, inspiration and much more in an exclusive interview with museums&MORE.
museums&MORE: How long have you been working with DEMDACO?
DC: I have been with DEMDACO since 2012. As an artist, it is truly a dream come true to team up with a company like DEMDACO, which provides the opportunity to share your work with so many people. It has truly been a wonderful experience and it is always exciting to collaborate on new products and designs. When they first contacted me 8 years ago I asked why they would be interested in my art and they responded by saying “Because your art doesn’t look like anyone else’s.” That was a big compliment because having my own style and method has always been of utmost importance to me.
MM: Where do you find inspiration for your art?
DC: I find inspiration everywhere. Literally. We feed the backyard birds all year long and I can’t tell you how many times I have done a watercolor sketch just sitting in the garden watching these little guys. My wife Molly is a master gardener and she plants a variety of species intended specifically for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds so the garden comes alive in the summer time. I can find something to paint in her garden every time I set foot back there. I also really enjoy fishing and hiking here in Oregon and we have an abundance of beautiful scenery and wildlife — songbirds, ducks and geese, osprey and eagles, owls and more. On many of these trips I will take the time to sit down and do a quick watercolor sketch in the field that provides the general plan for a later painting. So, whether it may be painting a backyard chickadee or a 2,000 pound bison in Yellowstone, inspiration is everywhere — you just have to look.
MM: What are some of the original pieces you worked on when you first started?
DC: When I first started I was painting primarily sporting art. I was getting juried into some really good art shows, but my work wasn’t selling too well. I came home very disappointed after one show and told Molly how poorly it went and that trying to do my art as an actual business didn’t look like it was going to happen. She said “Why don’t you paint something other than a fish?” and I literally responded: “What else is there?” She was standing in her garden and just then a little hummingbird hovered over her cone flowers. She said “paint a hummingbird for me.” I painted Molly a little hummingbird and made eight prints of it to take to my next show — they all sold in the first hour. Then I painted another bird and another, and the rest is history. The moral here is to always listen to your wife! That painting is my little hummingbird, Pee Wee, and it is the single most important piece I have ever created.
MM: How do you select the colors you use in your creations?
DC: I actually have a very simple palette of a couple of blues, reds, yellow and a few others, and all of my paintings essentially are composed of the same palette. However, with these colors it is possible to mix these to create thousands of other colors. I think many artists get mis-lead into thinking you have to use 50 different colors to paint. I have always been of the belief that you need to keep it simple by using just a few colors and then become a master of mixing.
MM: Do you have a favorite work of art? If so, what is it?
DC: Per my earlier response my favorite painting is Pee Wee as that one single piece changed my direction as an artist and has subsequently changed my life. The transition from scenes and landscapes to birds and wildlife was a dramatic game changer for me.
MM: What are your future plans with DEMDACO?
DC: My future plans with DEMDACO are to continue creating new and exciting art that can be used within the great products that DEMDACO envisions to tell a story. With paint and paper, my mission is to bring forth something bright and colorful that can bring joy to others and maybe brighten their day.
MM: Do you offer any customized pieces for DEMDACO clients?
DC: Yes, I still do commission pieces for folks who may be looking for something special.
MM: What do you want people to see when they look at your art?
DC: I hope that when people see my art that it is in a manner that they haven’t seen a million times before. My technique utilizes color and movement that provides energy within a subject. I truly try to say “the most with the least” by keeping a subject simple, but still capture the beauty and essence of the subject I am painting.
MM: How do you know what type of nature-inspired work will look the best on a particular product?
DC: You really don’t know. I have had a painting that I felt would “knock it out of the park,” but didn’t, and others that I didn’t think much about that later became best sellers. Bottom line, you can’t paint with the goal of sales and selling, as that never works. My best work has always just happened and were quite effortless to create.
MM: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work, in general, or with DEMDACO?
DC: Well, I count my blessings every day. From day one, my goal was simply to paint and I have always derived so much joy from creating something. To be able to do this for a living is something that I never really thought could happen. My goal is to continue to improve as an artist and to come up with new work that is exciting to me and especially the person who sees it. Because in the end, this is all just about sharing and hopefully providing a little bit of joy in someone’s day.