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Watercolor, Henna, Acrylic - mixed media
Craig Whitten

“If not for the success I’ve had here, the environment I’m surrounded by, and the genuine qualities of the people I interact with, I doubt I would have been able to pursue my dream of being an artist.”

It’s clear that, for Craig Whitten, home is where the heart is – and home is Lafayette. After using the outdoors as a canvas for more than 20 years, Craig’s love of nature moved inside. With a landscape architecture degree from Purdue, the Lafayette native used plants, earth and structures to create inviting outdoor environments first in Southern California, then Chicago and, coming full circle, back in Lafayette.

“I wanted to raise my family in my hometown, rather than larger cities,” Craig said. “Experiencing those places, I initially thought were ‘better,’ I quickly learned Indiana was the best place for me. We decided to come home and just see what would happen.”

Still keeping his art outside, Craig began designing Lafayette landscapes and was back at landscape architecture full time inside a year, launching his own business in 1996. Then his canvas began to change.

“Being an ‘old school’ landscape architect, I insisted on hand-drawing my design work. I felt it appealed far more to my residential clientele,” he said. He enjoyed the time sketching, watercoloring and rendering landscape plans so much that this artistic side of the business became the full-time occupation it is today. “I began working more on non-work projects,” he said, “and they always seemed to focus on nature as an overriding theme, since the love of nature is what drew me to landscape architecture in the first place.”

Craig closed the year 2013 and his design business at the same time, deciding to pursue art full-time after considerable thought and reflection on the meaning he wants his life to have. “Everything I do with my art reflects something that has touched me at some point, be it from a standpoint of pure awe at what nature shows us, or something I found comical,” he says. “It all comes from a place of an emotional experience.”

Highlighting the contrasts in his approach, he uses the word “spontaneity” a lot in conversation about nature, art and the way he views both. “The spontaneity of watercolor is a perfect correlation to the spontaneity of nature to me,” he said. “There is a synergy in my work that’s borne of that unpredictability. Sometimes I explore this directly in the abstracts I create, and other times it might show up in the way I group the subjects of a painting. Not always overtly spontaneous, but hopefully feeling spontaneous to the viewer.”

Returning to the methodical approach of an architect, Craig said, “I’ve been looking at all the options to furthering my art career. The exposure, support, information, and high standards of the Indiana Artisan brand bring a wide range of the needs of a professional artist under one organization, and that had great appeal to me. Being named an Indiana Artisan, recognized as one of the top artists in the state, has been exciting and inspirational, another piece of positive feedback that my choice to become a full-time artist was indeed a great decision.”

Just like his landscape architecture career, that exposed him to beautiful areas that only highlighted the value of Lafayette, Craig credits his art-related achievement to his decision to return home. “The goal of art, in my humble opinion, is ultimately to touch someone deep within their soul,” he said. “If not for the success I’ve had here, the environment I’m surrounded by, and the genuine qualities of the people I interact with, I doubt I would have been able to pursue my dream of being an artist.”

Back at home, in an artistic environment he continues to design for himself, it’s clear that Lafayette has touched Craig deeply and that it’s where both his heart and art thrive.