Dan McCray is a right-brained guy.
The two careers in his life, that of musician and artist, both originate from the same creative side of his noggin.
But in addition to music and art, somehow cars have always managed to also occupy his mind, to the tune of almost every waking minute. "When the other kids were drawing airplanes and soldiers, I was drawing cars with my Crayolas," he said of his first artistic medium. "We'd all be playing with slot cars in some friend's basement, when one day we started messing around with my friend's father's guitar. Then that Christmas, all of us got guitars as gifts."
In addition to working in a music store, he also traveled with various Funk, Jazz and R&B bands as guitarist for 17 years. But he never stopped following toward his passion of painting portraits of cars, which became his next career when life on the road wore on him.
In about 1980, the Charlotte-based McCrary changed course; he put his guitar down and picked up a paintbrush full time.
McCrary's preferred medium went from crayon to watercolor, and people began to take note of his work. Collectors and racers, including NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, started collecting his paintings. McCrary's favorite subjects are rusty-dusty barn finds – what he calls Oxide Archives – as well as race cars, hot rods and sports cars. Ironically, the artist who is so well known for his painting of rusty metal is equally known for his beautiful reflective artwork, where images of show cars reflect off each other's glossy surfaces.
"The problem is that I love everything automotive," he said. "There is nothing I love more than to jump from painting a new Ferrari to a 1949 Ford rusting away in a junkyard.
"I can't narrow myself down. I love to play the field."
Over the past 30 years, McCrary's artwork has been featured at Amelia Island, Meadowbrook and the Classic Car Club or America at the Gilmore. In 2016, he realized one of his professional goals when has work was displayed at the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance as a guest artist.
"I love composition," he said. "I love to capture that certain shape or color that allows me to make it an imaginative composition." Few can admit that they have spent their entire working careers doing exactly what they are passionate about, but Dan McCrary has. Well, except he was never asked by his favorite band, Tower or Power, to join their group as guitarist.
"I have to say, though, I'm living a pretty cool life."