Hilton arts: Old boy opts for paintbrush over putter

2012-09-17 00:00

CONOR McCreedy returned to his alma mater, Hilton College, last week to share with the pupils some of the secrets of his meteoric rise in the international arts world.

McCreedy (25) moved from Johannesburg to North Carolina in the United States after finishing school to take up a university golf scholarship.

While playing on the amateur circuit, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Rory McIlroy, the world’s number one golf professional. But an injury to his hand and the realisation that he didn’t really want to travel around the world playing golf prompted him to pursue his other talent — fine art.

McCreedy moved to New York City, enrolled in the prestigious Pratt Institute and set about making his mark in the art world. His first pitch was in Manhattan’s Union Square where he would sell his paintings to tourists to pay the bills. It was there that a German couple spotted him and paid $2 500 for one of his works. “It was the first proper sale of my life,” he said.

Later, a chance meeting with Eddie Rock, the uncle of comedian Chris Rock, led to an introduction to the president of the National Arts Club in New York and McCreedy’s first solo exhibition.

Since then he has exhibited his work at the Intoto Gallery in Johannesburg and Charles Bank Gallery in New York, has been commissioned to paint murals at Soho House and at a surf lodge in the Hamptons, and to paint the Time Warner logo in his signature blue paint.

McCreedy, who spent last week as artist in residence at Hilton, was keen to explain to the pupils that success was possible only if you were willing to work hard and make sacrifices.

“You can’t ask someone to clean your bathroom if you haven’t done it yourself. As an artist I stretched my own canvasses for four years … mixed my own paints … learned how to pack my art,” he explained. It also helped to be able to network and hustle and to make use of every avenue, including social networking sites, to get one’s brand out there.

And it’s not all about the almighty dollar for McCreedy. The artist supports two African-based charities — Faces of Hope Foundation, which provides help for sufferers of lymphoma and leukaemia, and Phelophepa, two unique trains that operate as mobile healthcare clinics bringing much needed medical and educational services to impoverished rural areas in South Africa.

• Three of Conor McCreedy’s paintings will be on show during The Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

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