Renowned Eastern Shore Watercolor Artist Willie Crockett Has Died at Age 82

Artist Willie Crockett painting in his Onancock studio. Photo courtesy of Miller Productions.

By Carol Vaughn —

The Eastern Shore lost one of its most renowned and beloved artists Monday when Tangier native Willie Crockett died at age 82 after a brief illness.
Crockett was perhaps best known for his watercolor paintings of Shore landscapes, in particular of the Chesapeake Bay and the salt marshes where he grew up hunting and fishing.
More recently, he had been working in oils and acrylics as well.
Crockett for years could be found nearly every day at his studio and art gallery on Market Street in Onancock.
In addition to his art, Crockett was known for his storytelling and his recitations of his original poetry and classic works by Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and other authors, which he did from memory.
“I saw myself in minnow ditches, on the surface of the tide, looking down to someone who was looking up at me. And I’ll guess I’ll always be there; no matter what success or failure fates may bring, I’ll be linked to those green waters, to a sunburned face and the salty beginnings of my youth,” Crockett said in lines from one of his poems he recited during an October 2017 interview for an article previewing an upcoming performance at North Street Playhouse.
“My poetry was based on a lot of my childhood and then looking back on those days and how it affects me today. … It’s a lot of fun when you get older to reach back and to see where you’ve been and to see how you’ve grown or stopped growing,” Crockett said then.
Additionally, Crockett was known for his generosity in donating artworks to community causes — including at times creating a painting during a charity event that would be auctioned off that same evening before the paint had a chance to dry.
Filmmaker David Miller, of King William County, Va., recently released a one-hour documentary film about Crockett called “The Art of Willie Crockett and Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”
“You meet Willie and you like him immediately,” Miller said in an interview in February, after he first met Crockett in December 2019.
Miller’s documentary can be viewed at and plans are in the works to sell DVDs.
Additionally, Maryland Public Television is planning to broadcast a half-hour version of the film on their network, Miller said Tuesday.
Miller was just one of the many people fascinated enough by Crockett’s life and art to want to tell his story. Crockett was interviewed over the years by numerous journalists, including Salisbury television personalities Scorchy Tawes and Charles Paparella.
In a trailer for his film, Miller called Crockett “a legend on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”
Crockett in his lifetime had a varied and colorful career — he formerly was a preacher, a waterman, and a trapper, among other experiences — before he found his calling capturing the Eastern Shore’s landscapes and wildlife in his paintings.

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