Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy visiting from time to time. I will have fun posting information related to current projects, my travels, or just random thoughts! Feel free to post your comments anytime.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Senator Byrd Celebrates 20,774 Days in Congress

Today Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia becomes the longest serving member of Congress in our nation's history.  With his combined 6 years in the House of Represenatives and his unprecedented 9 consecutive terms in the Senate, he now totals over 56 years of service.  

When he first came to Washington as a young Congressman from his home state (Jan. 3, 1953) Harry Truman was president and most Americans still looked to newspapers and the radio for their daily news.  

I had the great fortune and priviledge of painting his portrait for the U.S. Senate.  He is an amzaing man of dignity and charm and one of the most powerful intellects I have ever had the chance to encounter.  

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Palette after Life Sitting

A friend of mine suggested that I post a photo of my palette after my sitting yesterday. Boring or interesting...don't know????...but...here is a shot of the palette after 2 hours of painting a gentleman from life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Painting Portraits: An Artist's Perspective Lecture Series

Painting Portraits: An Artist's Perspective
Tuesdays, Oct. 20, 27, Nov. 3, 10 and 17
3-4:30, p.m., Ezell Center, David Lipscomb University
Nashville, Tennessee
Cost: $50

Instructor: Michael Shane Neal, artist

I will be presenting a series of lectures on my work as an artist paintng portraits.  Each class will include a power point presentation as well as a behind the scenes look at some of my recent commissions. For more information contact the Lifelong Learning Office at 615-966-5733 or toll-free at 800-333-4358, ext. 5733 for a registration form.  You may also contact Patty Dugger at 615-966-5733 or toll-free at 800-333-4358, ext. 5733 or e-mailPatty.Dugger@lipscomb.edu.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy


As an artist who has had the incredible honor of working for the United States Senate, I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Kennedy on two occasions in the last couple of years.  The first was after he introduced me at the unveiling of my portrait of Senator Robert Byrd.  I was immediately impressed with his approachable nature and genuine interest in others. 


A few months later, his office phoned to request a photo of my portrait of Senator Byrd.  Senator Kennedy wanted to frame the image along with several mementoes including a handwritten note by his brother President John Kennedy and an autograph by his brother Bobby.  The collage was a gift for Byrd’s 90th birthday. 


I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the event and enjoyed Senator Kennedy's remarks as master of ceremonies.  In closing the festivities, he presented the gift to Byrd.  Afterward, I spoke to Senator Kennedy and thanked him for including my portrait in such a special way.  Once again I found him to be totally charming, engaging, and well versed in the art of portraiture.  He had painted a bit himself and was a devoted art lover and collector.


When I learned early last year of his illness, I created a sketch of him on a small canvas panel and sent it as a sort of “get-well card”. 


Although I often refer to my career as having only just begun, when I think of the many opportunities I have been given to meet such historical figures as Senator Edward Kennedy, I am truly amazed and grateful.  I was impressed to find a man of such great power, talent and influence exercise grace and genuine curiosity in a young artist's work.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sorolla: A Master of Color and Value

My dear friend and teacher Everett Raymond Kinstler was a student of the great painter Gordon Stevenson (1892-1982).  Stevenson studied with both John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sorolla. While in Spain working with the great master artist, Stevenson was amazed at the clarity of color and mastery of value that came from the artist's brush.  
Sorolla taught that good color comes from good value and a SIMPLE palette.  

All too often we tend to think good color comes from the shelves of the local art store and the dozens of colors that are at our disposal.  A friend reminded me recently of the simplicity of Sorolla's palette:  

Zink white, Yellow Ochre, Seville Red Earth, Rose Madder, Ivory Black, Cassell Earth (Brown).  

Remember...good color comes from good value, color harmony, and a simple palette!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Another Touch of Inspiration

One of my favorite series of portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler are those of Katharine Hepburn. 

This one, currently hanging in a club in NYC blows me away everytime I see it.  Mr. Kinstler's last of the great actress... it is my favorite.  

Here is a CLOSE UP I shot recently.   Look at those edges, volume, subtle value and temp shifts!  Did I mention the likeness....wow!  What a MASTER.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

May Portrait Workshop

I had a great week working with a fantastic class in my May workshop.  Everyone dug in and worked hard.  We enjoyed painting from life and sharing knowledge and experiences with each other.  I am honored to have so many dedicated artists who travel from around the country ready and excited to learn and grow as artists.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mr. Sargent

I can never spend enough time with the indomitable Mr. Sargent. His paintings that is....which is as close as we get to the man. On Sunday I could not tare myself away from this portrait of Joseph Jefferson at the Players Club in NYC. Here is a neat shot that really shows his mastery of value, color, and edges. The head is so solid, so subtle that the great actor comes to life over 100 years after the final brush stroke!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Value of Sittings from Life

Last week I had the most wonderful experience with a family I am painting from Florida.  They were gracious enough to pack their bags and come for sittings in my studio.  A very large portrait, I have enjoyed the challenge of composing the painting and developing the diverse elements of the portrait.  Although I request sittings with most of my subjects, this session was particularly valuable for refining likenesses and altering several of the important details.  Working with my sitter, I gained invaluable insight as to the character of the dress and how the folds should fall while seated. We had a chance to create the "ideal" shapes for the dress and my composition.   I also find that I adjust key values especially the darker tones.  I usually discover a bit more "air" in these areas that I simply can't see in the photographs.  Time and time again I find that having the input of my sitters gives me great insight into my subjects and the elements included in the painting.  It also connects everyone to the adventure!

P.S. They left "Mountain" the dog at home with a sitter....probably a good idea!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Portrait Society of America Meeting April 23-26, 2009

The Portrait Society of America will hold their annual conference in Washington D.C. in a few weeks.  If you can make the trip, it is well worth it!  There is a long list of artists who will demonstrate and lecture on the field of portraiture from setting up studios to marketing your work.  

Click here for more information:  http://www.portraitsociety.org/

I will be speaking and demonstrating during the weekend.  In the upcoming issue of International Artist Magazine, my portrait of Judge Tony Scirica will be included along with a description of the process of creating the portrait. The magazine will be available soon, but here is a preview:

I begin the process of creating my portrait of Chief Judge Scirica with a visit to his chambers in Philadelphia.  A big believer in homework, I read a great deal about my subject before our first meeting and we enjoyed a nice lunch together shortly after I arrived.  To be his official portrait for the court, we completed a photo-shoot in his chambers.  I made numerous digital photos trying multiple poses and also created a quick sketch in oil on a canvas board as my first introduction to my subject in paint.  No matter how brief the sketching encounter (in this case 40 minutes), I find it to be a very valuable part of the process of getting to know my subject.  It will also help me to select good reference photos that more accurately capture the gesture and character of my subject.  Like sketching the landscape, I remember more from this experience than I do from any snapshot with a camera.  This entire process took most of the afternoon.  I am now ready to return to the studio where I will study the reference and begin the portrait.

Step 1: Drawing
I love to draw (it was my first love as an artist), but I love to paint even more! Consequently, I begin by sketching out only the major proportions in soft charcoal. I fear a detailed drawing will lead to a filling in of the shapes and not the massing of the major proportions. The latter I believe can help to create a more “painterly” approach throughout. I want to feel the major proportions on the canvas hopefully with accuracy and energy. Once established I can refine the drawing with paint.

Step 3: The Particular
Now that the canvas is fully covered and the major effect is established, I can now spend time developing the areas of focus such as the head. I am only now thinking of likeness in a more specific way. In the previous steps I was only seeking the character of my model, the gesture of his pose, and the overall effect of the scene.

Step 6: The Finish

In the finished portrait I have spent considerable time on every area of the portrait. No area has not succumb to numerous adjustments as I worked to find my subjects likeness, quiet strength, and character. I am constantly striving for simplicity in effect, brush work and composition. Often I edit once more where I can as I near the finish with the simplicity of my earlier stages in mind.

The Richest Man in Babylon

I recently read a wonderful book "The Richest Man in Babylon" which gives practical, simple, and time tested approaches to managing your money and business. It's a quick read and helpful to be given good common sense advice in a time filled with worry and noise... check it out!

Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Richest-Man-Babylon-George-Clason/dp/1607960664/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239293633&sr=8-1

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Exhibit at David Lipscomb 11-14 February 2009

I am excited to have an exhibit of my work at Lipscomb University.  Hope some of my friends can come!

Accuracy of an Impression
An Exhibit of Paintings by Michael Shane Neal

Wednesday, 11 February 2009- Saturday, 14 February 2009

Lipscomb University • Nashville, Tennessee
The Paul Rogers Room, Ezell Center
9:00am - 9:00pm
Reception, Presentation and Q&A
7pm Saturday, 14 February 2009
Swang Chapel, Ezell Center, Lipscomb Campus