This week’s Dan’s Papers cover artist Neal Hughes graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art and has competed in various “en plein air” contests across the country. This week’s cover art, “Surf Fishing,” is a familiar scene to East Enders.
What was the inspiration for this particular work?
I love the early morning light, and when I encountered a fisherman on the beach I was inspired to capture this scene. The colors are always richer during this time of day, and I tried to convey the sense of calm and the beauty of nature that I was experiencing.
How did you get started in art?
I always enjoyed art and the idea of creating something, and I was involved in drawing and painting from a very young age. I majored in illustration in college and was an illustrator for many years before switching to fine art.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would describe my work as impressionistic realism.
What informs your work?
I mostly try to react to nature and the landscape. I like to make a connection between art and nature. Sometimes it can be the light—a sunrise or sunset or late-day shadows. I try to interpret what I’m seeing so that it goes beyond just copying what is before me. I try to elevate the ordinary and everyday and bring into focus the beauty that might otherwise be missed.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else, to be honest. I love what I do and it’s a big part of who I am, and I feel very blessed to be an artist. But if for some reason I didn’t have art in my life, I might be involved with building or carpentry in some capacity. Or with computer networking or programming. But it’s very difficult to say for sure.
What artist would you most like to meet, and what would you talk about?
There are so many artists of the past I would enjoy meeting that it’s hard to pick just one. A favorite of mine is John Singer Sargent, and I would love to talk to him about his travels and also about his painting methods. I’m very involved in painting on location—or en plein air—and besides being a great portrait painter he was a master at this type of work. It would be very interesting to speak with him about his experiences and to hear his thoughts on painting.