Cover artist Melinda Beck Neger talks about her artistic process, how she and her family love the East End and more.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
COVID-19. During this bizarre pandemic time, restaurants have had to serve patrons outside and on a beautiful night with candles and bistro lights illuminating the trees and the faces, the effect can be just magical. On this particular night, my husband and I were having dinner in the Bridgehampton Inn’s courtyard. I wanted to capture that beautiful scene because—hopefully—this COVID situation won’t go on forever.
Talk about your art style.
I like the term Contemporary Impressionism. The original Impressionists painted scenes of everyday life and used fast, loose and inventive brushstrokes to convey the energy and light and color they saw. That’s what I try to do too. Painting that way is also very forgiving. You can depict what you love about a scene and not worry about every detail. People can fill those in with their imagination.
Tell us about your artistic process.
I’m still refining it. I don’t have any formal art training, but I’ve learned a lot from plein air workshops, particularly with the wonderful Hamptons artist Megan Euell, and in virtual private sessions with Mark Saenger, an artist in New Jersey who is very patient and funny and a master at capturing light.
Mostly, I keep my eyes out for inspiring scenes and settings and I take lots of photographs. Then I try to recreate them on canvas, although I often move or eliminate some elements and adjust the values and the colors to accentuate the aspects I want viewers to focus on.
I use water-soluble oil paints—even though some artists look down on them—because I usually paint on the kitchen table and they clean up very easily.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?
Actually, I do have another life and another name: Melinda Beck, journalist. I was a writer and editor at Newsweek for many years; then I was the editor in charge of The Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section for about a decade and spent another eight years as one of the WSJ’s health columnists. I left the paper in 2017, but I’ve continued to write freelance articles and books. Right now, I’m trying to sell a murder mystery.
I took up painting in my spare time about 10 years ago, mainly as a way to capture and preserve scenes that spoke to me. I also find that painting is a great change of pace from writing. It actually uses a different side of the brain. Winston Churchill painted all through World War II and said he found it more relaxing than trying to sleep in stressful times. He writes all about this in a great little book called Painting as a Pastime.
Incidentally, I use my married name, Melinda Neger, for painting purposes because there is a well-established graphic artist named Melinda Beck and I don’t want to be confused with her.
What inspires you the most?
The light here on the East End is truly remarkable, especially at the beginning and end of the day. This area is also filled with iconic scenes and spaces that give it so much character. I think other East Enders love them too. I’ve sold several dozen paintings at the annual Guild Hall Clothesline Art Sale. The ones depicting popular scenes, like the American Hotel in Sag Harbor and Pierre’s in Bridgehampton, always sell very well.
We live in New York City for much of the year and the same goes for iconic scenes in Central Park.
See more of Melinda Beck Neger’s work at melindaneger.com.