September Windows

Although the harshest heat of the summer has passed, the RAL Art Center Gallery Windows will offer some “cool art” for you to view. The September display will include the art of Mel Neale and Johnny Hayes.

Mel Neale is a prolific artist who works in a variety of media, including watercolor and pastels. A graduate of Mary Washington College, Mel taught art in the public schools in Richmond, primarily at the secondary level. After leaving teaching, she continued to paint while living a unique lifestyle aboard a 47 foot motor-sailer with her husband and two young daughters, painting landscapes and seascapes, commissioned paintings of yachts and other nautical subjects. Mel is also a photographer and illustrator for boating publications.


While proficient in the watercolor medium, she has recently returned to her first love, pastels. Mel especially prefers the soft pastels which have come a long way from the chalk most of us used in school. Many consider pastel painting to be the purest form of making art because there is nothing between the pure pigment applied directly by hand and the support (special archival paper or board). There is no brush, no pen, no medium, no binders. With soft pastels, Mel can combine her love for drawing with the richness of pure pigment producing a painterly effect like no other medium. She approaches a pastel painting much like an oil, building the layers outwards, with special attention to surface texture.

The paintings on display in this month will be recent pastel landscapes. The smaller ones were painted “en plein air” and the larger ones were based on photos that Mel has taken herself.

The larger painting that Mel is exhibiting in the Gallery Windows is titled, Golden Hour. The subject is the ever-changing south end of Gwynns Island, a place where Mel and her husband have been anchoring in their various boats for 50 years. The trees and shoreline come and go, but the beauty of the island at sunset is forever the same. Golden Hour was a first place winner in the 2021 RAL Annual Labor Day Art Show, as well as being juried into the American Impressionist Society Annual Associate Members Show, (on-line).

Johnny Hayes has been a member of the RAL for over 20 years. He started painting late in retirement, and works in the acrylic medium, with a varied subject matter from still life to landscapes to portraits. Johnny's preferred method of painting is in a flat plane, using lots of unmixed color in a contemporary style. It is easy to see that his favored artists of influence are those such as Matisse and David Hockney and others of note in the contemporary art world.


Johnny says that the reason he likes to paint is not only to be creative, but he finds that it is concurrently relaxing and intellectual - - and just plain fun! This is easy to see in his painting, Fish Fry II, which is a whimsical portrait of a fish on the grill, a design-driven composition using bold colors and applied designs. The lines, shapes and color arrangement keeps the viewer’s focus moving around the grill. This painting won an award at the July All Members Exhibit at the RAL Gallery. Johnny has exhibited and won awards in many venues including, The Virginia Watercolor Society, The Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center, The Bay School in Mathews, VA, The Virginia Artists’ Show, and he has three paintings in the permanent collection of the Hampton Roads Convention Center.