Staying Challenged

As an artist that wants to stay on a path of continuous growth, I try to set goals that keep me challenged to produce better work and to get it out there for people to see. This year’s goals included the usual entering artwork in gallery shows and submitting my work for competitions and publications. One new item I added to this year’s goals was to study with an artist whose work and business sense I really admire. That artist is Michael Shane Neal. He has painted more than 500 portraits including those of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Actor Morgan Freeman. For five days I painted at Shane’s studio in Nashville, TN in the style of John Singer Sargent and discussed the business end of working with portrait clients. For me, it was a week of trying new things which included painting with an unfamiliar palette of colors, taking to the great outdoors for plein air portraiture, and breaking out of my more controlled brushwork for the challenge of the looser brushwork of Sargent. I was out of my element! I learned a lot about who I want to be as a portrait artist, how I want to paint, and how I want to pursue my portrait business. It might have been uncomfortable to be exposed to so many new things at once, but a good challenge has a way of focusing a person. I decided that a more controlled painting approach resonates more with my personality, and I am pleased to announce that having followed Shane’s business advice I have secured a portrait commission from Baylor University. It was a great week spent with a generous artist. Don’t ever be afraid of a challenge!

2 Comments on Staying Challenged

  • Edward S Meanley says:
    June 4, 2014 at 10:49 am


    What a wonderful adventure. I have dabbled in portraiture, but my red-green colorblindness gets in the way. I much admire Sargent myself. I have studied books on him and recently saw some of his watercolors at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His bold brush stokes seen in his oils show up in his watercolors as well. He uses transparent washes but follows up with dramatic use of opaque watercolors is his oil style. As an avid watercolorist, I am inspired to step out of my tight, controlled approach and try some of his very loose approach. I am planning to try to copy some of his works as a way to learn.



    • Brenda Hash says:
      June 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Ed, I saw the Sargent Watercolor exhibit at the MFAH twice, but I have to say I gravitated to the oils in the back of the exhibit. I’m so glad they sneaked their way in. One I particularly enjoyed was “The Master and His Pupils”. Simply stunning! You might enjoy reading these excerpts on a wonderful blog titled Underpaintings that discuss Sargent’s technique:


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