Meet the Artist: Maureen McNeil

Welcome to the third edition of our Meet The Artist series: a monthly feature on our website giving you a little more information and perspective into the lives of our many talented artists!  We hope you enjoy this third edition in our series, and that you will look forward to future editions on the first Saturday of every month. Today we would like to introduce you to Maureen McNeil.  Her distinct style is an exciting part of the collections available here at the gallery, so we hope that you enjoy her work as much as we do, and that you enjoy learning a little more about this very talented painter.

Subway Cha Cha by Maureen McNeil

Give us a little history of you: where you came from and how you got where you are today: Sitting in my living room, my first house had big walls and needed some artwork, so I bought a canvas and started to paint with whatever I had in the house. I decided I was going to paint stick people because I loved groovy backgrounds with the simplicity of these figures in the front…never was figurative but was drawn to abstract….it was what I could paint, I loved the feeling of doing something that was totally childlike with a twist of sophistication with the choice of the size of canvas and color ,friends loved the result and always asked who was the artist I was surprised to find that I had fallen into something that was appealing to many. What inspires your work? I am inspired by people’s stories: give me a family tell me what they are passionate about, favorite sports team, colors, anything! Tell me what you love to do, and  I will paint it…family pets, your child’s dreams, living on a lake, back drop mountains, whatever exists in your life let me put it on canvas. Describe your technique: I start with a sketch, have colors in mind , then anything can happen. I never know exactly what will show up on the canvas. I need good music, a right frame of mind, and sometimes I will think about a painting for several days before I am ready to paint.  I breathe a lot when I am painting, at times the brush strokes are bold, at other times I have detail that kills my back! I think about the person that I am painting for, keeping them in the picture at all times so they will enjoy the commission forever. Describe your process from how you get your idea until it appears as a finished piece: I get my ideas from a detailed process, sitting with the client and knowing every minute detail of the painting, colors, favorite things, what inspires the client, why do you want this painting, what makes you happy, why you like my style, where do you want to hang this picture. After all the questions I think of our consultation, I focus on the client and channel what I see on to the canvas, with all the information that has been provided. It is an exciting task to match the personality with the painting and I take it very seriously. What other types of art and materials have you explored and what is your favourite medium?  I love exploring EVERYTHING…anything can be put upon a canvas, using my imagination and pushing buttons that no one else has gets me excited. Children love to touch, and see things pop out I love to produce this on a canvas. My favorite thing lately is gems, and high gloss mediums that produce fabulous texture. Is there something or someone who inspired you to start or did you just pick up and away you went? I originally started for myself but then transitioned to doing work for the sick children’s hospital. My very good friend nominated me when Gina Godfrey (Paul Godfrey’s wife) asked if she knew any artists that could contribute art for the Mistle Toe Ball, a huge fund raiser for the hospital.  My husband encouraged me to take a piece of my work into Crescent Hill Gallery. Then….there is my mom, I could do no wrong, she was a fabulous artist and thought my work was the bomb, she was so proud of me for all my accomplishments, it is what I treasure most. Tell us about people you’ve met along the way and decisions you made that shaped your journey:  To start I did work for the sick children’s hospital for several years , that inspired me to work more at my craft…the feedback was great so I knew I was on the right track. The artists at the gallery inspire me so much because of their accomplishments. I have always heard the term starving artist but see that the artists at the gallery are not starving and earn a great living from something that they are so passionate about. I have reached out and asked questions, (being fairly new in this business) and have found that the gallery and the artists are more than willing to share their knowledge that is so important to me. My friends and family are a great support especially my Mom I can still hear her voice cheering me on! Do you have any interesting stories from creating your art or in your day to day life? I am a thinker when it comes to the process of painting…I look at others work but keep in mind that my signature style is important…I know I am ready to paint when I get this feeling of excitement in my heart. I call on my kids to critique what I have done, they have an interesting perspective - sometimes they talk about the colors I have used, give me ideas that I would not think to put in the painting. I have a crazy imagination and like to put that on canvas…sometimes they tell me it doesn’t make sense, I like that, not everything has to make sense. How do your studio and surroundings influence your work? I keep my studio somewhat organized, although by the time I am finished a painting it is a mess! I do this intentionally I don’t want anything to disturb the creative process…I love that about my studio; it is the one room in my house that I can do and be whatever I want. When the painting is complete I always clean my space up, it puts me into the right frame of mind, on to new beginnings. Being at home is not a distraction for me, I love to hear the buzz of my children as I paint, music is always in the background, and it is a meditation that I love. What impresses you about other artists’ work and who impresses you today? I am impressed by children’s work…they have no agenda when they are painting. I have taught classes to 5 year olds, and one particular painting blew me away: this child painted in 30 minutes a piece of artwork that was surreal. Children don’t overthink like adults do, they have complete confidence and are not cluttered by any notions of what is right or wrong they just “do” and it is perfect in my eye. I learn a lot from their innocence. What differentiates you from other artists? I paint primarily for children, although I have adults that love my work as well. I appeal to children of every age. I don’t like to get serious with my work, I like it to be somewhat quirky so that the person looks at it and asks questions.I feel my work is different because I tend to break rules, be bold with my subject matter and “refuse” to paint faces on my subjects, this is what keeps me recognizable! Do you have a favorite tool to work with or that inspires your work? I inherited my mother’s brushes; they are so special to me. I use just about anything to give me the look that I want, credit cards, toothpicks, rulers, my fingers, spray bottles, nothing is off limits when I am being creative. What is your favorite thing to do on a Friday night, on the weekend, etc.? I love to be with my family up at the cottage. We put on a fire and make great dinners. I am very much a homebody -a lot of time is spent in Mississauga on the weekends, shuffling the kids around, making sure everyone is happy. It brings me great joy to see my family working hard and being successful at what they do.  Anything else you want to add? I had a dream - I wanted to be an artist. Crescent Hill Gallery gave me a chance and I am forever grateful for that…it has given me confidence and inspiration, my day is joyfully filled knowing that I have a job to do…thank you.  

Parade of Princesses

We have some lovely new paintings by Maureen McNeil today! Her work is the perfect addition to any child's room...bring some sparkle and imagination home! McNeil's acrylics on canvas put forth a whimsical feel with intended simplicity, which she achieves through contrast and an exciting bold colour palette. McNeil gears her work toward children, although her sports collections, such as The Blue Jays and Maple Leafs have been very well received by more mature audiences. Maureen explains that, due to a difficult unexpected loss in the family, her creativity has taken a newly inspired direction: "My Mother died November 10th of 2010. Like myself she was an artist, talented with a brush, with the spoken word, the best mother a daughter could ever dream to have. After she died, I inherited her brushes and paint, what an amazing personal gift to be given to me! Every tube told a story, and the brushes give me a strong personal connection. Every time I use them I am aware that she held them, I am holding her hand, or is she holding mine guiding me with each brush stroke. I love these brushes, they have her fingerprints.