Monday, July 29, 2013

a visit with neal martineau

Earlier this summer, after hanging some of my own art at Hypnocoffee in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, I went to grab a bite to eat with a friend at The Blue Moon Cafe, right down the street. Right away I was struck by the colorful, semi-abstract works of art hanging on the walls throughout the place, with a sign that read "Old Fart Art" by Neal Martineau.  All of the pieces were prints of his original drawings and paintings for sale, and at a reasonable price.  Some of the works I found an immediate connection with, so it would only make sense to give Neal a call eventually, to place an order.

It wasn't until last Wednesday that I found a moment to call Neal to inquire about his work, and right away we were able to schedule a time to meet the next day at the Blue Moon Cafe in Shepherdstown. I had written a blog post about Neal's art shortly after first seeing it about a month ago, and had learned that he had penned some legendary TV ads back in the day, while living and working in NYC. So, I was slightly nervous about meeting him, however if Neal was as cool as he was during our brief but spirited phone conversation, I had nothing to worry about.

I got to the Blue Moon Cafe far earlier than expected, allowing me time to grab some lunch and savor the gorgeous weather and ideal setting of the cafe's outdoor seating while sipping a freshly brewed iced tea. I even got a chance to stroll around and explore town and the local university campus, which was  peaceful and quiet, like many college campuses are in the summertime. 

Later that afternoon, I returned to the Blue Moon to finally meet Neal, who had arrived at 2PM on the dot, carrying a box containing some of his latest works. My main reason for this visit was to both meet Neal, as well as purchase some of his original prints, which I had seen displayed last month at the Blue Moon.  We ended up hanging out for about an hour, mostly talking art. Neal had a sharper memory than mine, at twice my age, as he recalled his experiences living in NYC at the time when the likes of Frank Stella and Jackson Pollack were still relatively unknown names. Neal was there when the cult classic film "Mystery of Picasso" first screened in NYC, and while I own the DVD, Neal was able to recall very precise moments and passages from the film as if he had seen it just yesterday. He also remembers working on some of his own art, alongside Frank Stella, who was just about to be "discovered". In Neal's own words, "My teacher, Steve Greene, advised me not to try to make a living as a painter because painters are too poor to afford homes and station wagons.  Meantime, my fellow student, Frank Stella, became rich enough to own several houses and Ferraris."

It was so good talking with Neal last week, and being able to support an artist whose work and vision I believe in. He even gave me a sneak peek at several new pieces he had completed, or was currently working on, including one that had a more representational slant, having to do with a story of a short-lived beloved cat who had befriended him and his wife years ago.  Neal credits Rebecca Jones with the recent art lessons that helped inspire this new direction he's taken with his art over the past couple of years, which he now works on feverishly in his own free time, insisting on only having fun and doing what he wants, and how he wants to do it. Upon leaving, Neal told me I made his day, but honestly, I'd have to say it was the other way around, as I had found a kindred spirit in my new friend. Neal is a living example that it's never too late to pursue what you love, and while he jokes about his current artistic endeavor as being his final chapter, let's hope that it's a long and joyous one. 

Since Neal's work had been on display at the Blue Moon, he has gotten quite a few calls, with a commission for a piece for the local library, as well as some shows lined up. In August, he'll have work hanging at The Devonshire Arms Cafe and Pub in Shepherdstown, as well as one of all original works at The Bridge Gallery, also in Shepherdstown. There is also a possible show at The Queenstreet Gallery in Martinsburg, WV.  Looking forward to it!