Hauled for work, the J. Roberts Bateman rests on blocking in a yard in Cambridge, Maryland. She was built in Greenwich, New Jersey, for the Bivalve Packing Co., launched in 1928 and has been a workboat ever since. Once a proud schooner, she was converted to power and today is home-ported in St. Michaels, Maryland, as an oyster buyboat and seed boat.
Up for Repairs is a 12-by-20-inch oil on linen from the hand of New Jersey artist Neal Hughes. He completed the work in two days at the yard during the Plein Air Easton competition in Maryland, one of the country’s most prestigious juried plein air events, where artists gather to paint on-site.
“I was attracted to the scene because it is a large and interesting craft with a lot of character, and it’s representative of the boats used in the oyster business,” says Hughes. “The rust spots and overall condition of the boat added to the feeling I wanted to convey — that this is an old and tired working boat that performs its job in a no-frills kind of way.”
Hughes, who studied at the Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts), has been inspired by such American artists as Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent and the Wyeths. Using brushes and a painting knife, Hughes gives variation to the surface of his paintings.
“I try to record my impressions of the subject quickly and try to capture the essence of the scene,” he says. “But I also try to include enough detail to give my work a sense of believability and realism.”
The idea, Hughes says, is to have the viewer experience the scene in a way that might be missed without the artist’s interpretation. “To me, this emotional response is what makes a painting a work of art.”
To view this and other works by Neal Hughes, visit the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery website at jrusselljinishiangallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bronson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.