RWC’s Featured Artist Lived Aboard a 47-foot Motorsailer for Nearly 20 Years

It is fitting that in the dog days of summer, Rappahannock Westminster Canterbury (RWC) is featuring the yachts, homes and islands Mary Ellen “Mel” Neale painted while cruising the cool, breezy waters of the world for nearly 20 years along with her more recent pastels.

Neale studied art in college and taught art in public schools in Virginia, primarily at the secondary level. She left teaching to go cruising with her husband, Tom, and their two young daughters aboard their 47-foot motorsailer.

For nearly two decades they cruised full-time on the east coast and in the Bahamas (around 5,000 miles a year) and home-schooled the girls (K-12) aboard the boat. The couple now live on land in Lancaster County and their daughters have families of their own.

Making art all my life, I have done and redone pastels, oils, graphite, watercolor, acrylics, illustration and photography,” Neale said. “Recently I have returned to my first love, pastels, especially the luscious soft ones. 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 …paper or board. There is no brush, no pen, no medium, and very little binder.”

Neale has painted since childhood. While cruising, she painted local scenery as well as numerous commissioned paintings of yachts, homes, islands and other scenes, mostly in acrylics and watercolor.  She is also a photographer and illustrator for boating publications.

She is a member and exhibiting artist at the Rappahannock Art League (RAL) Art Center in Kilmarnock, a member of the St. Augustine Art Association, the Mid-Atlantic Pastel Society, American Impressionist Society, Pastel Society of North Carolina, and a Signature Member of the Virginia Watercolor Society.

“I especially enjoy painting people, landscape, and the slightly quirky or symbolic,” Neale said.

In 2021 she was honored to be juried into the Pastel Society of America as an Associate Member, one of about 2,000 pastel artists worldwide. She has studied with many well-known artists, in acrylics, oils, watercolors and most recently, pastels.

Neale’s art exhibition is open to the community 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily throughout July in Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury’s Gallery Hall.

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