Neal Hughes and Crista Pisano: Paintings Big or Small


For the second consecutive year, the Sylvan Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of the extraordinary oil paintings of Neal Hughes and Crista Pisano, two renowned landscape painters recognized for their ability to capture the essence of their subject.

The exhibition opens on Monday August 1st. The Meet the Artists Reception is Thursday August 25 from 5-8pm, coinciding with the evening of the Wiscasset Art Walk.

Hughes and Pisano’s ability to interpret nature and manifest what moves them on a stage has won them many accolades during their painting careers, and both have been shortlisted in numerous outdoor art competitions. the most prestigious in the country. The most notable difference in their work is that Hughes’ paintings can range from 8″ x 10″ to 30″ x 30″ or larger, and Pisano is much more likely to work on near-miniature panels, some as small as 4 ” x 4″ with longer panoramic views reaching 2.5″ x 12″ for example.

Coastal subjects and sailing ships inspire much of Neal Hughes’ work in the exhibition, although he is at home painting a wide variety of subjects including historic New England architecture, the fields and streams of the woods. “Sails Down, Camden”, at 8″ x 10″, has a Sargent-esque feel. Hughes creates a skillful portrait of a sailing ship with a loose, painterly and energetic brushwork, and one can imagine feeling the wind and water and witnessing the changing light. It is lushly painted and exudes the skill of a confident hand with many quick hints of color that appear to be perfectly placed.

The overall feeling of the outdoor room is one of vitality and excitement. “End of Day Rockland”, measuring 24″ x 36″, is a marine painting of two schooners, Heritage and American Eagle, moored at a dock in Rockland Harbor. Hughes captures fleeting moments of light as the last rays of sunlight shine on the hull of the most forward schooner. Pink highlights on purple clouds linger, and the blue tones of the distant water are dotted with watercraft. Old wooden planks thrown into the foreground create visual interest and convey the functional nature of the harbor. This is a painting that Hughes created in the studio using reference material from a painting trip to Rockland last year and showcases his knowledge and love of maritime subjects.

“Parker House”, at 30″ x 30″, is a beautiful painting of a white rural farmhouse. Hughes uses both brush and palette knife to capture the color, texture and weathered look of the old farmhouse. Blue and silvery purple tones are used throughout the painting, creating a beautiful color harmony, while contrasting with the sunny white clapboards and the rich greens of the grasses and foliage. Overgrown bushes keep light out of the downstairs windows, but curtains still hang from the front door window. A dory on trestles stands nearby, indicating that the house, though neglected, was not abandoned. Hughes not only creates a beautifully rendered painting of an old farmhouse, but captures the intrinsic quality of the scene and leaves the viewer wanting to know more.

Where some artists use small paintings to create quick impressions of a scene and eventually refer to them to plan larger compositions in the studio, Crista Pisano’s small paintings are final works of art and visually have the impact and convey as much information as could be found in a larger picture. Maine’s coastal views inspire many of his paintings in the exhibit. Ocean Point at East Boothbay has the Distant View which is one of Pisano’s favorite paintings. “I am naturally drawn to the subject as far as the eye can see, and I particularly enjoy observing and painting the calm of where the sky meets the water versus the chaos of the rocky coast of Maine,” he said. she stated. In his painting “Ocean Point Long View” at 2.75″ x 12.5″, Pisano captures the rocks in earth tones of ochre, gray and russet, and his small flecks of color are effective in massaging and yet individualize their forms. The subtle tones of the sky change from pale alizarin pinks to warmer yellow-green hues and the deep blue of the water is like glass reflecting the sky directly overhead and out of sight. A few sparse trees above the rock line on the left side of the panel catch our eye for their distinctive shapes and one realizes that they have withstood the elements of wind and rain and been shaped by the harsher conditions of the environment.

Pisano invests his little paintings with feeling and life and we can see what excites him about his subject. Mountain Pines at 4.125″ x 4.625″ seems like a simple painting of the sky, trees, a mountain, and a ground plane, but it’s what Pisano brings to the scene that makes it magical. Its main cluster of pine trees are set off against the atmospheric blue of the mountain and Crista admits that “I can never pass up painting a dark pine against an atmospheric blue. This really helps bring out the character and individuality of the trees.

While in Maine, Pisano still spends a lot of time at Pemaquid Point and finds Maine’s quintessential seascape and rock patterns fascinating. “Pemaquid Patterns” at 5.25″ x 3.25″, is a vertical painting where rocks predominate, but Pisano’s manipulation of the sky with the rapidly moving clouds captures our attention, and the viewer can imagine themselves stand there with it being whipped by the wind.

The exhibition continues until September 4. At the same time, the gallery will also present works from its regular list of contemporary artists: Peter Layne Arguimbau, Joann Ballinger, Al Barker, Paul Batch, Angelo Franco Jr., Susannah Haney, Heather Gibson -Lusk, Stan Moeller, Robert Noreika, Ann Scanlan, Polly Seip, Laura Winslow and Shirley Cean Youngs. Works from the estate of the late Charles Kolnik will also be on display.

For more information, call Ann Scanlan at 882-8290 and/or visit

The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 49 Water St., Wiscasset.


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