Q:  What does your process look like when preparing for a show? Do you already have specific animals in mind or do you go down a research rabbit hole? 


A:  A little of both. A lot of times I have wildlife in mind that I’d really like to paint. Other times I’m thinking about the wildlife that is native to the region where my work will be displayed. Many times I’m investigating what are common behaviors for the animals or habitats which can inform the way I choose to portray them. Then, I’m usually gathering resources and reference photos to be combined in photoshop for a unique composition.

Q:  Your use of color is evolving from a more neutral palette to one that’s a combination of earthy, soft jewel tones. Has there been a shift in your relationship with color, or was there something that sparked inspiration for you? 


A:   One of my most favorite things about painting is playing with color.  I love how color is a major determinant of the mood a painting takes on. I find my desired use of color often shifts with the seasons. I’ve been much more excited to use brighter bolder colors as we’ve entered into spring time and looking ahead toward Summer.

Nealy Riley  "Crossing Paths"  |  Mixed Media on Panel  20 x 60"

Nealy Riley  "Community"  |  Mixed Media on Panel  72 x 48"

Q:  What current or past artists really inspire you and why?


A:   John Singer Sargent was a master of portraiture and I love considering him when painting any kind of portrait including animals. David Shepherd created soft muted scenes for his animals that I have always been drawn too.  Bernie Fuchs’ compositions were always amazing and I find inspiration in his reductive technique.

Nealy Riley  "Mr. Owl"  |  Mixed Media on Panel  20 x 20"

Q:  If you had to describe yourself in 4 words, what would they be?


A:  Loyal, Friendly, Scattered, Contemplative

Nealy Riley  "Travelers"   |  Mixed Media on Panel  20 x 60"

Nealy Riley  "Coyote"   |  Mixed Media on Panel  40 x 40"

Q:  When you go into your studio to work, is there a routine or ritual you like to stick to? If so, what does that look like for you?


A:  I usually have my compositions for paintings done and my cradled board panels wrapped in gold at least a week or two ahead of time so I know what I’m supposed to be doing when it’s work time. I’ve found I have a tendency to flounder and be unproductive if I’m just staring at a blank panel with no premeditated direction.  I make sure I have good references and resources for the subject matter. Then I mix big piles of paint before I get started and double check that I have my other materials in order for the painting. Next, I start laying in the darker and midrange values for a first phase on every painting. I usually add in abstracted backgrounds and splatter the painting with alcohol and paint and then leave to dry. On the final phase,  I go back and render more form in the subject matter, add in light values and highlights, and touch up color. Then the piece is ready to varnish and frame.

Nealy Riley  "Peaceful Valley"   |  Mixed Media on Panel  48 x 48"

Nealy Riley  "Guides"   |  Mixed Media on Panel  36 x 36"

Q:  What advice would you give to someone struggling with artist block? What has helped bring you out of your own?  


A:  I would say it helps me to play with color, look at other artists I admire, and try different things with technique when I’m feeling really stuck. It’s like you have to simultaneously make your paintings unimportant enough that you can play around, but still important enough to you to do a quality job. It’s a tricky balance. 

Nealy Riley  "Adventure Seekers"   |  Mixed Media on Panel  24 x 48"

Q:  Do you have a favorite piece from Beyond the Arroyo? If so, what do you enjoy most about it? 


A:   I think my favorite piece is “Whirlwind”. I always enjoy when animals from different species end up together in my paintings. I haven’t painted many butterflies in the past, but I loved the sort of quiet excitement and movement they add in that piece.

Nealy Riley  "Whirlwind"  |  Mixed Media on Panel  60 x 48"

Q:  What is it about wildlife that draws you in and inspires you to create?


A:  I’ve always been mystified by other kinds of sentient beings that live here on this earth. There’s an exhilarating feeling that I think most of us get when we encounter or observe another creature. Often times we’re trying to figure out how they are the same or different to us in a game of comparison and it amazes us to contemplate the way they live.  


I don’t think I’m unique in this fascination with wildlife and the nature that surrounds them. I’m just lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to try to capture that fascination through paint.

Nealy Riley  "Sunny Afternoon"  |  Mixed Media on Panel  20 x 20"

To check out Nealy Riley's show Beyond The Arroyo online, visit her show page on our website here. 


If you're local to Santa Fe or in town visiting this beautiful city, we'd love to see you at our opening reception on Friday, May 10th, from 5 - 7:30pm. Located at 203 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM  87501.



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