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Neal Hughs uses her creativity in portrait paintings
Gainesville womans artwork on display until August at Regions Center in Gainesville
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"Annie B" by artist Neal Hugh is on display at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center mini gallery at Regions Center in Gainesville.

Regions Center Mini Quinlan gallery: Artist Neal Hughs

When: On display through August

Where: Regions Center, 303 Jesse Jewell Parkway, Gainesville

Cost:  Free

More info: www.quinlanartscenter.org

 “I am an animal lover and always have been,” Neal Hughs said in a recent interview. “I come from a long line of animal lovers. Horses, dogs ... I had a monkey when I was little.”

Hughs shows her love of animals through her paintings. The 61-year-old Gainesville artist paints portraits of animals from photographs in her space at the Blue Angel Studio in Gainesville.

“There are a lot of animal lovers out there that love having their animals painted,” she said. “I take pictures of them if they need me to, or I can (paint) them from photographs. That brings me a lot of joy.”

But Hughs doesn’t just limit herself to animals.

“I have quite a heart for animals, but I love painting people, too,” she said.

Some of her work is on display at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center Mini Gallery at Regions Center, 303 Jesse Jewell Parkway, in Gainesville.

She explained the pieces on display range from a painting of her daughter as a young child to  portraits of family friends and even one of her husband’s horse.

Hughs has always been interested in art, even recalling being involved at the Quinlan from very a early age.

“Some of my earliest memories are at the Quinlan taking lessons and being creative when I was a little girl,” she said. “I always remember creating, being creative.”

After graduating from Gainesville High School, Hughs earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“I was immediately drawn to the art department, to art history and studio art,” she said.

She moved back to her hometown after graduation and started a family.

“Being a stay-at-home mom, I needed an outlet,” she said. “I needed lots of outlets to be creative.”

So to “scratch (her) creative itch,” she volunteered with the parent-teacher association at her children’s school and helped at church and with Young Life, a local group that ministers to teenagers.

After her children went to college, Hughs said art soon became her main job.

“I joined the Blue Angel Studio,” she said. “I’ve been at the Blue Angel, and this is when I really started painting. I have faith in God and Jesus Christ. I feel we’re all on a journey, and my journey right now is here.”

And she continues her journey with the words of Ananda Coomaraswamy, “The artist is not a special kind of person, rather each person is a special kind of artist.”

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