A Little Bit of Everything
By Emme Martin | Photography by Kaitlyn Tiller
For some, finding their passion is a lifelong journey. Others are lucky enough to discover it early on and maybe even claim it as their college major—imagine that. Sally Neal belongs to the latter group, but it’s likely no surprise to those who meet her. She bleeds artistic expression in every aspect of her life, from her colorful wardrobe to her bubbly personality—but it’s on canvas where she feels the most authorized to let her true self shine.“The cool thing about art is that whatever you create, it’s the only one of its kind,” Neal expresses. “It’s something only my brain came up with and put together on canvas.” These are the words of an innate artist, and her family tree suggests it might be genetic, considering Neal’s grandfather and mother are both creatives. It’s no surprise Neal dipped her toes in many arts and crafts as a young girl and instantly fell in love with the process of creating. She carried the same tune throughout her teenage years and embraced every school project that involved more than just pen and paper. (Although she excelled there, too; her high school English teachers always encouraged her to pursue her creative side, indicating Neal’s penchant for the arts in numerous mediums.) Surprisingly, it wasn’t until her senior year of high school that Neal took an actual art class, which perhaps gave her the boost she needed to continue on the creative track at Auburn University. “The summer before college, I really got into it,” she claims, referring to her passion for painting. Nonetheless—considering her future career and job opportunities in our increasingly digital world—Neal opted for a major in graphic design.
As soon as I decided that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought, that was when I decided to pursue my dream.”Ei t
College not only taught Neal to refine her design skills, but it’s also where she realized that it didn’t matter if others didn’t support her path. She was going to do it anyway. Perhaps her all-time favorite artist, Ashley Longshore, influenced her realization—Longshore is known for being unapologetically herself (not to mention fabulous). “I think any young girl would admit that the noise of what people think of you can sometimes hold you back from who you’re supposed to be. As soon as I decided that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought, that was when I decided to pursue my dream.”
It’s a good thing she did because the world is a more beautiful place with her art in it (we may be biased, but we believe the same is true for this magazine since Neal joined the team). She regularly executes her bold yet crisp design style through VIE’s articles, ads, social media, and more. The knack for making something for others also goes hand in hand with her “side hustle,” as she so humbly puts it—her thriving art business, Sally Neal Design. Neal regularly creates commissioned paintings of all types for clients, many of whom find her through her Instagram. Business-wise, it’s opportune that the artist claims her style is “a little bit of everything,” from abstract to pop art to contemporary pieces. This breadth allows her to fulfill a range of client requests, but the mixed-media domain is where she has excelled the most.
Particularly in demand are her “textural drapery pieces,” which consist of fabrics strategically plastered onto canvas. Neal had the idea one day while lying in bed when she noticed the uncultivated beauty of how the crisp white sheets looked in the light, even though they were in a mess. The vision supports her passion for embracing unplanned moments, as she states,
I think the everyday texture is one of the most beautiful things to be brought to life through art.
But, of course, it could also be understood as a great excuse not to make the bed!” Neal is, she admits, a very tidy person concerning keeping the house straight—she just knows a business opportunity when she sees one.
She saves the mess for her artistic process, claiming getting covered in paint is her favorite part. “I feel like I can’t be creative unless I can be messy,” she says. “That’s when the best marks are made.” She further sets the stage by adding that blasting good music is also required when she’s creating. Remarkably, the mess comes to fruition through captivating yet muted mixed-media pieces and vibrant acrylics. In addition, she has recently been dabbling in creating drips with watered-down acrylic paint.
When graphic design and painting are not on the agenda, Neal enjoys playing with new concepts and finding inspiration through color, texture, fashion, interior design, and even pop culture—the girl is a walking E! News substitute. In addition to her queen, Ashley Longshore, Neal derives inspiration from Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Regardless of how many Instagram followers she has or how many paintings she’s selling, Neal only really hopes to continue making herself proud and never lose her love of creating. “That’s all that really matters,” she states, adding her advice for finding your passion is to “just do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about monetizing it.” Her statement strikes a chord, as we often forget that the joy of doing something you love is far more valuable than any dollar amount. Neal puts it best: “Do it because it makes you smile.”
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