In the Lowcountry region of South Carolina the art scene is often dominated by waterfront landscapes and sea life. Visitors to this beautiful part of the U.S., who number in the millions, are greeted in Charleston and Myrtle Beach by elegant art galleries filled with breezy depictions of the surrounding beaches, marshy inlets, and marinas. This makes sense, of course, since tourism makes up such an enormous part of the region’s economy, and the masses who travel to this part of America’s coast are enamored by the beauty of the unique landscape. Watercolor paintings of Charleston’s Rainbow Row and pastels of Myrtle Beach sand dunes meet the needs of the typical wayfaring consumer.
However, for the more daring and iconoclastic creative types living living in this neck of the woods, sometimes it’s difficult to break with tradition and establish one’s own groove.
As an artist who lived in Charleston, South Carolina for four years, I saw how difficult it was for fine artists to make a name for themselves without churning out what the public has come to expect. There are, however, some artists in the Lowcountry whose work stands out from the crowd and one of the most impressive ones is Neva Campbell.
Neva is a modern impressionist who uses vibrant color to convey emotional light and darkness in her paintings. Her primary medium is acrylic, but she also dabbles in ink and watercolor illustrations. Her subject matter ranges from nude portraits to animals dressed in eccentric garb.
It was while studying graphic design at The Art Institute of Atlanta that Neva discovered her love of color, texture, and the beauty of the human form. In the last twenty-three years she has painted murals, birdhouses, ceramics, a cigar store Indian, and a carousel horse. She has made her living as a graphic designer, copywriter, and as a baby/mother advocate. “Most of my life, I’ve felt like a weirdo, an outsider. It was only while I was creating art that I felt ‘normal’”, she says.
Since some of her body of work consists of more grisly forms, such as skulls and zombies, Campbell has been rejected by at least one gallery who told her that her work was too “dark and morbid”. Such is the plight of the Lowcountry artist who dares to wander into unconventional territory and bring forth the version of what she sees.
Despite being dismissed by some of the snootier art galleries in town, Neva has enjoyed much success in bringing her distinctive depictions to the public’s attention. Her work has been exhibited by local businesses, and last year she had a solo show called “Fauna”, which featured her animal paintings. Neva has been part of several juried art shows, and in 2014 had a piece displayed at Artfields, a large annual art festival held in Lake City, South Carolina. A fellow portrait artist recently said the following about her work: “There is a sensitivity to [Campbell’s] work that inspires the viewer to participate in the messages of her creations.”
“My inspiration comes from wanting to capture something I’ve seen, a beautiful silhouette or shape that I want to send through the filter of my mind and hands,” says Neva. She has also been greatly influenced by the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. “He painted and drew the most pedestrian of scenes and made them intricate and powerful. I hope that over the span of my art career, I can do that as well.”
Currently, the artist is experimenting with gouache (an opaque watercolor paint prepared with gum) and says she’s finding it to be a perfect crossroads between acrylics and watercolor. She always has several paintings in the works at any given time. She’s creating a glass bottle series and expanding her Flesh and Bone series with more nude portraits and illustrations of skulls.
Neva Campbell is proof that even in an area of the country that is saturated with art depicting local wildlife and oceanfront scenes, an artist can make her way by staying true to the quirky and unusual subject matter and style about which she is most passionate.
Neva’s work will be featured in an upcoming small works art show at ArtSpace506 (an alternative art gallery in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) from November 19 – December 21, 2015. She also will be participating in The 12×12 Art Show at William H. Miller Gallery in Myrtle Beach on December 5, 2015.
See daily updates and videos of her works in progress on Instagram at @nevatheartist
Campbell’s original works can be purchased online at: www.storyofanartist.etsy.com
Follow the artist on Facebook at www.facebook.com/neva.campbell.artist