The Master of the Arts

The world is nothing short of beautiful images. Imagine watching the sun disappear below the horizon as the sky bursts into a display of orange hues, or walking down the street noticing the vivid colours and geometric designs blending with their natural surroundings. A beautiful smile, a distinguished face, that one flower being kissed by the sun at the perfect angle are all images that leave us in awe. At one point or another, we have all experienced that beauty or maybe some image that we would like to remember and enjoy forever. The smartphone has made it possible to create many digital memories, but there is something about a great painting that makes us stop and stare. A great artist has the ability to not only press the pause button with his or her brush but to create a different perspective that leaves you wonderstruck.

Neville Legall is one of those visual artists that have the gift of using a brush, some paint and a canvas to recreate those splashes of wonder we see from time to time. He, however, has taken it to another aesthetic level. He has mastered the ability to not only capture the cliché image but to show us the brilliance that we are normally too busy to see. We may not notice the familiar street we traverse every day or the carnival of pastel colours that decorates the house. We may even miss the country landscape because we were too busy scrolling through our phones. Then there is the painting that sends us back in time unearthing those forgotten memories. A painting that evokes such emotions is a powerful medium and the artist is god-like creating with the brush. 

Neville remembers becoming interested in art and drawing around the age of 12.  As a student of The Alleyne School, he recalls one of his friends came over to his home with a sketch pad and showed him his work. Instantly fascinated and inspired, he asked the same friend to buy him a sketch pad and from there the artistic journey really began. He sketched everything that caught his eye including everyday scenes and illustrations from magazines. His natural skills developed as he continued to capture all that was around him and he developed an artistic style that made his work stand out. As he honed his skills, he was slowly making the transition to watercolour. He stated that while this was challenging at first, he continued to read and experiment. This helped him to develop his technique and increase his comfort level. He went on to pursue formal studies at the Barbados Community College and at the Detroit Jazz Centre Artistic Exchange Programme where he was under the tutelage of Harold Neal and Dr. Andrew Manier.

From the sketches on his pad as a little boy, Neville has emerged to be one of the more prolific and decorated painters on the island and far beyond its shores.  He considers himself a watercolour purist, but one who is willing to explore. He has created the much-needed attention to the arts on the island and continues to inspire others.  His work is seen as the benchmark that all visual artists should strive to achieve and surpass, especially when it comes to creating a unique approach. Never one to be shy to showcase his work, he has held many solos as well as group exhibitions in the United Kingdom, North America, Europe and Cuba.  As it relates to his style of work, Laura Collacott had this to say “Absorbed by life’s ordinary tableau is artist Neville Legall. Working in capricious watercolours he captures vivid scenes of everyday Barbadian life in his vivacious, sanguine style. A rainbow of colours enlivens mundane scenes of la vie quotidienne: a solitary woman carrying her shopping home; workers toiling in a potato field; ladies in full skirts and wide-brimmed hats gossiping at a makeshift fruit stall; ramshackle houses; demure pensioners in their Sunday best waiting for the bus. He deals in modern impressionism, blurring faces and hinting at texture, rhythm and shade with broad strokes of his brush and bleeds of colour”. Her words beautifully capture the essence of his artistic expression. He gorgeously recreates everyday scenes on his canvas with water or oil paints; the scenes that we are too busy to see. The artist laments on his website that today's man is enslaved and shackled by the pressure of survival and belonging in a materialistic society.  Constant hustle and chaos preclude seeing; thus many people fail to observe and experience the treasure of nature.

Barbados was and continues to be the muse that enables Neville to continue to create masterpieces. As an avid lover of the outdoors, he loves to see the old houses and village scenes. These are the scenes he grew up seeing and sketching. The Rustic landscapes of the east of the island hold a special place with him. He states that he feels a sense of freedom when exploring the rugged hills that allow him to explore painting without concern for photographic accuracy. Apart from his talents of capturing that which is often ignored,  to enter one of his art shows is like viewing a colourful historical presentation of  Barbados: you are able to see the traditional chattel house architectural ingenuity of a bygone Barbados, workers in the agricultural fields and seascapes before they were accessorised with modern concrete accommodation.  

His list of accolades and awards is a reflection of his impact on, contribution to and appreciation of his work locally and internationally.  A regular winner of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), winning from bronze to numerous gold.  A Spirit of Detroit Award, and a  Best of Show in Architecture Award in South Carolina, are among the many accolades.  Like most artists, he is always one to help develop and pass on his knowledge to others, especially the younger ones.  He did this directly as an art teacher at St. Leonard’s Boys School and Harrison College.  As well as indirectly serving on many arts boards, committees and advisory councils, more recently he has been spreading the joy of painting with his outdoor sessions, through a concept called Plein Air Barbados, where he takes small groups and individuals around the island to paint.  Apart from the traditional art galleries, a number of his collections can be found in some prominent buildings on the island. These include The Inter American Development Bank, the George Washington Museum, the official residence of the Prime Minister, Illaro Court and the Government House.

Neville continues to explore the island he loves with his tools of the craft, big hat and chair. He captures that which we fail to see and presents it for us all to enjoy. 

Interesting Facts

  • He has a B.A in Theology
  • He was the lead artist on the Rock Hall Mural Project in 2017
  • President of the Barbados Arts Council
  • He plays the guitar and piano
  • His collections can be found in Europe and North America