The Art of Mirriam Neal

At first glance, Mirriam Neal seems like the archetypal PNW artist: curly hair, nerdy glasses, eclectic fashion, killer makeup, and a brightly welcoming smile.

But this girl is anything but archetypal, starting with pricing her art.

“I want to keep it affordable,” she says, smiling thoughtfully at me through her computer screen while her eyes shine. “I want beauty and healing and joy to be affordable for people.” To that end, she frequently runs sales on her art and prices her originals somewhat below going market rate.

If I wasn’t drawing horses, I was filling pages with giant snakes, dragons, and three-headed dogs.

And what stunning art it is, sketches or full paintings, mythology or fantasy, full-color paintings or small black-and-white acrylic pieces.

From an Early Age

Mirriam’s been drawing since she was a wee toot, to use her own expression. “Since I could hold a crayon, really. I used to draw pages full of ‘monsters’ when I was…four? They weren’t weird to me, not scary, like monsters usually are to kids. They were vivid, real, normal even. If I wasn’t drawing horses, I was filling pages with giant snakes, dragons, and three-headed dogs.”

That early start blossomed into a consuming passion for art which drove her to put in thousands of hours of practice over the next two decades, drawing and eventually painting more monsters, fanart of movies and TV, representations of book characters, and her own original characters.

“It’s always about the people for me,” she says. “I don’t really draw flowers or trees. Some animals (usually mythological), the occasional house or full scene, but I always come back to the people, whether they’re my characters or someone else’s.”

If her waiting list is anything to go by, she’s exceptional at bringing other authors’ characters to life.

Snow White and the Huntswoman (9x12 Original)

Snow White and the Huntswoman (9×12 Original)

Once her art skills were good enough, she started offering commission slots, which currently form the bread-and-butter of her career. When I ask her what she loves most about being able to offer commissions, she barely hesitates to word her answer. “I know how cool it is to watch an exact visual of a character happen, and I love being able to give that to other people. It’s so satisfying and downright exciting to be able to hold a painting of something you love. Getting to work with someone to that end, realizing their characters on paper, is the best feeling.”

If her waiting list is anything to go by, she’s exceptional at bringing other authors’ characters to life.

She’s also been known to draw people in their favorite RPG character or as themselves in a favorite TV show/movie. Want a portrait of yourself as a Skyrim orc, a Tolkien elf, a Trollhunter, or a Hogwarts Slytherin student? She’s got you covered.

Influences

Her artistic influences are many and varied, but all have several themes in common: the wild, weird, magical, and fantastical. “We had illustrated copies of books that influenced me enormously as a tiny thing,” she recounts, her eyes dancing at the memory. “Every page was illustrated—murder, monsters, death, the grotesque, but also the fantastic. Mythology, fantasy…I loved it all.”

She cites John Howe and Guillermo del Toro as chief among her regular artistic inspirations, as well as numerous concept artists.

That fantastic element is noticeably present in almost everything she creates now, from fairy-tale characters and scenes to watercolors of snug little houses to fantasy characters of every shade and description to notecard-worthy quotes and herbiary pages.

Oracle (9x12 Original)

Oracle (9×12 Original)

Behind the Art

Underneath the fantastic and beautiful, her pieces contain two other qualities: symbolism and magic.

In a world where much that is symbolic has been methodically trodden underfoot in the march of technology and progress, Mirriam’s paintings contain reminders that there really is symbolism everywhere you look. Tattoos on characters, a private joke reference in someone’s hair or the color of their tunic, gold paint gilding an entire piece or just one tiny part: hers are the kind of paintings you can stare at for hours and continue to find new reasons to love them.

We’ve all heard people talk about the magic of tiny moments. In Mirriam’s art, you can actually FEEL that. A smile, a flash from someone’s eyes, the magic of people, places, and moments shines brightly from everything she creates.

That atmosphere extends to almost every aspect of her life: her personal IG page has a very earthy fae vibe, with crystals, nature, and a room full of curiosities, including two skulls that she uses to assist her art students in drawing heads. Her stories—yes, you read that correctly, Mirriam is also an author—abound with what C.S. Lewis would have called the Deep Magic of the world, in addition to hilarious and memorable casts of misfit characters.

Besides commissions and original pieces, Mirriam has done book covers, and last year she realized yet another dream of hers: to teach art. She currently has half a dozen young students, and most weeks contain at least one art lesson. “I love seeing improvement. When things click in the student’s mind and they realize something and get excited. It makes me so HAPPY.”

So what art is she most looking forward to creating this year?

“Fairy tales!” she says with a laugh. “I painted an East O’ the Sun, West O’ the Moon piece for National Fairy Tale Day and loved creating it! I also recently did a full-color piece of Snow White and Rose Red. Fairy tales are so rich in potential, and I can’t wait to explore that. In addition, I’m taking part in AprilFae again, and that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Original)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Original)

To buy some of Mirriam’s glorious art for yourself (all of the pieces pictured in this post are for sale), visit her store: http://mirriamelinart.storenvy.com/

And if you just want to keep abreast of the creating so you can be the first one to pounce on some of her new pieces as they come out (they tend to go fast), follow her on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theartofmirriamneal/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theartofmirriamneal/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCut73-Q5xVFu_jKqxpmXqrQ
DeviantArt: https://www.deviantart.com/mirriamelin
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mirriamelin

You’ll definitely want to be following on Instagram and Facebook in time for FeyMay during the month of, you guessed it, May. It’s a gorgeous fairy tale/faerie art challenge with a list of prompts made by Mirriam herself. From having seen her do AprilFae last year, I can tell you this will be stunning.

And one final note from the artist: her favorite part of art? “Definitely the painting,” she says. “I LOVE finally getting to add color.”

 

Arielle Bailey is a freelance editor who loves being active in the book scene, whether indie or traditional, as reader, writer, and editor. You can follow her bookstagram for weekly recommendations and regular roundups of great art.

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