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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Oran resident wins Sikeston art contest

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Painting by Curtis-Neal
ORAN - If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Cleda Curtis-Neal has 3,000 words to describe how she has become one of the premier artists in the Bootheel area. Curtis entered three paintings in the Sikeston Bootheel Regional Art Guild (B.R.A.G.) art show and came out with a Best of Show, first place in portraits, and first place in still life.

But Curtis-Neal does not pay much attention to the awards.

"It is nice to get recognition for your work and know you're on the right track," said Curtis-Neal, "but success is doing what you love. And I enjoy what I do."

There is no doubt, however, that Curtis-Neal's career is a successful one. She has painted professionally since the early 1970s. During that time, she painted a portrait of Bill Emerson which is now hanging in the Library of Congress, published an art workbook "Portrait Painting Simplified", has conducted art workshops across the country, and has a never-ending list of customers wanting a custom portrait.

"Her work is of the highest quality," said Marilyn Schwaninger with the Bootheel Regional Art Guild. "We have a lot of professional artists like her submit paintings to the show, and it makes us all better because we aspire to their achievements."

One of Curtis-Neal's favorite activities is teaching at her art school in Oran. She teaches painting to anyone from age 8 to 80, from elementary students to doctors.

Curtis-Neal said she has seen a lot of talent come and go from her art school since she started teaching in Oran in 1984. Some of her students have won first place in past B.R.A.G. art shows and others have won numerous awards and started careers in painting and photography.

"Everybody who studied with her has seen their work become much better," said Schwaninger. "She is a wonderful teacher at all levels."

Curtis-Neal explained she conducts her class by teaching students the basics of painting and allowing them to grow as artists from the knowledge they gain in class.

"Painting takes the same discipline and the same practice as a sport or music," said Curtis-Neal. "Most parents just give their kids a paint set and let them draw. You can't expect anything great to come from that. You need the basics."

Curtis-Neal takes her own advice to heart. Not only does she conduct art workshops, she also attends them.

"Whatever field you are in, it is a lifetime study. Painting is no different," explained Curtis.

It took Curtis-Neal a while to realize she wanted to pursue painting as a career.

"When I went to high school, we didn't have any art classes," said Curtis-Neal. It was only until she took art classes in college when she decided that professional painting was the right career path. She has been painting ever since.

Although portrait painting, Curtis-Neal's specialty, is based on realism, she said she uses her paintings to express herself.

"You put a little of yourself into the portrait whenever you paint," commented Curtis-Neal. "Once I finish a painting, it is sometimes very hard to part with because of the work that went into it. But when the family likes the painting, it makes it worth it."

And as Curtis-Neal browsed through her previous paintings, it is obvious that each painting tells a special story. She recounted stories of pictures which were done in memory of a lost relative or captured a timeless moment in a person's life.

Curtis-Neal has recently extended her repertoire to include landscape and floral paintings.

Her three award-winning paintings will be on display at the Sikeston Depot until the end of June. Entrance to the exhibit is free.