Art in Atlanta has a new face with Cleveland native Neal Hamilton. Hamilton’s artwork has been featured at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, top art studios, VH1 and HBO’s Treme to name just a few. As of this writing Pass Key Entertainment has named Neal “Atlanta’s Hottest Artist” for 2013. Mr. Hamilton recently sat down with rolling out to talk about his work, style and reaching urban youth with his art.
Where are you from originally and where did you receive your formal training?
I’m originally from Cleveland and I studied at the Cleveland Art Institute.
Tell us how “Paint out Loud” and your style were created.
It started with a fire. I was the official photographer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and had covered a lot of musicians and bands. Then one day a house fire destroyed all my belongings. But I was able to move to another house that I owned and I had to start over. But the only supplies I had were three cans of latex house paint (orange, red and black), screwdrivers, putty knives and razor blades.
Very non-art supplies, I would say.
Exactly but that’s all I had, so I started to paint. The first picture I worked on was Sting. I started doing it stepped back and said “this looks pretty awesome.” I then did Bootsy Collins and Peter Gabriel. I decided to take what I love and translate it to a contemporary style. I then was chosen to paint a 10-foot tall Stratocaster guitar of Jimi Hendrix for display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Hewlett-Packard.
But you also paint regular size guitars, how did that start?
I saw an ad on Craigslist that stated “looking for artist to paint guitars.” I called the guy, Mr. Dan Harr and he explained to me his concept. Dan is a vet who runs a charity called the Guitar Project. Guitars are painted and auctioned off and the money donated to different charities. So I did three guitars at first, Robert Plant, Brian Seltzer and Carlos Santana. I’ve even done a fiddle for Charlie Daniels. All of these items can be found at www.mnnguitarproject.com.
What have you been working on recently?
Well, I did a painting of TLC for the VH1 wrap party with only a 24-hour notice.
I saw the painting and I’m amazed it was done so quickly.
My Miles Davis painting is also featured on the HBO series “Treme” and I am currently working on a painting for Janelle Monae that will be shown at the upcoming Essence Awards.
Your Miles Davis painting had an interesting story that goes along with it.
It’s not so funny a story. I did an art show as part of the “Flux” event in the Castleberry Hills area of Atlanta. I allowed my work to be displayed and I left it there overnight. I returned the next morning and my Miles Davis piece was gone. I was crushed and panicked. That piece is worth over $25,000. I filed a police report and waited. The next day the painting was returned no questions asked.
To this day I don’t know. I did find out later that a well-known celebrity used my painting for a photo shoot without my knowledge or approval. I’m not going to reveal the identity of this celebrity.
What is your current vision?
I want to reach out more to the youth. In the past I have only painted musicians within my era, now I am doing younger black musicians, like the painting I’m doing of Janelle Monae and a guitar I did for Lil Wayne. Stuff that the youth and people as a whole can relate to.