March 21st, 2023

Warren Neary, “Celestial Ascension,” oil, 30″ x 70″

What oil painter Warren Neary loves the most about his work is the opportunity to build worlds.

With each brush stroke, Neary creates a world of luminous, silvery color, dramatic light, and ethereal atmosphere that beautifully captures not just the way that a breathtaking landscape looks, but the way that it feels. In these worlds, where light bounces, reflects, and plays across sprawling landscapes, where the air seems to swirl with snow or rest serenely in pre-dawn stillness, we can almost feel the weather, hear the quiet, and see the shifting lights and shadows. Each painting seems to breathe, to animate before us, and to pull us into its world.

With all of this year’s fresh art of beautiful wintry worlds, we wanted to learn even more about the artist, his life, and his process, so we sat down with Warren Neary to chat about his journey to finding his artistic style, how his experience in the Air Force has shaped his art practice, and his long-standing relationship with us here at Gallery MAR

Artist Warren Neary with “Wide-Band Global Satellite System Mission” painting in the studio, assigned as a historian and combat artist with Air Force Space Command

Missiles, tanks, and horses. These are the subjects in the young, imaginative mind of a particularly gifted and hard working Air Force brat. Creating has been Neary’s passion ever since he was a little kid, especially drawing. Neary was the kid infrequently paying attention in class, almost always favoring the dramatic sights outside the classroom window. He spent his youth doodling away, yearning to be outside of his school room walls, and creating a world all of his own.

His parents, seeing the passion he displayed, fostered that love of creating. They supported his passion by purchasing him art supplies and encouraging him along the way. With their encouragement, Neary illustrated his first book when he was in the second grade. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, his passion for the arts continued to grow, and when it came time for him to choose a major in college, Neary decided to study art. Neary now holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Utah State University in Logan, Utah and a Master of Fine Arts from Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.

In his early years, Neary explored a lot of different media before discovering oils in high school: “Growing up, I used pen and ink, charcoal, colored pencils, watercolors, acrylics, and even airbrush. But in high school, I got introduced to oils. There wasn’t really a lot of instruction on how to use them back then. It was just kind of like, ‘here’s some oils, have at it.’” It wasn’t until Neary got to college that he was provided some professional instruction on using oils and how they could be best applied.

Warren Neary, “Watch This…,” oil, 40″ x 50″

Now oil paints are his preferred medium and his mastery of oil painting techniques are now a huge part of his overall evolution as an artist. “I really love using oils,” Neary says, “Oils just offer those rich, deep range of values in color. You can work thick or thin, add texture, and more.”

Oils seem to lend themselves well to Neary’s style. His paintings have an atmospheric quality to them, created by layers of painted haze and clouds. The values and textures of his oil paints add an element of dreaminess to the works that are indicative of his proficiency in oils. This mastery of the media is the result of his decades long commitment to his craft, stemming from a work ethic forged in an atypical background from most artists. Neary attributes his strong work ethic and sense of discipline to his time serving in the United States Air Force.

Warren Neary unveiling of “Bandage 33” with Chief of Staff Gen Mark Welsh III, Air Force Pentagon, Washington DC. “Bandage 33” captures then Citizen Airmen Captain Adriana Valadez and Senior Airman Amanda Pena from the 433rd Airlift Wing, re-enacting their story in providing life-saving medical care for Technical Sergeant Zach Rhyner. He was an Air Force combat controller who had received the Air Force Cross for saving the lives of his 10-man Special Operations Team during a brutal ambush in 2008 and was back in the fight.

During his upbringing, Warren enjoyed painting airplanes, missiles, and other Air Force subject matter. However, his personal experience in the armed forces shaped his work in ways he couldn’t foresee. Neary reflects: “For me, it’s probably expanded my diversity, painting subjects that I normally wouldn’t have access to or have witnessed before. In the Air Force, I traveled to locations that aren’t necessarily ‘destination places,’ like sandy places with no beaches. For example, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Haiti. All of those experiences for me just add to my range, like being able to appreciate and see the beautiful sunsets in Cuba over the water in the bay. I would say that, overall the influence that the Air Force has had on me has just been in the diversity and the richness of these places that I wouldn’t have experienced had I not been in the service.”

Left to right: Warren Neary on a UH-1N Helicopter ride with news media in the missile fields assigned to FE Warren AFB, WY | Warren Neary at the gate between Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, and Republic of Cuba with US Marine Corps escort

Few artists have the unique experience of both an artistic and a military background. “There aren’t many of us with that kind of background, but we do exist,” Neary says, “For me, when I joined the military, it was an uphill climb, almost constantly. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone for a long, long time. The Air Force, at least early on, didn’t appreciate creativity. There’s regulations and ways of doing things, so they didn’t always want creative solutions outside of what they were looking for.” 

As a creative individual, this was inevitably challenging for Neary. It required an immense amount of patience and discipline to learn things he normally wouldn’t be interested in and become incredibly proficient at them in a short time frame. Fortunately, these lessons in patience and discipline have translated to his art discipline. When viewing an original oil painting by Warren Neary, Neary’s refinement and mastery of the media and his acute attention to detail becomes glaringly apparent. Each painting embodies the sum of his life experiences, military and all.

While the two worlds of art and military are not often viewed as being in complete harmony, Neary argues that this is changing. In recent years, Neary has noticed that the military has begun to see greater value in creativity and now encourage it rather than suppress it. Creative individuals are now highly valued for their innovative solutions and talents in the military.

“Photo op with Lt Col Christina “Thumper” Hopper, the first African- American female fighter pilot to fight in a major war. She was my cadet training officer for my flight as a cadet in field training at Lackland AFB, 20 years earlier. The painting, “Your Wings are Waiting,” celebrated 20 years of Air Force Reserve support to undergraduate pilot training. One of my sons is currently going through this training to get his wings and noted that the Air Force Reserve instructors are some of the best.” – Warren Neary

For instance, Warren Neary was recently commissioned by the Air Force to create an incredible new one-of-a-kind painting in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Air Force reserve. “I’ve been working on this painting since last year,” Neary says, “It’s 100 years of Air Force and Space Force history packed into one painting. For me it’s the most complex painting I’ve ever done, it’ll be 8 feet wide by a little over 3 feet tall. The last time a painting like this came out was for the 50th anniversary, 25 years ago. At that time, I was a cadet in an ROTC. Little did I know then that 25 years later, I’d be doing the follow up painting to that piece. It’s been an honor.”

Warren Neary, “Study for Poetic Prelude,” oil, 4″ x 17″

Warren grew up in northern Utah. Since childhood he’s lived in Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Florida, and now currently resides in Georgia. Although currently not in the Mountain West, those landscapes will always be home for him, and he plans to return one day. He always admired the openness, the trees, and the vistas of the Mountain West. He loved being able to get up and go trail running in the mountains whenever inspiration struck. “When I was living out West,” Neary recalls, “I loved to just go out and drive around looking for plays of light on the landscape in the morning or in the evening or in the night time. I was always looking for light to capture.”  

Thanks to his Mountain West upbringing and his Air Force travels, Neary has no shortage of references to paint from. He tends to use his own reference photos when it comes to landscape paintings and his process for capturing references reflects his discipline and dedication to authenticity: “I’ll get up sometimes before 5 o’clock in the morning, long before the sun comes up and travel to destinations. I’ll figure out where the sun is going to come out, and I’ll also paint on location as the sun comes up. It’s pretty hard to paint when the sun is moving that fast, but I’ll still try to get at least some notes down and study that light. And of course, I make sure to capture a few reference photos. However, being there, witnessing it and painting it in person is key. I just love plein air painting.”

A wall of studies and ideas for future works in Warren Neary’s studio

If painting on location is not an option, Neary will opt to utilize his sketchbook to help capture the feeling of the moment. He will rarely develop these compositional sketches; however, they are vital when creating larger landscape paintings. “Developing a painting is like developing a relationship,” Neary says, “By sketching out the composition of a painting first, it helps me get to know the painting and see what it needs and what it wants. So once I’ve done those studies, I’ll often lay down some ground work and apply a wash of color. Then I’ll often use charcoal and oil, blocking out all of my major shapes to make sure they’re going to fit. Then I approach the parameters of darkest darks, the lightest lights, the edges, and the most in-depth color, and I use all of those to judge everything else on top.”

Warren Neary painting in his studio, including a Jordanelle Reservoir evening landscape painting in its early stages

This attention to the lights and shadows of his work add to the moody, atmospheric quality of his work. In each of Neary’s pieces, however, his use of light is enhanced by the luminous, almost metallic-feeling colors he renders them in. “I’ve always liked the Impressionist color palette,” Neary explains, “or at least my understanding of the Impressionist color palette. As I’m painting I’m thinking a lot about warm air, cool tones, and ribbons of color in both in the lights and in the shadows. I like the combination of an outdoor, Impressionist palette and style with the structure and realism of an indoor style.”

Neary’s roots to Park City go back all the way to his formative years. “I think the first time I visited Park City was when I was in high school for cross country. At that time, I didn’t even really know what art galleries were. But I have a memory of walking through an art gallery, through the back door, almost as if it was after hours. I remember walking through and being blown away by all these giant sculptures and all of the artwork. I love Park City. It’s my kind of town. I love climbing all of those endless stairs downtown. I love the surrounding mountains and all of the beautiful views. It’s just a really cool place to visit. And you have Gallery MAR, so what’s not to love?” 

Warren Neary, “Silvery Slopes,” oil, 30″ x 50″

Here at Gallery MAR, we’re proud to have represented artist Warren Neary for nearly fifteen years. We’re happy to hear that the feeling is mutual:  “Gallery MAR is a beautiful gallery, everything is laid out so well and orchestrated,” Neary says, “Everyone at Gallery MAR is so wonderful. Maren and her great professionals are always so kind and easy to engage with.”

From his unique military and art background, Warren Neary has become a disciple of discipline, mastering his media and building worlds that delight and mesmerize. We’re honored to have represented the artist for so many years now and look forward to introducing you, our collectors, to all the new luminous worlds of Warren Neary. To see the latest winter wonderlands to come out of  his studio, stop by the gallery today or check out his full portfolio on our website.


Written by Veronica Vale