A chef’s knife pierces the middle of four mini boxes of sugary cereal — Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops and Corn Pops in one of Richard Hall’s realistic still life paintings. A few brightly colored Fruit Loops are scattered on the table, next to the boxes.
It’s a far cry from the apple/banana/orange-in-a-bowl combo you might think of when you hear the term “still life.”
Dubbed “Cereal Killer,” the cheeky, play-on-words title is typical of Hall’s trademark sense of humor.
Most, if not, all of Hall’s paintings have a similar sense of humor interwoven.
“Humor is very powerful tool of communication,” Hall said. “I am, after-all, British, and I have that dry sense of humor. It’s part of who I am, part of my DNA.”
Hall grew up in post-World War II England where even in the 1950s, he can remember rationing and going without many things, he said.
“We had no TV for much of my childhood,” he said. “For entertainment, my father used to play word games with us. He used to compose riddles, word games, puzzles and quizzes and we would sit around the kitchen table at night playing them. We laughed a lot and enjoyed playing jokes on each other.”
Hall is one of 120 artists taking part in today’s Art on the Rockies event at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and again on Sunday. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., Hall has escaped the heat this month in favor of doing three art festivals: This one, as well as a show in Washington and then one back in Colorado, in Crested Butte. He’ll have a variety of items for sale, everything from small prints that start at $40 to large originals for $12,000. Hall took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: You’ve said that your paintings tell stories. Tell what kinds of stories you’re trying to tell?
Richard Hall: I’m telling a story with objects instead of words. I don’t use vases, flowers and fruit like traditional still life artists. I like to combine unexpected objects. People look at the paintings, and try to figure out why the objects were placed together. Often, viewers come up with stories that I hadn’t intended. They come up with a completely different interpretation of the story. That is very interesting to me.
VD: Tell me about some of the paintings you’ve completed recently. What kind of odd antiques have you discovered and included in your paintings?
RH: I’ve recently started a series of paintings of vintage pedal cars, called “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
While visiting Texas earlier this year, I was told about a huge flea market in Canton, about an hour outside of Dallas. It is held once a month and I happened to be there when it was on. It must cover hundreds of acres, and is a treasure hunter’s (and still life artist’s) dream.
I found an old pedal tractor that I fell in love with. It was old, worn and rusted and obviously had been played with by several generations. That one piece inspired me to start my own pedal car collection and the new series of paintings!
VD: I read that you had a heart attack in 2006 that changed your outlook as far as your career goes. Can you tell us more about that?
RH: For many years I was an abstract painter, and my paintings were published and distributed worldwide. With a family to support, that was what I had to do, and I was very successful at it. However, it was not much of a challenge. I loved realism and always thought to myself, “Someday I’ll paint like that”. The heart attack was a wake up call that if I didn’t make a significant change, “someday” may never come.
VD: What is it your trying to accomplish with your art?
RH: I am a still life artist, and I’m trying to put my own stamp on the genre. My paintings reflect my personality, and while they may have an element of humor, I paint in a serious manner. I hope the viewer notices the quality of the paint work, such as the patina on the old piece of metal, the texture of the wood, the translucent quality of the old marble.
VD: Why do you like to sell your paintings through art festivals, such as the one in Edwards you’re participating in this weekend.
RH: I sell my work through galleries and art festivals. Being an artist can be a solitary profession if one is spending hours working alone in the studio and sending work off to galleries. I love art festivals because I get to visit beautiful locations, catch up with artist friends, and meet the people that buy my work. I see people connect with a painting and hear what they love about it. It is quite a compliment for someone to choose one of my paintings and hang it in their home. Over the years, collectors around the country have become friends, and we can catch up at the shows.
VD: What’s a question that people often ask you about your art?
RH: People often ask me why I use string in my paintings. The string serves several purposes. It creates tension in the piece, can suggest movement, adds depth, and in some pieces create a sense of anticipation that something is going to happen (i.e. “A Penny for your Thoughts”). It also catches the viewer’s eye and helps guide them through the painting.