Etsy and eBay have proved to be an electronic toy box for Arizona artist Richard Hall.
The painter has discovered most of the vintage novelties in his most recent still-life paintings online, he said.
“Those sites have opened up so many possibilities for me, because you can find anything,” he said. “It’s a great resource for a still-life painter. My two favorite searches are for ‘vintage wooden pull toys’ and ‘vintage tin toys.’”
Hall was the featured artist at last year’s Art on the Rockies festival.
“Richard’s art is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell with a twist of Ricky Gervais,” said Festival Organizer Colleen Everett. “He is a master realist with a dry sense of humor who enjoys drawing the viewer into his tableau. His brush work, illustrative panache and spot-on use of color palette makes Richard Hall one of the best painters of highly engaging and original work.”
Escaping the 112-degree Phoenix heat, Hall returns to Edwards for this weekend’s festival with a new “cast of characters.”
“I did a search for Fisher Price wooden pull toys, and hit the jackpot,” he said. “I found a monkey, several dogs, an elephant, alligator, some frogs, and even a donkey from 1926.”
Most of the new paintings feature wooden toys from the 1940s, which he had never seen before.
“I found them absolutely charming and it was fun to incorporate them into my paintings,” said Hall who likes to use vintage objects because of the textures, colors and patina that develops over time. “These objects have character and reflect years of use and enjoyment. When people look at my paintings, I see them connect with the toys and smile as they remember playing with these or similar objects.”
Hall took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: Tell me about one of your favorite items and what drew you to the object?
Richard Hall: One of my favorite finds is a 1930s Buck Rogers Inter-Planetary Police Patrol Rocket Ship. As an artist, I was drawn to the color and shape, but as a big kid, I was drawn to it because it’s a really cool toy. Who wouldn’t love a spaceship that moves across the floor and shoots out sparks!
The Buck Rogers series popularized the idea of space exploration. I placed it in a painting titled “We Come in Peace.” I combined it with other spacecraft and a 1950s ray gun. It has a chalkboard background with a space scene and an alien on a post-it note claiming, “We Come in Peace!”
VD: Have you ever had someone commission a piece with an old beloved toy they owned?
RH: I have done a few custom commissions for people, but more often I have people simply give me old toys that were special to them, hoping I can use it in a painting. I have several volunteer “pickers” that enjoy looking for objects for me. In fact, the other large spaceship in “We Come in Peace” was given to me at an art show. A young couple came into the booth, looked at the work and said, “We have something for you!” They came back later in the day with the “Satellite 107,” which they found when they cleaned out a storage locker. Once they saw my work, they decided to give it to me, and I have used it my painting.
VD: What made you want to return to the festival this year?
RH: Well, when I left Phoenix it was 112 degrees! Last weekend I did Cherry Creek in Denver, and it wasn’t much cooler. I have been coming to the Vail Valley for the last 12 years and I love it here. Art on the Rockies is one of my favorite art shows. It feels like a small local show, with just over 100 artists, but the artists are first rate.
VD: What else will you be doing while you’re in town?
RH: I’ll be enjoying the cool mountain weather. We’ll do a lot of walking and hiking with our dog, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named “Ellie” (aka Mighty Squirrel Huntress!).
VD: What kind of responses to you get from festival goers to your work?
RH: Mostly I get smiles! People look at my work, and I can see the wheels beginning to turn as they are thinking…”What’s going on here?” Once they get it, they smile and laugh, and spend more time looking at the other paintings. Often they share their own stories with me about the objects, and often bring ideas that I had never even considered. I really enjoy that interaction with viewers.
VD: Anything else I’m not asking that our readers should know?
RH: I do have a serious side. I consider some of my paintings “Conceptual” pieces. This year I have a painting called “Secret Admirer.” It features a raven bringing gifts to his lover. Meet me at the show and I’ll tell you the rest of the story.