For 35 years, Richard Hall enjoyed a successful career in fine art, using his talents to explore the opposing worlds of abstract art and traditional still life. But chance intervened when a mischievous toddler added her two-cents worth to one of Richard’s still life settings, prompting Richard to see his work in an entirely new way.
Thus Richard evolved and created the perfect artistic union: still life precision, abstract art vibrancy, and Richard’s cheeky British humor – all in one painting.
Each piece is professionally matted (12x16"), numbered and signed by the artist himself.
- 14 Days: How can I be expected to diet when there are delectable donuts hanging about in my studio? (At least, that’s what I thought while constructing this ode to a diet gone wrong.) 14 Days presents the saboteur, front and center, suspended for all to see. A chalkboard background provides a familiar, friendly way for me to introduce a bit of dialogue into the still life setting. To get the correct chalky texture, I drew on the painted surface with oil pastels, erased the words, then re-drew the final dietary confession. The use of the string motif not only adds to the composition’s humor, but also helps guide the eye up and down the image. And the blue painter’s tape adds a fun bit of trompe l'oeil, a visual illusion where a painted subject looks like it is really there - as if there is really a piece of tape stuck to the canvas.
- Cereal Killer: Cereal Killer was the result of a pun volley my wife, Sharon, and I had a few years ago during the heyday of the Dexter TV show. As soon as Sharon said “serial killer,” I could see this visual pun in my mind, using those little boxes of cereal where you would cut open the box and pour the milk right in. It was a difficult “undertaking” finding enough of these mini-boxes for the scene as they have been replaced by plastic, pre-packaged bowls. used spotlighting to play up the drama of the scene and give the painting a movie thriller feel. What looks like a rather simple background actually required many layers to get the glowy depth I was seeking. Once I got the handle and spotlight focal point to my liking, I added the shadow for maximum impact.
- My Sweet Ride: So many of my collectors have fond memories of the bee pull toys made by Fisher Price in the mid-20th century. Here, I combine this beloved toy with a 1930s Canadian honey tin and a familiar squeeze-top bear to make for a sweet tailgate party! To get the warm, inviting glow, I used a strong light, positioned at the lower left, to illuminate the objects and create dramatic shadows. I particularly like how the varnished shelf provides a reflection of the scene.
- Cheese & Quackers: This toy inspired a thousand puns in my house! Once I settled on Cheese and Quackers, I could picture the perfect scene. Finding the right cheese was a bit challenging: If you saw a man in the grocery store holding up the Swiss cheese and muttering “more holes, it needs more holes,” that was me. Worse, once I got the cheese home, the composition had to survive all the snacking.
- Driving me Nuts: A complex still life image, in a nutshell. Driving Me Nuts is a beautiful image to me because of the inherent challenges of the subject matter. Nuts are difficult to paint because of the rough textures that do not reflect the light and the dull colors. Here, instead of relying on a rainbow of colors, I kept the palette sparse and explored the impact of light and shadow instead. I’m particularly pleased with how the double shadow adds brooding drama against the background. As mentioned before, nuts are not the most sumptuous of nature’s bounty to paint. To enhance the aesthetic qualities the subjects did have, I arranged (and rearranged) the nuts to get a balanced, yet interesting, composition. I also manipulated the lighting to provide maximum visual interest. Notice for example, how even the grainy surfaces glows with the right intense light. Getting the light right was a struggle, though. I eventually developed a movable track lighting system where I can add lights from both above and below.
- Hear no, See no, Speak No: AN “APPEELING” TAKE ON THE CLASSIC VISUAL PROVERB. This timeless children’s toy is one of my favorite subjects for my unusual brand of portraiture - and I thought that mixing the classic “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” maxim with these funny fellows would be “tuber-riffic.” I had originally planned for the figures’ arms to cover their ears, eyes, and mouth, but the arms wouldn’t quite cooperate. I turned to my trusty blue painter’s tape, and it worked perfectly. Another bonus of having the tape in the scene is that it adds an element of trompe l'oeil, a visual illusion where the eye perceives the painted subject as real. With the original painting, people would lean around to the side to see if I had actually stuck tape on. The lighting in this painting is subtle, with a warm spot-light effect to draw the eye to the center and enhance the reflections on the glossy wood.
- Guacamobile: BECAUSE A CRAVING FOR GUACAMOLE CAN DRIVE YOU CRAZY! For a still life artist, a recipe is like a schematic for a painting - and so it was with Guacamobile, where the ingredient list for this snack-time treat lead to a new work of art. Inorganic textures of these old metal toys combined with organic shapes and surfaces of fruit and veg, are enjoyable challenges to paint and results in compelling compositions for the audience to view. Guacamole contains ingredients that still life artists love to paint: tomatoes with their turgid flesh; onions and garlic with their papery skin; and avocados with their odd, bumpy texture. To enhance the variety of surfaces (and make them look appropriately appetizing), I used soft, center-focused spotlighting to make the produce gleam and the truck’s metal surfaces shine. The background’s dark edges help focus your eye to to the center of the composition.
- Two Bee or Knot To Bee: Everyone from a certain generation remembers these adorable Fisher-Price bee toys. Two Bee or Knot to Bee came about, predictably enough, because I had two of them sitting together on a shelf in my studio. I defy anyone to say the words “two bees” without launching into some impromptu Shakespeare! Here, the two bees tie the knot over a bound copy of Hamlet, with the building blocks on either side spelling out the famous phrase. The toys featured are the classic Buzzy Bee by Fisher-Price and his lady cohort, Queen Bee with her sweet little crown. These pull toys were introduced in the 1950s and have been made continuously ever since.
- Blowing Kisses: I bought this vintage fan because I loved the way it looked, but wasn’t sure how I would use it. Then I heard the phrase “blowing kisses” and the light went on. The fan’s metal blades were strong enough to blow the strings, but when I added the chocolates, the strings fell disappointingly flat. I ended up clamping the whole composition sideways and letting gravity lend a hand. This is one of my earlier images, created when I was exploring dark, dramatic backgrounds for my subjects. I love the way the background enhances the cool metal of the fan and the sparkly foil textures. The fan is about 50 years old, with solid metal blades - clearly made in a time when finger safety wasn’t top of mind!
Well Balanced Diet: Chocolate candy, donuts, and a cupcake. Sounds like breakfast to me! In Well Balanced Diet, I present these nutritional cornerstones carefully arrayed on a balance beam - poised and waiting for the first bite.
Given the acrobatic nature of this delicious display, I lit the scene as if it were on a stage. Can’t you just hear the drumroll as the cupcake was placed on top? Well Balanced Diet has the warm glow of a traditional still life image, one that - aside from the modern subject matter - would be right at home with works of the Dutch Masters 400 years ago. In particular notice the sharpness of the background shadows and the subtle gradation of the background from dark on the edges to light in the center.