Interview with Artist Lane Hall
Fascinated with drawing as a child, Lane Hall has always pursued art. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts he went on to explore graphite, oil, and water media. His work explores the stark value contrasts and varying textures found in nature. He is a signature member of both the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society.
How did you first get into art? How did you eventually find your way to your current media and subject matter? Was it a winding road or a straight path? Did oil or watermedia come first?
I started drawing when I was a young child. I even drew in school, during class, on lined paper if I had to. I was introduced to watercolor in high school and that was the beginning of a wonderful, long term relationship.The medium seemed to come naturally to me. I would create a detailed drawing and then paint within the lines, almost like paint-by-number, accept that the lines were drawn by me.
My painting style remained this way for years and it was in college that I decided to major in art, getting my BFA. During this time, watermedia and pencil were my main focus. Working with oil came nearly twenty years later, in 2004, but only for a short while at this point. Watercolor on paper was my first love.
About eleven years ago, while on a hike, I recalled that in my college life drawing courses, the professor had us apply gesso to poster paper with a stiff, flat brush. When pencil was applied to the gessoed paper, the fine ridges left by the brush created an interesting textural quality. After this recollection, I began working with black and white over gesso on various surfaces until I arrived at using water soluble and regular pencil on gessoed board, sometimes adding watercolor, which is one of my main ways of working presently. This substrate allowed me to present pencil without the use of glass. As far as subject matter, the landscape has been a favorite for a long time and is still an integral part of what I paint today.
Oil and watercolor (and even watermedia) seem so different? Why do you paint with both? Are there things you feel you can say better with one over the other and if yes, what? How do you think painting in more than one medium strengthens your abilities as an artist?
Oil and watercolor are very different. I often refer to oil as a messy medium that needs a babysitter and I find watercolor much easier to work with than oil. It is true that watercolor is less forgiving but, even so, the way watercolor acts seems to be more conducive to the way my mind approaches art making.
My main reason for working in oil as well as watermedia, is that oil tends to be more respected, at least by art collectors, than watercolor. On the West Coast anyway, it is like the Cadillac of mediums. A lot of galleries don't want work under glass and, looking through art magazines and strolling through galleries, the majority of the work, in my observation, is oil; therefore, since it has been my goal to earn a living from art, I added oil to my repertoire, thinking and hoping it would sell better.
I feel that watercolor is more spontaneous and immediate than oil. Because, typically, watercolorists use the white of the paper to create light in a painting, as opposed to white pigment in oil, and the value of watercolor is dependent upon the ratio of pigment to water, watercolor on paper is a better Plein Air medium for me. I can complete a painting much faster than if I were working in oil in Plein Air. In oil, having to add white in order to lighten a color makes the mixing process longer and more tedious for me. Watermedia in the form of waters soluble, regular pencil and powdered graphite on gessoed board is the most artistic and expressive medium for me. Not having to be concerned with the element of color, I can say more with less if I choose and there is less inhibition.
I will say that painting in oil as well as the other mediums I have mentioned, has made me understand color better. So much is involved in arriving at the proper color for me when working in the oil medium.
You have not always been a full-time artist. How did you make time to improve as an artist while also working a day job? So many people struggle with finding time.
While working a full time day job, I would work on my art at night, one to four times per week, and all night on occasion.
Do you work from life or photos? How do you know, whether in a photograph or in plein air, you want to paint something? What are you looking for in subject matter?
I work from life and photos. Whether I am working in Plein Air or from a photograph, my main reason for choosing a subject is contrast of light and shadow.
Could you walk us through your process? Once you have an idea, what steps do you go through to move the idea in your mind into a finished painting?
Once my subject is chosen, I put down a good, solid drawing, showing line work and values; therefore, all of the main elements in the composition have been laid down in the drawing. It could work as a finished piece at this point. If I choose, color is then added.
How important is design in your process? Where do you think about the design of a painting? Is it when you’re thinking about it conceptually or do you do a series of thumbnail sketches or other studies to compose the design? Where does that work happen?
Design is an important element in my work and the design composition takes place as soon as I choose my subject, well before I begin painting or drawing. When a sketch is done before the main project begins, it is generally to work out values rather than design.
How important is drawing to you and your practice? How much time do you spend focused on drawing as a skill? Why is drawing important?
Drawing is extremely important to my art endeavors. It is the foundation of all of my art making; therefore, I spend time drawing every day. A lot of my pieces are complete and sent to the gallery as a drawing. I feel that drawing is my strong point. So much can be said with just a few lines and the success of my work depends upon a good drawing.
All artists start as beginners. What challenges did you face as a beginner? How did you overcome them? How did those challenges change the better you got at painting? How dd you tackle them?
I tended to get too detailed, the "include everything syndrome.” I was told to loosen up. Painting in Plein Air helped me to do this, as well as general drawing and painting experience. I was able to show detail in less time and even with less line work or fewer brushstrokes.
When you paint how do you keep yourself from going too far into realism? How do you keep yourself and your paintings loose?
Working from life, which I do often, helps me to stay loose, as I am forced to paint or draw relatively quickly because of the changing light. Also, a lot of my work is done on a gessoed surface and the characteristics of working on that surface lend itself to an impressionistic or looser appearance.
Could you talk a bit about how you use color? How do you decide how much local color to use as opposed to making the color more abstracted? Do you play with saturated v unsaturated or lights vs darks? How do you play with color in your work?
Because I enjoy working in black and white and because drawing is so important to me, I tend to use color in a limited manner. Much of my use of color when working on board or panel are simply washes. Contrast being such an important element in my work, I often use light and dark colors next to one another. The more saturated or thicker applications of color are commonly left to these areas of my paintings, the lights being warm and the darks cool. I love to use Cerulean Blue in my work.