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Artist Interview: Paul Hallam

In this final interview of the current series I am delighted to introduce you to the artwork of Australian artist Paul Hallam. Paul’s work is ‘bouncy’ vibrant and energetic, expressed in popular comic style art; a genre that is sadly often undervalued or underestimated in the art world. Paul’s artistic knowledge of anatomy gives his characters structure and believability  and the quirkiness in his illustrations endear these characters to the viewer while often illustrating a parody or life lesson. Even Paul’s signature on his artworks will induce a smile as it is usually accompanied by a loud exclamation mark!  To follow more of Paul’s work please see the links at the end of the interview.

Cat-Water
Paul Hallam. ‘Cat water’, 2015, 20x21cm, Pen & Ink with digital colours.
  • Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Paul Hallam. I have been married to my wife Carolyn for almost 12 years and we have 4 young children. I currently work as a visual arts teacher’s aide and am studying graphic design, part time at Shillington College, Sydney.

  • Why do you do what you do?

A few reasons. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s the way I am wired.

  • How do you work?

I like trying out a bunch of different materials but my main tools are pen and ink, and digital art programs like Photoshop. I am just beginning to work out how to do my work completely on the computer. I have found that the digital process gives me a lot of freedom to experiment, especially in the rough sketching stage of drawing.

  • What’s your background?

In terms of art, my main background has been comic books. I’ve been reading comics since I was 13 and began drawing my own stories later on in high school. After school, I studied a Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) majoring in illustration. That was a lot of fun. I then spent the next 10 years working in a different area before coming back to art and design in 2014.

  • What’s integral to the work of an artist?

I think that doing art is about seeing and showing. An artist needs to have the ability to see a complex object in such a way that you can break it down into its basic shapes, proportions and spaces. For example, being able to breakdown a car into rectangular prisms and cylinders. And then an artist needs to be able to take these basic shapes that they have seen and show them on the page.

I also think that it’s important for an artist to have a strong desire to keep learning, developing and improving. I want to be continually learning more about human anatomy, storytelling, colour, and so on.

Superman-sketch
Paul Hallam. ‘Superman Sketch’, 2016, 20x21cm, Graphite Pencil.
  • What role does the artist have in society?

I think the artist has many possible roles in society. The artist’s job can be to entertain, amuse, inspire, critique, instruct, to help others reflect, to show beauty and more.

  • What has been a seminal experience?

When I was in year 9 my friend gave me a copy of ‘How to draw comics the Marvel way’. This book changed the way I draw. It gave me all the basics that I needed. I still use the ideas and techniques today. I don’t know if I would have carried on with art in high school if not for that book. It equipped me and energised me for drawing. That period was a time of a huge leap in my art.

  • Explain what you do in 100 words

Generally, I start with a bunch of really small, rough sketches either on paper or on the computer. I then refine, adjust, combine and strengthen these initial sketches. Once the composition is sorted out, I will do a larger loose drawing, starting with stick figures and building up the shapes and forms. I usually then trace this either on a light box or on the computer to make a tighter drawing. Finally, this drawing is transferred onto Bristol board for inking and then I colour it in Photoshop. I try, throughout this process, to refine the image but I also strive to keep the energy of the first drawings. I don’t want my drawings to get too stiff.

  • How has your practice changed over time?

My practice has changed a lot over the years. I think I have gotten a bit looser with my drawing than I was maybe 10 years ago. It has also gotten more cartoony. A bit more bendy and exaggerated. I use computer programs more now as the software and hardware has improved and become more affordable.

Harry Potter
Paul Hallam. ‘Harry Potter’, 2015, 29.7x21cm, Pen & Ink and watercolour.
  • What art do you most identify with?

As I said before, I am a huge comic book fan. I really like the fact that comic stories can deal with deep and important themes as well as be entertaining. I can really identify with Spider-man. The main theme for his story is “With great power comes great responsibility”. He’s all about using his abilities for the sake of others, even when it costs him to do so. I like that moral rule. It’s something to aspire to. I also identify with Batman. Batman is a guy who sees criminals hurting people and getting away with it. He sees the inability and corruption of the police. So he does something about it. I think everyone can relate to that as they look around their community and the world.

In terms of artistic styles, I love bold, simple and graphic looking artwork. There is something very sophisticated about simplicity. I also love dynamic, exaggerated and cartoonish art. I can appreciate realism but it doesn’t really impact me as much as more stylised work.

  • What work do you most enjoying doing?

I did a book cover for a friend of mine last year. It was a parody of Star Wars called “Star Pizzas”. It was a fun project because I got to muck around with the designs of characters like ‘Darth Grater’, ‘Princess Lasagne Layers’ and other cheesy dad-joke characters.

Star-Pizzas-Cover
Paul Hallam. ‘Star Pizzas’, 2016, 13x17cm, Pen & Ink with Digital colours.
  • What themes do you pursue?

Pop culture, everyday life, I like using humour in my work. I want it to be bouncy and optimistic.

  • What’s your favourite art work?

I have always been drawn to the impressionist painters. I remember visiting the Art Gallery of NSW and being drawn to the works by Paul Cézzanne and Van Gogh. I think I like the vibrant colours, the textures and the energy of the Impressionists. When it comes to comic book art, I love the marvel comics style of the 60’s and 70’s. I have a print of the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-man) on my wall at home. It’s such an iconic image.

  • Describe a real-life situation that inspired you

I remember one drawing was surprisingly inspired by a year 1 child at school. I was pinning up some artwork in the library. The class had been given the task of creating a monster and they all did a fantastic job. But one drawing stood out to me. It was a giant pink blob, with three eyes and it was standing on multiple long legs. The student said that it was based on a spider. I thought it was cool and a little cute. This inspired me to create my own version of this “Brain-Spider”. Mine was less cute, but hopefully a lot more creepy.

  • Why art?

Because art adds so much flavour to life.

  • What is an artistic outlook on life?

I am extremely visual. I remember faces better than names, I usually notice what people are wearing, their hairstyles and their expressions. I also deconstruct the things that I see. It just happens automatically. I see something and I try and work out how to draw it.

  • What memorable responses have you had to your work?

In 2014 I took a painting course at a community college. Acrylic painting has always scared me, so I decided to do a beginner’s course to demystify it a bit. I spent the term creating a self portrait where my face was made up of various superheroes. We held an exhibition at the end of the term and it was so exciting to see people looking at my work. Especially when kids were trying to list all the superheroes in my portrait.

Super Self Portrait
Paul Hallam. ‘Superhero Self portrait’, 2015, 29.7x42cm, Acrylics.
  • Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I’m an introvert so I don’t mind being by myself. However, with family, friends and social media, it’s all pretty balanced I think.

  • What do you dislike about the art world?

I remember feeling slightly annoyed at the low view many artists or art teachers have to comic art. It’s frustrating because some of the artwork is amazing. I think it’s changing at a popular level. Superheroes are very popular at the moment. I have heard of art galleries doing exhibitions of comic artists and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney did a Lego DC superheroes exhibit.

  • What do you dislike about your work?

I find it frustrating when there is one small bit of a drawing that just doesn’t look right. Often I will be whittling away at it over and over again. Sometimes I don’t see it until the work is finished and then all I can see is the mistake.

  • What do you like about your work?

I have fun doing it so hopefully my work is fun and interesting for others too.

  • Should art be funded?

Yes, as other areas are also funded. Creative arts are an important part of our society and should be respected and encouraged to flourish.

  • What role does arts funding have?

I think it would be fantastic if there could be more funding for good artists to work in schools and universities, whether to do permanent teaching jobs or to be visiting lecturers. I can imagine how helpful that would be to high school and Uni students.

  • What research do you do?

It depends. Some sketches are just ideas that pop into my head. They are inspired by books I have been reading (fiction, biographies), movies, TV shows, current events and everyday family life. My sketch book is right next to my bed to grab those ideas before they slip away. Other artworks require more research. For example the ‘Coffee Snobs’ illustration I spent a week mind mapping, investigating coffee culture in Australia and brainstorming different possible ideas for the brief.

Coffee Snobs
Paul Hallam. ‘Coffee snobs’, 2015, 20x15cm, pen and ink with digital colours.
  • What is your dream project?

Wow that’s a good question. I would love to work on a children’s book. I have been playing around with some ideas for some books. Or something superhero related? Comic books are great but they do require a significant amount of work within a small amount of time.

  • Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Mike Wieringo, Skottie Young and Chris Bachalo. They are all American comic book artists who have styles that I enjoy. While I don’t think my art looks exactly like theirs, I do feel that they are some of my influences so I would love to be mentioned in the same breath as them.

Man-from-the-Moon-pg1
Paul Hallam. ‘The man from the moon I’, 2002, 21×29.7cm, Pen & ink with digital colours.
Man-from-the-Moon-pg2
Paul Hallam. ‘The man from the moon II’, 2002, 21×29.7cm, Pen & ink with digital colours.
  • Favourite or most inspirational place

I find inspiration in many places. I love looking through art books, lots of ideas come from hanging out with my kids or watching our dog chase our cat around the house. I have also found hanging out at the shops or the gym to be inspirational. You can see some interesting looking people doing strange and interesting things that make for good cartoon characters or stories.

  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Keep drawing all the time. Keep drawing the same thing over and over again until it becomes deeply ingrained.

  • Professionally, what’s your goal?

Even though I have been doing art for a long time, I have only been taking it more seriously over the last year and a half. Really I am just at the beginning of my professional life. I am looking forward to finishing off my studies this year, which will update and build on my previous learning. So my goal this year is to learn everything I need to be a creative, effective and efficient graphic designer/illustrator.

  • What wouldn’t you do without?

I’m a Christian so I would never want to be without Jesus. And also my relationships with my family.

blame-it-on-the-rain
Paul Hallam. ‘Blame it on the rain’, 2015, 24x27cm, Pen & Ink and Watercolour.

To reach Paul or to see more of his work follow these links:

Website

Facebook Page

Tumblr

Twitter

Linked In Profile

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Random Art Fact #010

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The artist & the fortune-teller

The other ‘side’ of me is the tarot/oracle deck designer and reader. This is such a huge part of my life that I have a blog www.tarottaxi.com dedicated entirely to the subject.

My art studies are linked to my oracle interests in so far as creating an artistically rendered tarot deck (78 paintings) which is a long-term future project. To date I have created and published other oracle decks and have written about them extensively.

What use are oracles if they can’t give us a glimpse into events? I always find it interesting what comes up although I do advise (with any reading) to retain a healthy scepticism too.

What happened to Madeleine McCann?

What happened to Malaysian Airlines Missing Flight MH370?

Zingdoodle Lenormand © Rootweaver (JbR) https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/Rootweaver?ref=hdr_shop_menu
Zingdoodle Lenormand © Rootweaver (JbR) https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/Rootweaver

For today’s WP Prompt: Mad Libs “Turn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.”

Random Art Fact #009

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Colour secrets

In response to today’s daily WP Prompt: Evasive Action

Random Art Fact #008

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Artist Interview: Petra Kakakios

When I first ‘met’ Petra during our art studies last year she was only 18 years old yet the artwork that she has produced would have you believe that she is much older, and convinces me that she is a prodigy. Petra excels at art, music and Taekwondo. What a joy it has been to see this extraordinary young artist flourish with well deserved accolades in recent exhibitions. When you read Petra’s words below you too will be struck by what an exceptional young person (and artist) she is. This is a link to Petra’s Facebook Artist Page, and to her Youtube Channel.

petra1
Petra Kakakios
  • Who are you and what do you do?

I am an artist and an athlete in the Olympic Sport of Taekwondo. My Art and Taekwondo compliment and balance each other and are equally important to me. So, researching material, connecting themes, then drawing, painting, composing music, writing poetry, photographing ideas, and training in my sport, drive my purpose and empower me to be the best I can be.

  • Why do you do what you do?

I create art because I see it as my calling in life. It is my mission, my thing. It is what I can do! It is an extension of myself.

  • How do you work?

I am very perceptive and observant of what is happening in the world around me. I often have a strong visual idea from that insight and then reflect on how I can translate this most effectively. I may begin sculpting my subject and setting, then photographing it. This is the Performance Art aspect of what I do. I then make sketches, draw and/or paint it. As I am painting, I am able to hear its voice and during this process may compose music to accompany, or be part of the artwork.

(WARNING: viewers may find the images below disturbing)

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Photography and Make up 2015
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Graphite Drawing, 2015, 29.7 x 42 cm
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“Untitled” 2015, acrylic paint on canvas, 45 x 60 cm
  • What’s your background?

I am 19 years old and the second eldest of eleven children in my family. (I am the eldest girl, though 😉 I live in rural South-East Queensland on 180 acres of mountainous land. I have lived in Sydney at interim periods of my life and I can’t wait to move to a vibrant city in the near future!! I have been home educated since age 5, completing Year 12 in 2013 and home trained in Taekwondo. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, Fine Art online.

  • What’s integral to the work of an artist?

Being true to oneself – not deviating or distracting from who you are. Learning and challenging your assumptions is essential to the work of an artist. Creating original artworks derived from the heart.

  • What role does the artist have in society?

A true artist has a very significant role in society. Not only does an artist bring forth his/her intentions, perspectives, and perceptions of life, but in doing so, creates the opportunity to touch the lives of others. The artist prompts the public to respond, creating dialogue, whether it be internal or external, silent or expressed. As an artist, I think the role is to help the public learn more about themselves as individuals and as a society, culturally, socially, historically and personally.

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“Goodbye Sweet Hat” 2015, Acrylic paint on canvas, 45 x60 cm
  • What has been a seminal experience?

When I was eleven years old, I vividly remember how excited I was when I heard the news that my Mum was going to have a baby. There was a mystical feeling about this new life coming into the world which affected mine. I was going to be there, and have someone new to love and help take care of. My Mum miscarried that child quite late, which was the first of a few. During this time, it seemed the disappointment was unbearable. I think that experiencing this loss was a defining point in my life. I began composing music, writing poetry and painting to express the sadness I felt about the real loss of children whom were supposed to be part of my life, and uncanny as it may sound, their absence has made them present, still here somehow. Now I am compelled to create art with gaps and silences, with something missing, so that what is not there, is noticeable and present.

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  • Explain what you do in 100 words

I tend to experience phenomena very profoundly and create what I feel about a particular subject. Music and art are my way of expressing these associated feelings. I compose music and create to the feeling generated or vice versa. Life stories, the everyday, tragedy and loss particularly influence me and I am compelled to visually translate this. As the artist, I want to force people to look deeper, to see what is really happening. And because I become, or take on the role of who and what I am creating, I am often trapped in the theme.

petra6
“Knock out the Glass People! It isn’t Beautiful!” 2015, Graphite powder and gouache paint on paper, 59.4 x 84.1 cm
  • How has your practice changed over time?

My style is continually changing. I think my whole outlook on art has changed over the years too. I have branched out from only painting in acrylic, to drawing with graphite, to using different mediums and techniques, employing photography and film, composing and adding music to my art – to being completely unlimited in what I use to best translate my perceptions. I have transformed from being timid in my artwork, meekly introducing my ideas, to now, confidently shocking the viewer into realisation.

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“Black Rose” 2014, Mixed Media on Canvas, 60 x 50 cm
  • What art do you most identify with?

I identify with hyper-realism and magic realism in art.

Hyper-realism and magic realism create an intangible form that is rather abstract and cannot be painted. The two forms create a magical sentiment that is ‘unreal’ in realism, unseen in the seen and present in the absent.

  • What work do you most enjoy doing?

I really can’t choose what I enjoy the most. Photography, drawing, painting etc is all a part of the performance. Each stage has a purpose in the creative process and I enjoy each one as it comes about naturally.

  • What themes do you pursue?

The fundamental theme of my art is sweet childhood. The components that course through this theme are: suffering, the forms of abuse, the slave trade, crime, war and these are juxtaposed subtly alongside historical and political events. Innocence and vulnerability are evident and simultaneously hidden. The way I highlight the naivety of my subject is by inserting a fantasy element. In the ugliness of the reality, there is an underlying beauty in the imagination.

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“Harmony of Hooves” 2014, Graphite and Gouache paint on paper, 29.7 x 42 cm
  • What’s your favourite art work?

I think one of my favourite artworks would be my own painting, “anima al finé”. It is the only piece of art I have created that has truly connected with me, my purpose and the audience.

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“anima al finé” 2014, Acrylic paint on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
  • Describe a real-life situation that inspired you

When I was 14 years old I entered my first acrylic painting of a wolf, “Call of the Wild” in a Write4Fun Art Competition in 2011 and came second out of 6,000 entries. I was inspired by the winner’s realistic drawing and I began experimenting with other materials, techniques and styles.

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“Call of the Wild” 2011, Acrylic paint on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
  • Why art?

Art allows me to express outwardly what I experience internally.

  • What is an artistic outlook on life?

Being able to see more completely. Not just taking a quick glance but really beholding.

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“The Way We Were” 2015, 29.7 x 42 cm
  • What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I have witnessed people standing back, in front of my artwork, utterly absorbed by it. The most memorable responses are optimistic.

  • Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I think there is a marked difference between lonely and being alone. I am not lonely because I am surrounded and supported by my family, yet I am alone in my endeavour. Any vocation that requires extensive periods of time alone, like an author or an artist, I think you have to recognise the prospective loneliness. To counteract this possibility, I intend to experience campus life, where I am receiving more constructive feedback and critical analysis from others.

  • What do you dislike about the art world?

I dislike the results orientated mannerism that is encouraged – it misleads artists from their purpose. I don’t like how there are political undertones for attaining recognition as an artist.

  • What do you dislike about your work?

What I don’t like is how restricted or limited I am with materials and financial ability. The challenge is to find a way irrespective and that is part of being an artist. However, I feel I haven’t been able to reach my full potential at this point in my career.

  • What do you like about your work?

I like that I can see how much more I can do. This is exciting for me.

  • Should art be funded?

I think there should be requisites to funding and I would like to see funding go through the right pathways for it to be accessible to the right people.

  • What role does arts funding have?

I think it would have a massive role in society. At this point I am only understand the significance of funding at a local level and would like to see artists, youth workshops and events funded.

  • What research do you do?

I research images and articles and different media sources on tragedy, war, genocide, anti-Semitism, religion, terrorism, and specifically integrate child victims. I like to investigate historical, cultural and contemporary events. Painting and material techniques are also a part of my research and depending on what I want to create, I can discover the best processes.

  • What is your dream project?

My dream is to design and build the most unique art gallery in the world and have my work exhibited! I’d like to travel the world photographing/filming people and events and coming back to my studio to continue the creative process! My dream is to touch and change the world through my art!

I have a Taekwondo dream to become World and Olympic Champion.

  • Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

I really don’t like to compare myself to other artists. But I will state the artists that I most admire.

Gottfried Helnwein, Chiharu Shiota and Kathe Kollwitz. I especially relate to Gottfried Helnwein’s subjects, art forms, notions and perceptions.

  • Favourite or most inspirational place

I find inspiration everywhere as all my ideas are influenced by what happens in the everyday.

  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Do what you think about!

  • Professionally, what’s your goal?

To be exhibiting my work on a global scale.

  • What wouldn’t you do without?

Living!

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