Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventures with Hal

When I put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone wanted me to sketch them doing what they love in life, Hal Studholme was one of the few who responded. We scheduled a day to meet about a month out. Hal gave me his phone number and suggested we meet at a Cuban Sandwich shop on Lee Road. He said his studio was right near by. When I got to the Cuban Sandwich Shop I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich which was the cheapest item on the menu. When I went to pay I suddenly realized I didn't have enough money in my wallet to pay for a drink as well. I tried to pay with a card but the woman explained that they only take cash. I asked her to subtract the soda from my order and gave her the last three bills in my wallet. The outdoor tables were full of customers. I had never met Hal so I had no idea what he looked like. His Facebook picture was of a cast of actors on a stage. I asked a man if he was Hal and he laughed and said no. I finally called and Hal said he was on his way.
When Hal arrived he ordered a sandwich and we started to talk. He had on a bright Hawaiian shirt and purple tinted glasses. He went on to explain that he had studied Asian Philosophy and comparative religion for years. He found that the students that seemed to understand him the most however were the visual artists. He decided to change course and study art instead. He came to Orlando because he won a full scholarship to go to UCF. However a new state law required that he be a state resident in order to get the scholarship money. Since he couldn't afford to pay, he decided to wait a year at which point he would be a state resident. The second time he applied, the funds for the scholarship were gone.

I told him that I knew little about his art and he said he wanted to show me something. He went to his convertible and pulled out a brightly colored child's travel case. He unzipped it and pulled open the front flap. It was like he was opening a treasure chest. I was thrilled at what I saw. Inside were thousands of post cards with collage elements and rough drawings all over them. He had a show of these cards in NYC. He explained that he is still making them and each is intended for an audience of one. As an odd twist he said many were mailed to a dog in NYC. Seeing these fractured and chaotic images, I suddenly realized that the pattern on his Hawaiian shirt made perfect sense. He said he had become a bit of a cliche, a middle aged man with a convertible and six Hawaiian shirts.

He invited me to his studio but warned me that I might be shocked by by the chaos. I knew I was in for a treat. He explained that the walls of his apartment were all bare. He finds the blank walls liberating. He opened the door to his studio and everywhere I looked there were scraps of paper. His work space consisted of his sitting on foam puzzle pieces with a pillow stuffed in the small of his back. All around him were scraps of photos and images that he would rip and cut before pasting them to a post card. He opened a book and ripped off an image of thousands of flamingos. During the course of my sketch he seemed to finish quite a few cards which he then threw into a cardboard box. He explained that they were not finished, but would later resurface to be worked on again.

Hal has a number of photos of squirrels. He gets these shots with a toy cameras while lying on his stomach and waiting for the squirrel to approach. He showed me a book about an artist named Jenny Read who was a young artist who wore her heart on her sleeve. She was murdered since her studio was in a bad neighborhood. Her friends and family then assembled this book of drawings and letters she had written. I desperately want to get a copy of this book. It was a thrill to sketch this artist who is obviously obsessed about making art. In Hal's bathroom I found the following quote from Henri Cartier Bresson, "I am a visual man. I watch, watch, watch. I understand things through my eyes." In the mail I got a postcard from Hal which demonstrates the uniqueness of his vision.

4 comments:

amy t said...

Thor! Hal had told me what a wonderful experience it was to meet with you, and now that I see the result I can see why. Both your drawing and your thoughtful essay capture so much of Hal - I feel like you already know him well. Thank you for doing what you do!

Chrissy said...

What a fantastic project! I would be so excited to receive you here in France - not to sketch me necessarily but you might like to draw my potter husband while he throws fine porcelain.
Should you ever come to Central France, we would welcome you!
Great drawings every time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have one of Hal Studholme's squirrel photos -- it is wonderfully epic, funny and weird. I have also been the recipient of some of his postcard collages -- their size belies the depth and sophistication of Hal's artistic vision. Thank you for your insightful portrait.
Jan, NYC

Rachel said...

Thank you for documenting one of the kindest, most generous and unique people I have ever met. I love Hal*s art, and I deeply admire his commitment to his vision. Everyone should be so lucky as to know what they want to do in life! But to do it... that takes a bravery not many of us possess.
Rachel Rose