PAINTER AND SCAD Foundations professor Honor Bowman Hall has lived all over, from Alaska to Mississippi to New York City.
Her art changes with each city she paints in, creating a body of work that’s constantly changing.
Her paintings use bold colors and verge into abstraction to create a bright landscape that’s all her own.
Hall is also part of the Friendship Magic Collective with fellow SCAD professor and Greg Eltringham, and they share a studio at the Drawing Room Gallery on 42nd Street.
We spoke with Hall last week.
1. What was your background like before Savannah?
After college, I wanted to move to New York; that had always been my thing. Within a few weeks, I had an apartment and was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which was amazing. Then I also had another job in the music industry. I was doing licensing for songwriters. It was awesome and I met a lot of great friends through that job, and I just had a blast. I loved living there. I had so many great opportunities.
I would go sit in the American wing and it fostered my love of art. I started having a nagging feeling about going back to school. I stayed there for four years and learned to be independent and to work and about creativity. I met my now-husband there, and after four years we moved here and I went to SCAD for my Masters.
It was a huge change. It was so different. When we left New York in late February, it was terrible and cold and blustery. We got off the plane to palm trees. I was like, “This is it.”
My lifestyle would have had to change so much staying in New York but not working full time. I couldn’t have afforded it.
2. What’s it like being back in Savannah?
So much changed in six years. I had time to create. I went from taking huge stretcher bars on the subway with a plastic handle and carrying them five miles to just driving to Home Depot. Savannah was the perfect place for me to come.
It’s a little different because I’m coming back somewhere. In Alaska I got to know everybody. Coming back here, I don’t know that many people, but I feel now that I’ve been back two years that I’m getting to know people. It’s been good; it’s been different. I still miss Alaska and I think that impacts my experience here. But counterbalancing that is that fact that I love my job so much. I teach Foundations [at SCAD]. It’s their very beginning.
3. You’re in Friendship Magic Collective with Greg Eltringham. How did you meet him?
Greg was my professor at SCAD and he became such a good mentor for me. When I was almost done with the program and his classes, we started playing music together and we had a band with someone else called the Tramp Stamps. We still play together!
When I came back, we really started hanging out again and painting together again and decided to do a collective so we could just do projects together. We have a lot of ideas that work together, and weirdly our color palettes work together. I left Savannah in 2012 and since then, both of us have developed so much. It’s kind of crazy that the work has so many similarities, so we just decided we should show together.
Last year we went on Art on the Air and Rob [Hessler] asked us if we would ever consider making a painting together, and we were like, “No way!” But then we just made a painting together [laughs]. We started it for the SCAD block party and it came out really cool. I think that’s a direction we might pursue. That’s what’s so weird about it to me—both of us are control freaks because in your studio you’re the person. But it ended up working out, so that’s weird and cool.
We have a show coming up at Studio Sesh Arts in Islamorada, Florida, in December. We’re also planning on making two or three more collaborative paintings.
The work I make by myself now is different from the work I make for a show with Greg. It’s just the way of thinking and it pushes both of us.
4. Tell me about your own work.
The way I work is based on landscape. I think people who see my work, it’s abstract to them. In fact, one of the pieces from my show “Homecoming,” shopSCAD actually hung it sideways on accident because they couldn’t figure out what it was and that’s funny to me. I love it because to me, [my work] is very straightforward—it makes sense to me.
I start by looking at the landscape and then I take out information until it looks the way I want it. It’s very design-based and color-based. When something catches my eye and I want to paint it, I want to almost candy-coat it. I want it to be visually entertaining; I want it to be desirable. I put glitter on it sometimes. It’s a way of making people want to connect with it. The color language is the same thing for me.
I also don’t think of [my work] as traditional landscape painting. It’s my way of seeing it, my way of creating visual logic.
5. How does your work change as you move?
With my Alaska work, even though it’s my same visual language, the palette and the sensibility are so different. That comes from the snow and the dry air and Christmas and the starkness. The work has become so colorful again since I moved back to Savannah. I have to be immersed in [the landscape]. The weird thing is I do work from photographs, but I have to be in it. The Key West paintings, I can make them here, but even though I can make them here because it’s similar, I still feel like I have to go every year and take new photographs.
I can’t make Alaska work here, and I’ve tried. It’s really important for me to be responding to where I am. It’s been kind of fun to see the work change, and it makes me want to go more places too. If I could go somewhere next and totally immerse myself and paint from it for months at a time, I would have to go somewhere Northern. I just got back from Amsterdam—I’d probably go there and go to Holland and just stay.