Alexandra Hall took a rather serendipitous route to becoming a full-time fine artist.
She always loved art and expressing herself through it. But she pursued a much different path academically, earning BAs in political science and in Slavic languages and literature from Indiana University in 2010.
“I was a professional doodler before an artist,” Hall said. “Even in college, I had notebooks full of sketches and doodles. But I didn’t pursue it myself because I had a lack of exposure. My great-grandfather was an artist, but I didn’t know him. So I didn’t understand that it could be a career choice and didn’t go in that direction.”
Instead she went in a variety of other directions, citing her curious mind as the reason she pursued liberal arts and even considered med school.
Hall began her college career at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before heading to Bloomington, but before continuing her education, she took some time off, a decision that changed the course of her life.
“I took some gap time,” she said. “Not a gap year like in the U.K., but I had the opportunity to not go to school for a semester so I could decide if I wanted to go to grad school or not. I spent a lot of that time painting which had always been a great de-stresser for me especially when I was carrying a huge course load at school.
“I realized how much I enjoyed painting, and although I wasn’t sure if it was a good career option, I wasn’t sure that grad school was the right thing either. And the painting became more than de-stressing. It was fulfilling to do because of the color, energy, and fun of what I was painting. I felt like I was sending good energy out into the world.”
Her talent for painting came naturally, as it does for many who pursue it.
What doesn’t come naturally is the business side of making a living in the arts world.
How to make a living
Knowing how to market and manage a small business came thanks to the liberal arts education she already had. Research became her most important job skill, and she was seeking out information from the web and from artists in Fort Wayne.
“I talked to Terry Ratliff and Charley Shirmeyer from Northside Galleries on East State, and they gave me a lot of insight into the world,” Hall said. “They knew what they were talking about, and they helped me turn my art into a real job where I could make money.”
Her enchanting paintings often put animals into whimsical and amusing situations, dressing them somewhat flamboyantly and putting them in fantastic surroundings.
Her determination was to “put some positivity into the world when there is often very little positive going on.”
That was certainly the situation this year, but Hall was able to weather the challenges of 2020 more than some others.
“I’m usually traveling around the country to art festivals to sell my work,” Hall said. “But I’ve been extremely lucky, and this year has been almost like a normal year for me. I attribute it to my marketing and that I have built up a reputation so that people already know I exist.
“I have nothing but gratitude for the business that I was able to do when I know the majority of artists weren’t able to do as much this year.”
Whimsy and WOnder
Her work can be seen in its full glory at galleries as well as her website, where she describes her work in very colorful terms.
“I try to bring some whimsy into the mundane. I want to remind people that it is OK to color outside of the lines. It is my hope that I force my audience to exercise their imagination, that my works inspire conversation and that they evoke joy.”
She often has plenty of ideas for new paintings, but when she has a dry spell, she simply dips into her past.
“Sometimes if I have a painter’s block, I go back to those old notebooks,” she said. “There I can sometimes find inspiration, finding maybe four or five to turn into paintings. Then I go into an artist’s fugue and pull all of these sketches from the notebook and onto the canvas.
“It’s funny, but those notebooks from college can bring back memories from when I was drawing them. I took an organic chemistry class, and I can look at those sketches and remember what the professor was saying as I was drawing. Or I’ll see another sketch and remember that I was at an airport and my flight was delayed when I drew that. It’s like a diary in a way, except I’m the only one who’d understand it.”
Hall includes her sketches in her exhibits, allowing those who love her paintings to see the original source.
Although the Garrett Museum of Art will host the opening reception on Friday, Oct. 16, from 6-9 p.m., Hall understands that many might not be willing to risk a crowd at this time.
She assures visitors that it it also be possible to arrange an appointment for a less public display.
Her future holds some commissioned work for the holidays. Also, the 2019 children’s book she illustrated, Zookeeper, will be followed by a more scientific children’s book in the months to come.
In the meantime she enjoys the response she gets whether people see her work for the first time or the fiftieth.
“When I’m at arts festivals, I see the expressions on people’s faces when the come around the corner and see my work,” Hall said. “It’s meant to be goofy and whimsical. It’s little pieces of me, and they can change a mood and put people in a happier place.”
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