Q1: Let’s start with the common question, if you can kindly introduce yourself.
A1. My real name is William Hall. Some of you may know me. Most probably won’t. I’ve been dubbed “The Magic Rhyno” which goes back a ways to younger days. It’s hard to explain that one really, but the typo in Rhyno isn’t without merit. I’ve been drawing and painting and making messes in my houses since about 5 or 6 years old. My home town is a little place called Leominster, Ma. I spent about 10 years in San Francisco and have been living here in Grand Prairie,TX for about 5 years now which is in between Ft.Worth and Dallas.
Q2: How did you get into the field of your work?
A2. Oh man…I guess it depends on if you want the long or short answer. Let’s come back to this question later on then….I’ll be sure to address it while I think about the best plan of attack for it.
Q3: Do you have any current favorite artists, comic artists, photographers who may have influenced you to become the artist that you are?
A3. Undoubtedly, but mate, you’re looking at an epic list so long it will need to be broken down into volumes if I were to name them all. If you want shortand version of people off the dome here would be some in no particular order at all:
Philip Hua, Jon Foster, Cody Hooper, JC Leyendecker, Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, Brom, Leuyen Pham, Zachary Present, Kazu Sano (RIP), Drew Struzan, the fine folks at Massive Black (you know who you are), John Wayshak, Scott Fischer, Sorayama, Olivia, Doug Chiang, Feng Zhu, Russell & Remington, Daniel Merriam, Sebastian Kruger, Dick Powell, James Wu, N8 Van Dyke, Aly Fell, Glen Angus (RIP), Daarken, Gabe Leonard, Greg Manchess, Joe Chiodo, Lois Van Baarle, Serge Birault, David Grove, Robert Hunt, Echo Chernik, James Ryman, Svetlin Velinov, Adam Hughes, Mark Zug, Alphonse Mucha, Vargas, Bernie Wrightson, Arthur De Pins, Henry Ascencio, Franklin Boothe, and SOOOOO many more. Really though it changes on a day to day basis of who my personal favorites are but all these names mentioned above, plus some, I have a definite affinity for their mind-blowing works.
Q4: What are the main tools of your trade?
A4 (Wipes sweat from brow) Ah…once again there’s many. It sort of depends. I do all my line drawings with regular graphite pencils. Some mechanical pencils and some just your standard artist grades, you know, the usual suspects there. I do most of my color comps digitally since it saves time, changes are quick and there’s no real commitment to anything. I may love the color comps one day and hate them the next so I’m always opened to the idea that my work isn’t as satisfactory as I think it is. Sometimes I give it a couple of days. Then I come back to it and if I’m impressed on first glance after a few days then I know I’m on the right track. I like water media the best for traditional paints. I’ve got little chillins running all up in my home studio all the time so having toxic chemicals around isn’t a good idea.
I’ve really grown to love acrylics over the last year or so. It took me so long to figure them out…how they operate and what can be achieved once you understand how the layering system really works. Plus, when used like watercolor you really have such a diverse medium at your disposal, you know? It turns out I was over-thinking it for so long and didn’t have the wisdom to look for simpler answers on how to get better control over acrylics in my younger days. All things in due time I guess. I still rock pastels from time to time. I’ll have to say though my most valuable tool is my I wata airbrush set up. I’ve learned how to use it in a subtle manner where its main job is to smooth color transitions and hide paint blemishes. It’s probably my most prized possession in the studio. I just love it.
Q5: How was it for you to learn the process of that? Did you teach yourself, take classes or learn from other existing artist’s tutorial?
A5. A while actually. I mean, I don’t think of my work as having a certain process to it. It’s just a bunch of drawing and painting techniques that I’ve picked up over time that I’m now comfortable compiling in such a way that the images that come out of it suck a little bit less than they did before (hopefully). It is certainly nothing I can trademark and is probably just the end result of accumulation of other artists’ various techniques that I like or found useful and have adapted to fit my own liking…If that makes any sense at all. I’m always on the hunt for more creative knowledge or a better understanding of the stuff I currently know so it’s an ongoing evolutionary process for me. You have to be hungry to do better as an artist before it will actually take shape for you. Complacency in your own artistic ability is where creative growth goes to die. Who wants that, right?
But to answer your other sub-questions – yeah, all of the above. I took about 2 years of formal art training at the Academyof Artin San Francisco and some prerequisite classes at Skyline Collegein San Bruno, Ca before that. I had taught myself prior to and after attending both.
Q6: Do you think it’s possible for you to describe the process of your art style, what are the dos and don’ts, the important aspects you set yourself to achieve your style of design?
A6 Maybe. I mean….what a boring interview I would be if I just said “No, no I can’t describe it.” I’ll give it my best shot. My brain doesn’t always work in a linear fashion though and that’s what makes direct answers sometime elusive for me. Here goes…
1.) Ok. First you have to have a concept. You can’t just slap a bunch of stuff together without rhyme or reason and try to assign some fictitious meaning to it when you’re done. That never works. So…formulate ideas. I scrawl them down on a sheet of paper in a list. Even if you think they suck…nobody will shoot you in the face for writing down a shitty idea. So do it. (Cocks gun)
2.) You have to explore thumbnail concepts. This is not optional. I know a lot of artists don’t. I think part of the reason why many don’t do them is because the art schools aren’t clearly teaching how and why they are so vital. My college instructors just said to do it…they didn’t show me how to compare them and individually assess each one. I learned that on my own.
3.). Decide on your thumbnail composition and work out your rough value studies. Try a couple of lighting variations just for fun. You may end up liking one better than what you had originally planned. I do mine digitally sometimes. Just block in big shapes of values and see what happens.
4.) Reference collection time…..whoohoo!!. Google is your friend here but certainly not your only resource. This is the stage where you start to think about the details of your art. Clothing, textures, hairstyles, vehicles, time periods, props…whatever. If you can’t find an image for reference then maybe get something close and try to model one in 3d. I use Sketchup lots of times to model props that I know I’ll have a hard time finding good photos of or can’t afford to procure. I compile as much info and images as I can. I’ll either put them into a folder on my pc or print them out and create a style-board to hang and look at while working. Keeping in mind that at this point it’s only line art modification and adding details to strengthen our original concept. Still no heavy lifting going on here.
5.) Ok, by now we’ve got our line art done, we’ve gathered reference to support the concept. We’ve worked out a value study and made any changes you’ve deemed necessary. Good deal. You’re right on track. Now we hash out a color comp. Again, I do this digitally a lot of the time. Changes are quick and there’s not really too much commitment to be made. Doing a few color studies is always a good idea too. I usually just paint in Photoshop right over a jpeg copy of the approved value study. Drop in big blocks of color first then refine as necessary. It helps if you can actually get it worked out in great detail so that way when painting there is now guesswork as to where detail or color transitions will be needed. I do, however, always leave some room for changes in the final artwork. Sometimes spontaneous variations just work out in your favor. What Bob Ross would refer to as a “happy little accident”. Just let it ride I say but don’t deviate too far off the original color comp. Remember…they too are guidelines and that’s it.
6.) Transfer your line art onto your support. Some people like carbon paper. Some like projectors. Some like to redraw freehand, some like the grid method. Whatever floats your boat. I have a projector. It saves time and I can reproduce my own line art at a larger scale in a fraction of the time it takes to implement the other methods. Some people frown on the idea of tracing line work. I did too until I learned how to draw correctly. Once I sort of figured it I had fewer reservations about using one since I understood the advantages of having one. But whatever, just get it done. It’s not how you went from A to Z. It’s THAT you went from A to Z. Moving on then.
7.) Start blocking in some local color based on the color study which was based on your value study which was based on your thumbnail drawing which was
NOT OPTIONAL starting with dark and unsaturated areas first. OH…now you see why doing it is so important. One thing to keep in mind is the media you’ll be using to achieve your painting goal. I’ll only be covering acrylics here. I do illustrations with acrylics using them like watercolors. One of the greatest things I’ve found out is that acrylic washes are pretty forgiving. If you make a slight mistake you can often times cover it up without too much notice. For bigger mistakes you might just be S.O.L. So pay attention, you know?
8.) Layer areas as necessary to match the color comps. This could take some time depending on the complexity and details you’ve setup for yourself. I have one painting in my studio that took 20 weeks of painting in short spans during the evenings. Don’t be in such a rush. All the best art in the world that has stood the test of time was executed meticulously with care and confidence in each and every stroke. Your masterpiece should be executed no differently.
9.) Refine areas where needed. Make blends, smooth transitions, add textures and emphasize details once the big stuff is knocked out.
10.) sign your name somewhere on it and stick it in a frame when you’re done.
Q7: What are the biggest struggles you encounter as an artist?
A7. TIME…I have so little of it to spare to work on personal artwork or anything for that matter. Right now that’s currently my biggest struggle. Earlier on though I was just like any other young artist. Wanting to know all the down and dirty tricks to drawing and painting so I could be a good artist and have a recognizable style that would set me apart from the rest of the art world. That sort of thing comes with time and experience. There are no tricks to getting ahead of the grade curve other than practice, study and analyzation of your own and other artists’ works.
Another hard part for me to come to grips with was how much to charge clients. I know a lot of people out there also struggle with this. It took me a while to come to a conclusive fair price but I did get there. I don’t have a formula to just hand out. That’s not how it works. There are a lot of variables to consider. My biggest variable was ultimately that I had children to care for and that working for a lesser rate than I concluded was fair was actually going to deprive them to some degree. Plus, when you work for a discounted rate than what you’re willing to really settle for you are only setting the precedent to work for the same lower rate down the road if and when the client calls again. So…you can see how that might assist in becoming a determining factor of what you feel your work is worth. A word of advice though, always be fair in your pricing. Don’t undercut yourself but don’t gouge either. That sort of approach will take you further than you may think.
Ah…let’s see here, ah…creative block. We all suffer from it from time to time. Even the season vets in the industry. It can be intimidating staring at the white canvas. What do I draw? How should I draw it? Is there a point to the idea?…etc. Although I don’t have a tried and true remedy for this I’ve found over time that just doodling or sketching will sometimes free up your creativity that seems locked away in your own mental prison. Sometimes a lot of really neat ideas formulate in the primordial ooze of my wicked stupid doodles. Things I would have never really thought about if I didn’t have some sort of scribbles before me to help arrive at my conclusions about it. So…just draw. No excuses..get busy. Eventually it will work itself out. Don’t be in such a rush all the time and understand that creative block is a key element to your own creative growth. It’s like a hurdle or a wall in your way. Only those that want it bad enough will jump the hurdle or scale the wall. The rest will simply surrender and retreat. That, I believe, is an auto-immune self defense mechanism built into the heart of fundamental creativity itself to help weed out the weak.
Q8: Do you have any other future plans that don’t involve creative art?
A8. Dying is definitely somewhere on that list but I think it’s near the bottom somewhere. Matter of fact it’s probably the last thing on the list. But what if I die choking to death on a cap to a tube of paint that I tried to open with my teeth because it got all crusty and stuck there? Would that void the second half of the question? But seriously mate, Nah…no plans. When you’ve got kids it’s just literally one day at a time. If you have kids then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe in say like 5 years or so that will change but for now I’m sort of landlocked. Just work and raise the chilling and wait patiently in my backyard for the spaceship to land and pick me up. That would be about it really.
Q9: Do you have any personal mottos, quotes or existing quotes that motivates you to do what you love doing? Can you share it with us or provide words of wisdom from your experiences for those who look up to you?
A9 . Jebus mate, people looking up to me…you’re just trying to inflate my head now. I honestly hope that’s not the case…people looking up to me that is. Seriously…don’t do that. I’m just some guy who draws and paints, when you strip away all the exterior and mystique about me that is all you’re really left with. And to be honest it’s not even mystique…it’s just the fact that nobody even knows who I am so take that for what it’s worth. I might be better at drawing and painting than some but I have my artistic heroes too. I know a metric shit ton of people out there that I feel are creatively kicking my ass on the daily. People that I envy for their ridiculous amount of talent and never ending stream of inspiration. I love them and hate them at the same time for it. I don’t ever want to be in a position where people idolize me. I mean…it would be cool and all but it doesn’t appeal to my ego. I’m just a shy, soft spoken, potty-mouthed, nerdy looking fella’ that loves drawing pretty girls but was never had the testicular fortitude to actually try to talk to them..yeah, that type. Ain’t nothing changed since I was a kid really. But let’s see here…a motto or something to that effect. Maybe I’ll be better at that.
Ok…well…yeah, sort of. I have lots. More like nuggets of wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years, not so much mottos. I’ll see if I can’t summarize some of the main points here.
1.) Be humble. No matter how dope your work is…be humble. Nobody likes an arrogant prick even if your work is top notch. That just makes you a top notch arrogant prick…Got it? Good…moving on.
2.) Share openly and freely without agenda or inhibition about your art or process or creative approach and what have you. There is still plenty of room out there in the creative arena to make money even if you divulge your dirtiest and most valued creative secret. I understand if you’re a working artist you need to keep the workflow coming in order to eat. Yeah, yeah…I get it. Just don’t be a dick, you know. For those still unsure please reference #1.
3.) Never stop learning. No matter how good you get at your craft you cannot lose sight of the hunger to be better. Your creativity will die if you do. You will become complacent in your work and it will show. Walking the creative path in life is an art form in itself. Understand what it means to be an artist and don’t mistake it. Being a true artist is a complete blessing. It’s a way of life…not just a hobby. And that goes for all the venues too, not just painters and such. Musicians, directors, actors, designers, engineers…etc. Just strive to be the best you can be each and every day and the progress and accolades that you expect to come with it will certainly follow. So..keep at it.
4.) Take time to look at things abstractly or objectively every once in a while. Meaning…don’t just take what you see at face value all the time. Try to put your own life into a little perspective every so often For example: Every once in a while when I’m out grocery shopping or doing some other mundane activity. As I pass the other people in store I like to take into account their physical appearance at the time and try to develop a story about them (in my head) that explains why they look the way they do and how they ended up in the supermarket on this particular day at the same exact time that I was there. It’s great for the imagination. It’s completely out of context, it’s fun AND helps put your life into better perspective too I think. Even if it is all pretend. Doing that sort of thing helps you to understand a lot about the world and all the various kinds of people that live on it. Fun fun fun!!!
5.) Find inspiration where you can. I find a lot in music lyrics. Just little bits of pure poetry tucked in between some beats, riffs and a melody. The usual places you would expect them to hide in a song. You might find it staring at cars as they go by in the night. You might find it in church. You might find it in the seediest of brothels. Just get yours where you can. I have never seen anyone out on any street corners handing out inspiration. They don’t sell it at Walmart neither. If it can’t be bought nor sold nor given away then it must be free. But only if you’re willing to go find it yourself. So go out there and take it. It’s yours. Don’t ever be ashamed of what your inspiration is or where it is found but instead understand what a completely useful gift inspiration is.
6.) Just do the damned thang’, yo! You will never progress in your art if you don’t push your own boundaries and step outside your comfort zone. You see it a lot of times with artists. Their work looks very ….hmmm…what’s the word….redundant maybe. Limited perhaps. Like the heads are always at the same angle or they don’t draw hands because they are not good at it. Maybe their perspective skills are lacking. Perhaps elements of their drawings or paintings get rushed through because it is not fully understood by the artists what they are working on so they try to cover up their shortcomings by over emphasizing other key areas they are better at. Things like that, you know. If you want to be the baddest mofo in the art world you’re going to have to study up on the things you know you suck at. I’m no different. I do it all the time. I have strengths and glaring weaknesses too. I can’t seem to remember anatomy for the life of me. I have the basics down..but that’s it. Still I get by. I’ve got 5 books on anatomy and brush up on it every so often just because I know I still suck a little at it. I’m not afraid to admit it and I’m certainly not afraid to better myself as an artist by embracing my weaknesses either. So, yeah…it’s like that.
7.) Don’t be lazy. Do it right or do it over. Your choice. This goes along with 6.) When working on something and there is a portion of it that doesn’t seem right to you…chances are it won’t be right to the viewer you’re targeting either. Take the time to correct it no matter how long it takes. There are no shortcuts in art. Even an untrained eye can tell when somebody got lazy in their work. Otherwise…wait till the bad reviews and snide remarks start to roll in to realize that maybe it’s time to start that art project from the beginning again.
8.) Don’t ask your mom to critique your work. Or anyone close to you for that matter. They cannot give you honest answers because your relationship precedes their ability to make an honest evaluation of what you have done with your talents. I don’t ever ask my wife what she thinks about my work. Never. I do ask her for ideas or to help me with the initial stages or to get her input in a lot of other ways but I never ask if my work is good or bad. I will know if I have failed or succeeded by the reaction of my followers and audience.
9.) Don’t ever be afraid to ask another artist questions. It can sometimes be intimidating to ask a question directly to someone you admire. The anonymity of the internet has helped a lot there especially with the online art communities and what not but if you ever have the chance to meet your creative heroes face to face then by all means do and go with a list of questions at the ready. You will be glad you did in the long run.
10.) Enjoy yourself. Laugh (especially at yourself), dance, make stupid faces in the mirror, patronizingly mimic how your parents scolded you as a kid, frighten the meek, do retarded shit, you know? Have fun!!! Be human and embrace it.
Q10: What do you think the future will hold for all artists from all backgrounds from now?
A10. Tough call. I would like to say that it will be like all glitter and rainbows. But really, I have no idea. I think “fine art” (whatever that means) will always have its place. Traditional illustrators may be a dying breed though as less and less is printed and more and more goes digital. I mean…that movement happened very quickly with the inception of Photoshop back in the day. Now look how many digital artists there are. Sooooo many, right. I fear it will only get worse with time until perhaps the New Millennia Traditional Mastery Renaissance takes place or something like that. Art, like everything else, moves in cycles. All things will come around again sooner or later. What’s hot now will be tomorrow’s old news. 15 years from now revisiting what’s hot today will be the flavor of the week once again. Just do what you love regardless of the empty promises of the future.
Q11: To round off the last question, where can your fans and new fans find updated news and progress from you, - Where can we find you?
A11. Well…as much as I hate to admit this, I’m not one of these social-media butterfly types. I just don’t have the time to be jackin’ around on FB all day or answering tweets and all that. I don’t even have a Twitter account. I don’t blog…sorry. I’m not opposed at all to having people hit me up on MM. You can always see some of my works there or on my personal website. If you’re in the DFW area you might catch me a local art show. I still get out there from time to time. That’s where you’re really going to get the best chances to see my latest works. Updates on my personal site come far and few between though so don’t go there daily to see what the latest happenings are. You’ll be sadly disappointed…day after day after day after day….and so on.
I’ll get around to fixing all that though…………………………………………..eventually…
Q12: Ok this question is optional for you, you and I know that art theft is so common now in the internet world, so are there any words you want to share or shout at to those who steal people arts?
Not so much for the thieves but more for the theft victims. Look, you know it happens and might happen to you one day so protect yourself from it as best you can and be smart about it at all times. That’s the best you can do.
But yeah kids…really, don’t be dicks and steal other peoples’ works. Shame on you.
Q2: How did you get into the field of your work? (continued – longer version)
A2- Detour-OK…there’s 2 answers that are quasi-related to this question. I do freelance illustration in my spare time. I just got to a point in my own ability where I felt I had a respectable amount of marketable skill to do it without feeling like a fraud for charging people for work that I felt was sub-standard. For a long time I was embarrassed of my own work and thought that I should definitely improve before trying to charge others for my services. Looking back I’m glad I made that call and it was the right one to make. I know everyone wants to be paid as an artist to do what they love for a living but if your skill set isn’t quite there yet then really, you should try to improve before entering the arena. But, I mean, we all have to start somewhere too so be your own judge but be honest to yourself about it. It doesn’t do you any good to leave a client feeling burned because you can’t live up to your own creative promises.
I started humbly by taking small jobs first then eventually progressing into bigger gigs as I learned how long a certain project should take all that. Project management can be tricky like that. As a freelance artist you never want to break your commitment to your clients, ever. The unwritten rule I live by is to promise less and deliver more. That simple approach always keeps them coming back for more.
Part 2 is that I actually have a day job as a lead creative director for a local company here in Arlington, Texas which includes all aspects of web layout, retail packaging, POP, product photography and all that. I landed that gig based on the experience I got from my job prior which was for a different company but oddly enough, doing the EXACT same job..only minus the awesome title and corporate perks that go with it. That gig I sort of landed by default. When I interviewed I only had my illustration portfolio with me to demonstrate. Not graphic design or web or anything related. The reason I won by default was because other applicants failed to impress with the relevant work they had brought along to demonstrate for that position. Which either means my illustration work was far more impressive than their relevant design work. Or their design work sucked and they were willing to take me on and mold me from the start. I’m not sure which..but that’s how I ended up where I’m at right now in terms of my career. Prior to that I worked all kinds of random jobs from being a preschool teaching aid to a process server to employee at a plastics retailer chain and so on. Regular boring jobs just to get by while studying and practicing my art. Although…preschool TA…that was a really fun gig. I got paid to act like a 4 year old while hanging out with a bunch of other 4 year olds. Can’t beat that!!
The above is just the details though of how it all sort of unfolded for me. I know a lot of people would like shortcut answers to questions like this to maybe help fast-track themselves into an art career. I wish I had an answer like that. For me the short answer would be that given enough time the stars sort of aligned themselves for me. Not because of dumb luck but because of a steadfast walking on the creative path. Eventually if you walk it long enough and keep true to it then the same will happen for you too. Once you’re skill hits a certain level then the creative opportunities will present themselves to you. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to market yourself. You do!! But it gets easier to market yourself the better you get and eventually once you’ve established yourself out there in the art world the jobs will eventually find you. I really hope that makes sense because I really can’t think of another way to explain it.
Anyways kids, that’s about it. Thanks for reading along, hope you enjoyed it.
PS…any questions or comments at all can be directed at me via the above email address.
or via any of the other links / networks provided.
This is THE ONE AND ONLY MAGIC RHINO signing off.
And thank you Khuan Tru for the interview.