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About the Artist: Mike Hale
“Bear Odyssey” is what Mike Hale named the Epps Advertising bear. He explained that the bear’s design was inspired by the move 2001: A Space Odyssey, and one can certainly find images reminiscent of the Milky Way all over his bear.
Look closely to find horizons, sunbursts, sunsets, sunrises, comets, shapes of planets. Look for the color palette of galactic skies, the repetition of geometric shapes—circles and triangles—in every inch of the bear. “Bear Odyssey” takes you places out of this world.
I read more about Mike in an issue of Art Matters which the editor has been kind enough to allow me to present here word-for word. ~jane stahl
“Painting from the Gut”
By Donna Dvorak
Published in Art Matters, September 2004
Editor Nichole Stella
Hale creates these textured pieces in his studio, wearing paint-splattered jogging shorts and periodically sipping a cup of tea. His concentration is broken only for an afternoon jog.
Last year, he struggled with another threat to his artistic concentration: symptoms ranging from difficulty concentrating and focusing, to hot flashes and numbness in his hands and feet plagued him.
“On day I woke up and my arm was numb. It felt like somebody injected it with Novocain,” he says. Symptoms like these left Hale, and the doctors, puzzled. Last September, after two MRIs, Hale was diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis.
“Once I found out, I was glad I finally knew what was wrong with me…I believe that my art has improved. There’s a certain degree of maturity (that I’ve developed) and I place more emphasis on the development of ( my art). I go through periods where I can’t think very well, so I take advantage of the good parts,” he says. It was during these bouts with illness that Hale realized that art is an integral part of himself.
“It’s who I am. When I got ill I wasn’t able to concentrate on my artwork. It occurred to me that it’s who I am—without art it gets kind of scary.”
There’s another side to Hale’s work, one that’s dear to many Elvis and Marilyn fans.
“I’ve done iconic paintings of Elvis. In 1998 I had a show in Old City called “The Elvis Year,” which included my wood icons that light up,” he says. “Someone told me there was an international traveling show and that I should enter some slides. I did. (In response), I received a letter from Graceland. They loved one of my 4’ x 5’ paintings of Elvis in acrylics and rhinestones entitled “King.” It traveled all over the world including Hawaii, Korea, Japan, and throughout the USA. But, for me, the cool thing was that my painting was hanging with famous artists: Jasper John, Andy Warhol and Christo—the artist who wraps buildings. At one point I walked over to touch my painting. Suddenly, security guards ran over and told me not to touch it. It was my five minutes of fame, although it traveled for about two and a half years.”
Now Hale is exhibiting his works as an independent artist, but also as a member of “The New Eclectic.” This is a handful of professional abstract and figurative painters and sculptors from Bucks County.
“Much inspiration is gained through continually creating and exploring,” he says. “Over the passage of time I have learned the value of patience and persistence. My work has matured and evolved through determination and devotion to creativity.”
Art is to Michael Hale what a morning cup of java is to many people: without it the day just isn’t complete.
Hale, 43, paints abstract art in which he combines the canvas with foil and rolls large drums on a flat, hard surface to create the illusion of metal on the canvas. He paints in layers, building and sanding down the layers as he goes along.
“I paint intuitively,” he says. “I start with a slab or paint and go from there. It’s a gut feeling.”
Hale is originally from Pittsburgh but moved to the Philadelphia area about 20 years ago. He now lives in Gilbertsville. His childhood inspiration came from his aunt and great-grandmother—both artists—and his early art education.
“I created art for extra credit in elementary school. In high school I attended “Summer Happenings,” a program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Entering a college atmosphere and learning about contemporary art during a summer session inspired me and jump-started my career.”
In college, Hale concentrated on design and figure anatomy. “Now my favorite paintings are abstracts. My influences arrive by sight, sound, and intuition. These elements are the vehicle that transports my imagination into layers of paint that breathe, move and float atmospherically. Capturing the precise moment is essential in composing my works. My technique of sanding the layers of paint on paper can easily destroy the piece. However, because of this process, I’m able to expose hidden under-paintings and transfer them to the foreground.”
Hale uses a combination of acrylics and foils in an abstract technique he developed.
“I combined the canvas with foil, which led to a foil-on-wood panel that actually appears as sheet metal. In “Drifters” I used a roller technique. I developed huge drums, like rollers, and I rolled them across the canvas. I paint flat on a hard surface and rarely use an easel. After I paint flat on canvas, I re-stretch it. In “Drifters” people will see movement, an undercurrent with the roller technique. The roller picks up a splatter of image and repeats it as the drum rolls across the surface giving a sense of movement and rhythm. With the dimension of the roller or drum I can change the timing of it. A smaller drum repeats the pattern more often. A larger drum makes it more spaced and slows the pattern down.
Intuitively knowing when to stop is the key to a good painting, says Hale. “It’s knowing when to say “A-ha.” I think as artists, we all make that mistake. There’s a point where (the painting) looks perfect and (sometimes) we mess it up and never get it back.”
For Hale, art is both a creation of something original, and an illusion.
“I’m trying to create something that hasn’t been done,” he says. “Creating the illusion of sheets of metal embossed with lines and map-like shapes transports the viewer on a journey across a metallic field. Impulsively, there seems to be a need to touch the surface, to investigate the origin and its path. Sanding is also a key factor with these pieces. By varying the flow of movement and pressure, a range of different qualities can be produced.”