Motorcycles as Fine Art - the Paintings of Stephen Hall
By Kathi Caldwell-Hopper
“I’ve always loved to draw,” says Stephen Hall. Like most artists, he is aware that if you love to draw, you will find a way to bring it into your life in some form or another.
Cautioned by his high school art teacher to not pursue a career in illustration art, because competition at the time was fierce, Stephen opted instead to focus on engineering. It was a fine career choice and it kept him busy, but Stephen says he still found a way to draw in his spare time.
Perhaps his training as an engineer gave him the skill to draw with precision and that is just what he did some years later when he began to do highly detailed drawings of motorcycles.
He laughs when recalling, “In 1969 I had a Honda 305 motorcycle. I associated it with the feeling of freedom. And even then, I was always drawing.”
Although he did not have that motorcycle for very long, Stephen always remembered the bike. Years later, after living in Vermont, where he raised a family, he resided in the village of Bath, New Hampshire. Even later, Stephen moved to the Concord area to be closer to his sons. One day, perhaps recalling his own motorcycle from years ago, Stephen decided to draw his son’s bike.
“It was a precision portrait,” he recalls. “I was always interested in computers and when I got digital painting software, it gave me the tools to do the precise drawings.”
In that program, with drafting tools built in for measurements, Stephen was able to get the details he needed. He drew freehand using the program and measured using a ruler. Airbrushing is also involved and the finished product is a piece of artwork that would please any motorcycle enthusiast or art lover.
Stephen’s incredible motorcycle art, both digital and acrylic, will be on display in an exhibit titled “Live Free and Ride” during the month of June at VynnArt Gallery in Meredith. Anyone and everyone who loves art and motorcycles should plan to see the show; artwork will be for sale.
Says VynnArt Gallery owner Vinnie Hale, “During the winter months I am closed for business on Tuesdays. But behind the scenes there are five of us who meet and have a closed paint session, Stephen being one of us. During one of our conversations I mentioned that the third year I was open, a gentleman came in and bought $7,000 worth of art work during Motorcycle Week. And years since, I have continued to do well. To make a long story short, Stephen shared with me that he is a motorcycle enthusiast. I thought it would be a cool idea for a show during bike week and asked if he could do a motorcycle themed show. He immediately accepted the challenge. I put him on my calendar of events and wished him good luck. A week before deadline he came in with unbelievable art work. It is a mixture of acrylic paintings and digital art. You have to see it to believe it.”
A press release from the gallery explains, “Several of Steve's motorcycles are drawn using a 13-inch tablet. The workflow is detailed and very time consuming. To start a drawing, he calculates precise measurements to establish key points and angles in the drawing. Then he freehand draws the motorcycle parts in correct proportions and placement. The next step is to add layers of airbrushed color, shading, text and backgrounds. These steps are also done freehand. The rest of his works are acrylic paintings on artist board or canvas. The bikers are posing on their machines in front of familiar Lakes Region scenes such as the iconic Weirs Beach sign.”
However, motorcycle art isn’t the only thing Stephen creates. His eyes light up when he begins to talk about acrylic painting of landscapes. Many of his paintings are of historical places and old buildings. Fans will recognize his series of paintings of the former mill brick buildings in downtown Laconia. “I paint a lot of typical old mill buildings in the area,” he says.
When he resided in Bath, New Hampshire, Stephen was a member of the Ammonoosuc Region Art Council and networked with other artists. This was invaluable to give him access to a supportive artistic group. At that point, he was largely self-taught, but that changed when he became a member of the Lakes Region Art Association after moving to the Concord area. He met and took lessons with well-known local artist Gerri Harvey who is a skilled acrylic painter.
Gerri taught Stephen how to mix paint on the palette and how to keep acrylic paint wet and useable when he is painting.
On his website www.stevehallart.com, Stephen explains, “When I began painting in acrylics two years ago, there was no looking back. Having previously worked in pen and ink and in digital drawing programs, I was curious and wanting to try this new medium. My first acrylic piece was of Mount Monadnock, painted as a lesson with artist, Gerri Harvey. After moving to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, surrounded by beautiful lakes and majestic mountains, what drew me the most were the historical and iconic scenes and buildings. Like many New England mill towns, Laconia, my new home city, has a river running through it. While inspired by my surroundings, what I found myself most wanting to paint were the mills, farms, neighborhoods and city streets so rich in color and story, left by those who were here before us. My hope is that by looking at my art, you will pause and take notice of the rich warm red of the bricks, of the architectural details of a bygone era, of the slant of the late winter sun touching the tops of the buildings. And in that moment, you will see what I see, care about preserving the history of each place, feeling your connection to those who were here before us and those who will cherish these places long after we are gone. I hope you will become a part of the story.”
Some of those wonderful street scenes include paintings of Laconia during all sorts of weather, a view of the old Colonial Theater, and another of an intersection in the downtown area, to name but a few scenes.
For those who are intrigued with Stephen’s motorcycle artwork, the VynnArt Gallery show is a wonderful opportunity to view the work up close. “There will be eight digital drawings of motorcycles in different forms and four paintings of bikes as well,” Stephen explains.
These days Stephen is not focusing so much on the digital motorcycle artwork, for a variety of reasons. While fun to do, each digital piece takes many hours and like many artists, Stephen has evolved and now spends a lot of time painting and taking workshops to learn new things.
He and his partner, Gerri Harvey, share a studio space in Laconia and seem to always be busy between painting or getting ready for an exhibit. Gerri also teaches and both are past members of the Lakes Region Art Association.
What are Stephen’s future goals as an artist? “I hope to get better and find more places to exhibit my artwork,” he says.
Stephen paints because of the positive feeling he gets from it versus feeling driven to create to sell a lot of paintings. Like any artist who just loves what he is doing, Stephen Hall still finds time to draw and to make art an everyday part of his life.
To see Stephen’s work, plan to stop by VynnArt Gallery at 30 Main Street in Meredith or call the gallery at 603-279-0557.
Stephen also has an exhibit titled “Stephen Hall’s New Hampshire” at Brothers Gallery at 107 B Lehner Street in Wolfeboro with a June 27 reception from 4 to 7 pm. (Call Brothers Gallery at 603-393-4791.)
Alternately, you may view more of Stephen’s artwork, including some of the detailed motorcycle art, on his website, www.stevehallart.com.