Losing time by finding his sense of place
Whenever Bradley Hall picks up a brush or pen to create art, a part of his world disappears.
"I lose time,'' said Hall, who knows the artist's pleasure of losing himself completely in his work.
Fortunately for us, another part of his world re-asserts itself: his rural sense of place.
His watercolor, pen and ink, and linoleum block cut artworks focus often on the rural environment he loves to explore, and sees so keenly.
His depictions of the world around him are as likely to feature the 1954 Chevy parked in a farm garage as a barn cupola and weather vane poking into the muted blue sky of a changing season.
His rural sense of place can come as a surprise to those discovering his works -- once they learn that he couldn't wait to move to the big city. He made Chicago his home for much of his adult life.
"I miss Chicago,'' he said, but just as quickly added: "But I love my studio here.''
It's his studio that is introducing many to his works today.
Hall grew up in Granite Falls, graduated from high school there in 1976 and moved almost immediately to Chicago for a factory job. He said he was a "late bloomer'' to art, but once it took hold it became his passion. He studied at the American Academy of Arts in the early 1990s and practiced his art more and more while also continuing his work with a Chicago manufacturing firm.
He kept his ties to family and home, and often told his mother that an old church building in his hometown's heart near the Minnesota River would make a great art studio.
One day she casually mentioned that the building at 1000 Prentice Street was being put up for sale. Originally built in 1988-89 as the Episcopal English Church, it served as the municipal library from 1920 to 1976. The city kept its doors open as a place for senior citizens to play cards and visit, but in 2004 decided it was time to put the aged structure up for sale.
Hall hastily sent in a $1 bid and made plans to raise the ante in an auction sale, but he had no need. His was the only bid.
Two years of hard work and many more of those dollars, and his studio has become one of the featured destinations for the annual Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl known as the Meander.
Hall knows that many come to see how he's transformed the spacious interior of the church into an art studio and living space, but they soon find themselves as equally interested in his artistic renderings of the rural world they know.
He supports himself as a graphic artist for Jim's Clothing and Sporting Goods in Dawson, which offers graphic art design, embroidery, screen printing and specialty advertising products.
In his free time he enjoys exploring the countryside with camera in hand. In his studio, he uses his growing inventory of photographs as inspiration for the subjects to depict with his artist's eye.
Many of his subjects become watercolor works on canvas. Hall said he's always enjoyed watercolor, both for its ease and the immediacy of it.
He also enjoys creating pen and ink works. Increasingly, he's also creating linoleum block cuts of the images.
This year as in the previous, A to Z Printing in Montevideo has hand-printed his linoleum works to create a Meander calendar.
Like any discipline, Hall said art requires lots of commitment and devotion, and what many of us understand as long hours at the easel.
That comes easy in a studio where time disappears, and the desire to create only grows.
Hall said his favorite work is always "my next one.''
He completes each work eager to start the next with the feeling "this time I'm going to really get it,'' he said.