Consider for a moment a landscape painter, based in the Bible Belt, whose goal is to blend faith and life experience with every brush stroke. Now imagine what his paintings might look like. Do you see a vibrant sun rising over the Smoky Mountains? Maybe a long-haired Jesus lookalike sitting on a bus bench, tuning his guitar? What you probably don't expect is a somber sunset, a tower of smoke rising from a wildfire, or a storm roiling over rough waves.
Meet Adam Hall, a painter from Music City, USA, whose faith-driven paintings speak more to melancholy than Mother Mary. Hall's gray, bucolic landscapes are both gloomy and gorgeous, like rain clouds on the horizon. The forests he depicts are sure to hold trolls. His seascapes would turn Ishmael's stomach upside down.
For years, Hall's paintings were unfocused. "They were extremely vague interpretations of landscapes," he tells Creators. Meanwhile many of his peers—most of whom were trained—depicted subjects in meticulous detail.
"Being self-taught, it was intimidating for me to try things more in the realm of realism," Hall says. "I was constantly comparing myself […] to other artists who were creating these photorealistic paintings."
Eventually, Hall's landscapes took more definitive shape. Outlines of individual clouds formed, and branches sprouted from blurry trees.
"I'm constantly trying to find this balance of tight detail and loose atmosphere, because I don't want my work to look like a photograph," Hall says. "I don't want to become a photorealist, but at the same time, I do want there to be a pretty strong sense of place, not just a real abstract sense of place." Hall gets his inspiration from a number of locations, including the Pacific Northwest and Tennessee, but it seems his strongest inspiration comes from his childhood surroundings.
Born and raised in a coal mining town in West Virginia, Hall's upbringing was surrounded by forests, with some thousands of acres in his backyard. "The woods were such a big part of my childhood," he says. And although Hall eventually moved away, most of his family and friends stayed.
"There's a refreshing side to going back and visiting," he says. "It's a really simplistic way of life. I get that, and there's a lot of positive in that. But at the same time it is pretty depressing. The economy is depressing, there's a lot of fracking which has destroyed where I lived. A lot of people can't afford rent." Hall's ode to his old home is a painting called Blue Collar Dreams, which depicts a small cyan house beneath layers of dark clouds and a sliver of reflected sunlight.
Since becoming a father, Hall has added a bit more color to his palette through subtle sunsets or a bright rain jacket. His most recent solo show at Robert Lange Studios, Upon Shoulders, depicts the world from up on high.
See more of Adam Hall's work on his website.