CopperPress #CP17 by Royce Deans 2004
I just got done with a whirlwind tour of your website. I am delighted and impressed by the feeling of being there that i get from your sketchbook pieces. As I was going through them I thought that you must really be doing this drawing on locations. They didn't seem to be from you head, neither did they look like they had be drawn from photographs. I suppose it is the immediacy that is so apparent. And then I saw the photographs of you actually drawing and all of my wonderings were put to rest.
1) You obviously have been drawing for a long time and are very
comfortable and confident with your pencil. I was going to ask you if you could ever remember a time when you weren't drawing, but I don't think i will. I will ask, What is like to feel like you need to draw everything you see?
MH: At one point in my life I realized that I had a certain facility with a pencil or pen and I received attention and praise for that. So, it's a behavioral equation that motivated me and still does. As time went on I realized certain other aspects of art (maybe spiritual) that sustained me and in which I took refuge when necessary. Drawing became a language I could use to articulate certain things I saw. when I felt an injustice was done me at the hands of my parents I often took revenge by making "editorial" drawings of the situation. I would draw
my parents as ogres and myself as the oppressed child.
2) Not only do you have a really great way with your pencil, but your watercolor treatment helps carry not only the atmosphere of the place, but it even gives the sense of what it smells like. How is it doing these little watercolors on location?
MH: Maybe the smell is conveyed by the various condiments and drinks I have tried using to color the sketches. I often use tea on a sketch while at a restaurant. and I have experimented with soy sauce, coffee, ketchup, mustard, and fish sauce, among others. A few of these do give the sketches a certain aroma (or stench) that lingers. But, for the
record, most of the sketches that I do from life are colored later at my desk with watercolor paint.
3) Did you have any kind of schooling that would have taught you in the ways of so many artists that have come before you? If so, where'd you go?
MH: I studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.
4) What do most people do when they notice that you are sketching them?
MH: Most people don't notice when I am sketching them. I am good at keeping discreet. I have been caught on occasion, but never was there a conflict. Maybe once or twice some lowlife would say "don't draw me!" then I say "I'm not" or I just continue drawing and look beyond them.
5) Are the Chinese better at dealing with finding out they are being used as a model than Americans, or is it a universal reaction?
MH: It was difficult to draw discreetly in china. The people in china have black hair and my hair is not black so that gave me away as a foreigner. Occasionally a crowd would form around my sister and me before I even considered making a drawing. I don't remember being caught drawing though.
6) Your client list for companies and publications that you do
illustration work for is impressive. How differently do you approach your commercial work?
MH: With commercial work I must satisfy the needs of the publication. And I do it gladly. I know my worth and don't resent cooperating with an art director. A lot of young illustrators feel threatened I think by art directors. I know i did.
7) When you are doing an illustration, is it easier for you if they give you some direction? Or does too much direction ruin the spontaneity for you?
MH: It's a fine line. I've discovered over the years that there are good art directors and bad ones. The good ones make me feel comfortable and the bad ones do the opposite. The good ones are a credit to that profession and I respect them very much. I prefer to make sketches freely and then discuss them rather than being told to draw a certain thing. Sometimes though a specific idea can free me up in terms of not having to conceptualize... as long as I like the idea.
8) As you travel you obviously choose to make drawings to have as memories and I suppose souvenirs. Are there any other little trinkets or babbles that you find yourself picking up in spite of yourself in your travels?
MH: I am a collector of postcards. It was, for a while, a sport of mine to steal at least one postcard from every museum I went to. Reproductions on postcards were a cheap way for me to have art at home without shelling out for big art books.
9) What fascinates you with the way other cultures operate?
MH: A lot of people remark on the differences between various cultures, but I am fascinated by the similarities. That may be the same thing (ie. comparison), but it is a matter of perspective. I am fascinated by the small things that people around the world do despite our cultural differences. for example we all say "mom" as our first word. another example: we nod to indicate "yes" (although I heard that the greeks do something different). we all fold down the top corner of a page in a book we are reading to indicate the place at which we stopped... and we all have art, religion, government, and sports. We also all have alternate ways of saying "yes," verbally... like in english we can say "yeah" or "uh-huh" and people understand it.
10) Other than you illustrative work and your sketches, do you make any other visual type art? Maybe something you do just for your own enjoyment.
MH: I am doing some black and white ink drawings of NYC to be made into a book at the moment.
11) Can you explain the difference is visual art and say performing music in regards to your own personal fulfillment?
MH: In visual art there is no applause. But music disappears unless it is recorded.
12) Living in New York, life is an adventure everyday. Where do you go to get away? You can't go to China every time you need to escape.... plus I can't imagine Hong Kong is too awfully relaxing.
MH: Central park can be relaxing. So can riding my bike. And the ocean is a subway ride away. Plus I have a nice bed.
Yeti Two by Mike McGonigal 2002
"Black Ink Is My Blood"
A Manhattan-based artist and musician, Marcellus Hall is honest, straightforward, and cool. Now, 'cool' of course is one those words that doesn't mean much these days, if it ever did - teenaged kids and hipster post-kids alike might say 'cool' like, well, really a lot of times a day. But Marce approaches Platonic cool, real cool, the ideal cool - of Bob Dylan at Newport in '64, or Corey Feldman on the set of the Goonies in '85, or how the Marlboro Man used to be so unspeakably cool until those really sick anti-smoking billboards with the diseased organs and wrecked teeth on 'em started to get to you. Hall makes his living as an illustrator, and his work appears all the time in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and NY Press. Widely published though he is, Hall is likely best known, to Yeti readers anyway, as a musician. I could never figure out why his old blues-destructo band Railroad Jerk weren't bigger, especially considering how the dude can really friggin' sing - croon even. The same goes for his lates band, White Hassle, who makes a positively anthemic, stripped-down hobo-folk-blues-country-ish noise that's in many ways an improvement over RRJ. (Picture a very friendly musical collaboration between Sam Cooke, the Holy Modal Rounders, and Hank Sr. going down in a junkyard, the lyrics a sliced-up-life, poetry-of-the-particular triumph.) Marce was interviewed September, 2002.
YETI: Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?
MH: Frans Masereel, George Grosz, Ben Shahn, Ralph Steadman, Emil Nolde, E.L. Kirchner, Rockwell Kent, Arnold Roth, Edward Sorel, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Toulouse la Trec, Robert Crumb, Barry Blitt, Raymond Pettibon, Miguel Covarrubias, Peter Arno, Steve Brodner, Brian Cronin, Saul Steinberg, Pieter Bruegel, David Levine, Ronald Searle, Al Hirschfeld, and Hiroshige ...these artists all walk the line, in my eyes, between high brow and low brow - somehow. They also employ a sense of humor in their work. and they are committed to depicting everyday life. ...all things that are important to me.
YETI: How long have you been drawing?
MH: I've been drawing from before i could open my eyes. I was the guy in high school who was asked to draw everything.
YETI: How did you arrive at your current style?
MH: When I was in art school we illustration students were encouraged to adopt a "style" with which to market their work. I was wary of forcing a style however; I wanted it to come naturally. my plan was to draw constantly and let a style evolve. Probably as a result of my sketchbook keeping I have arrived at a style that is simple and broad rather than detailed. Drawing from life, one is forced to work quickly and make simple shapes. I consider a healthy style, though, to be an evolving one.
YETI: What's your favorite way of working (time of day/medium/anything)?
MH: I work better when I have a deadline. I don't procrastinate until the last minute though; I measure the work I have to do with the time allotted and am disciplined in that way. I like to use black ink. Black ink is my blood. I could drink it and not get sick. I use watercolors for color. Sometimes I use tea. Mint tea is yellow and black tea is umber.
YETI: In what ways is visual art different from making music?
MH: I like to point out how they are similar: rhthym, texture, repetition, composition, harmony... are all words you would use in describing a song OR a drawing.
YETI: How did you get into doing illustration?
MH: It was natural for me to go into illustration. I crave an audience for my work and I love drawing.
YETI: Why do you continue to do so much work for New York Press (no value judgment just curious)?
MH: There is great value for me in doing a weekly illustration gig. It is like a band doing a residency at a club. It is like the beatles in hamburg honing their chops. It is my aerobics workout. I am free to experiment and have a constant audience. Up until now, the nypress art directors have never meddled with their illustrator's submissions. That freedom is important. I sometimes try to see what I can get away with without being
censored. I used to write anonymous letters to the editor about my work. sometimes I try to see how fast I can crank out a quality illustration for the press. It is a test of my abilities. They pay so poorly that I can afford to experiment.
YETI: Is there a lot of hustling involved in doing illustration work?
MH: There is a lot of hustle in the illustration world, but I have been lucky. While I did my share of door knocking, portfolio drop-offs, and mailings; I have gotten to a point where I can coast. This last year, though, things slowed down and I sent out mailers.
YETI: What's the best gig you've had? The worst (that you can talk about)?
MH: I once got a full 2-page spread for Sports Illustrated when I was starting out. I did the job, but I remember feeling inadequate. I would tackle it more confidently now. Another time I had to illustrate a night club for the New Yorker. I went to the club and sketched people dancing, got drunk on the new yorker's tab, and met a girl. Later i colored one of the sketches and delivered it to the magazine. A few weeks later i got a fat check and the sketch was printed. Worst gigs? I find it hard to draw portraits for and of people I know. I am inclined toward caricature and patrons inevitably want the subject to look good or cute or whatever. So there is a conflict and the art suffers.
YETI: Have you done any ad-based work?
MH: I have done very little ad-based work, but I plan to get into it. Apparently it pays more. It's time to sell-out.
YETI: How much time do you spend doing visual stuff and how much making music? Is this an ideal balance for you?
MH: I don't know the percentage breakdowns. sometimes it is ideal. But sometimes I feel I'm cheating the visual art side. Recently it has been more visual art. You can only stay so long in the rock game. music will always be a passion nonetheless.
YETI: What are you listening to lately?
MH: Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Moldy Peaches, Ron Sexsmith, Oum Kalsoum, Luis Segura, Cake, Kei, Bach, Radiohead, White Hassle, Eminem, Rufus Wainwright...
YETI: What's up with White Hassle? I need to hear more White Hassle!
MH: japan will release our recently finished "the death of song" cd this fall (on a label called Mazri) and it looks like orangerecordings.com (who released our "life is still sweet" ep) will release it here in the U.S.
YETI: Do you still play with that guy who did turntables with you all in Austin in 2001 or was that sort of a one-off thing?
MH: DJ Atsushi Numata has been a permanent guest for a number of years now. he plays as many shows with us as he is able. if we go to japan, of course, he will go too as he is from there.
YETI: So, you take photos too right? What are those like?
MH: Who said I take photos? i do, but not professionally. I like to take photos to use later for reference in my drawings.
YETI: Do you write also, other than lyrics?
MH: Besides notes to myself and email, it's just lyrics that I write.