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MARCH 9, 2020
Last Wednesday, we visited Sasha Hallock’s studio in Gowanus-Red Hook-ish.
It was a really sunny day (although SO windy), and Sasha kindly joined me as I was trying to synthesize some Vitamin D on the corner of Court & Lorraine.
Sasha then takes me to his studio space with dozens of other artists. Think rows and rows of rooms along a winding, maze-like corridor, with a number on each door. This is a pretty common arrangement, in both private buildings and artist residencies.
Sasha shares his room with a fellow artist who works in photography.
But you can instantly tell which side is his, by the neatly arranged wall of brushes, rulers, and other tools that mirrors the way his small paintings are displayed like a grid.
What’s up, Sasha?
Sasha Hallock has been producing a lot of small-scale paintings in watercolor and colored pencil.
The way he explains his art is as different things - colors, shapes, and textures - coming together in harmony. At a close look, for example, you can tell the difference between softer, lighter planes that retain the texture of paper and planes where he has put pressure on color pencil to get the maximum saturation.
Sasha’s pursuit of harmony comes equal parts from his faith and family life. In difficult moments of his life when he doubted faith, the space of painting offered him sanctuary. We can’t abolish life’s challenges but we can work through them indeed.
He is also intrigued by everything architecture, so you can tell that he enjoys the process of making each shape in his painting fit in with one another. “Structural integrity!” I say to myself. I feel like the radical differences between each building block, which almost shouldn’t make sense together, is what precisely makes the end result that much more satisfying.
So what are Sasha’s paintings made of?
He actually uses many different brands of colored pencils, both expensive and cheap. Even cheap colors have their own vibrancy. He finds the mixture of these two materials very interesting.
For this one, he started with this orange-red, seed-like shape. He leans over the piece of paper to carefully fill in the whole area, his fingers pressing firmly on the pencil. Just the act of filling something out feels good, even for me as I watch. It gives you the sense of a start and end, a sense of completion. Everything makes sense at that moment.
As Sasha moves onto the second shape, which almost looks like the sides to the first one, he now leans his pencil to create a softer fill. It’s amazing how it even sounds differently from the first shape. A breezier brushing up against paper.
and this is the finished product.
This is also an exciting time for him, because he’s starting to experiment with a larger canvas and oil paint.
His current task is to recreate textures of colored pencil in oil paint, Sasha says - which is difficult because oil takes more measures of control in diluting and applying with brush.
Another challenge would be to translate the effect of his small paintings. “I really appreciate the effect of smallness alone,” I tell Sasha. “Makes me want to take them home and protect them. Like memorabilia.”
...and of course with any artist, the conversation about “selling out”.
“Do you think the struggle to make ends meet and the practical limits you face as an artist actually motivates you?” I ask him.
Sasha thinks for a second.
There is definitely a lot riding on his shoulders, first and foremost his family. Sasha says it’s important to set priorities straight - relationships are everything in life. Putting being a good husband, father, and neighbor before your own ego.
At the same time, Sasha is aware and grateful of what he has. Even this studio space, he says, is somewhat of a rare commodity in this city. And so is the privilege to make art and put in into the world.
I wholeheartedly agree with this, thinking that maybe this is where the choice of watercolor and colored pencil, very “soft” mediums compared to acrylic, and small papers out of all things, comes from: the willingness to be vulnerable.