March 31, 2023

Michael Wayne Hall has made a career of using color and form to create unexpected emotions in those who view his work. His abstract paintings are grounded in his love of the flat-color aesthetics of vintage screen-printing. For this reason, his works feel at once both familiar and new, retro and modern, calming and energizing. Michael’s work is always created by hand and painted without the use of tape or masking, which allows for the “realness” of wobbles, smudges, and other imperfections to remain. While each piece is extremely precise, a close examination reveals the handmade nature of the process. Mistakes are left to be discovered. If you’d like to see some of Michael’s work, check out his Instagram—or head over to the Still Austin Tasting Room, where he painted the interiors!


1. What gets your motor running?

The one thing that has always motivated me is adventure. I’m ALWAYS working when I’m home, seven days a week, and I’m a bit of an introvert—so it’s easy for me to just stay in and keep my head down. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I can get stuck in that, and that I have to leave my comfort zone sometimes to allow myself to reset and absorb new experiences. My brain is usually firing on all cylinders after a trip, inspired and overflowing with ideas. I think this is why my painting tends to have so much of a sense of movement to it.

2. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.

There’s a line in Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues” that always gets me, where he says: “I have seen the David, seen the Mona Lisa too, and I have heard Doc Watson play ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’.” I relate so much to that notion that we can hold a traditional country/blues song right alongside the finest works of the Old Master artists. I love Marcel Duchamp, Frank Stella, Orson Welles, and Frederic Chopin, but my favorite art anywhere is the simple line drawings done by hobos and railroad workers on the sides of freight trains. These drawings roll past us every day, through nearly every town on the continent, and are barely noticed by the majority of people. These are artworks that will never yield a penny, drawings that the artist might never see again after the train leaves, yet they showcase so much style, obsession, and dedication to craft. What could be more inspiring than a piece of art that is in constant motion, that can only ever be seen fleetingly?

3. When we look at your art, the first thing that strikes us is your use of colors, and how they play off of one another. Do you decide your colors by instinct? And are you trying to create specific moods with them?

I usually have a specific color or two in mind that I instinctively know I want to use for a given piece, and then I play with all the steps in between until I start to see the colors “moving” in just the right way. Certain tones will start to vibrate off of each other, and the palette suddenly comes to life. I avoid fluorescents, and I try to build the energy and motion using colors that feel natural and not too loud or overpowering.

4. Is it possible to learn to appreciate the subtleties of color, or is it something you’re born with?

It’s definitely something you can learn. I like to think I’m still learning. I go through phases where the colors seem to develop instinctively, and I can mix electric-feeling palettes quickly and effortlessly. And then there are phases where I’ll find one color that just isn’t doing what I want, and I’ll make subtle changes to it and end up repainting the same section of a piece half a dozen times before it’s right. It’s a matter of knowing that you’re going to get better by choosing the wrong colors sometimes and being open to learning and re-doing the work over and over until you get it right.

5. How does shape and format interact with color?

Because I use my palette to give the work a strong sense of movement, I try to balance the high color energy with tranquil, meditative shapes. My ultimate goal is to find a harmony in each piece that you could compare to going for a walk in the woods: it’s both energizing and calming at the same time.

6. How did you come to land on the specific kind of art you create?

I have a lengthy background in screen-printing, and I’ve always loved that flat, stenciled color look, with absolutely no blending of colors side by side. But over time, I felt dissatisfied with the mechanical process of printing and felt much more drawn to the Zenlike process of hand applying paint with a brush. Inevitably, my love for that hard-edged aesthetic found its way quickly into my painting practice and I left printing behind.

7. How do you take your whiskey?

Rye with one ice cube.

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