From a bungalow in San Marco, Ed Hall’s artistic tentacles reach ’round the world
There is a traditional ornamental shape used in art and architecture known as a quatrefoil, which is essentially a four-leafed outline created from four partially-overlapping, identical circles. This shape could be overlaid upon Ed Hall’s home studio, a perfect representation of this multi-faceted artist. Sitting upstairs in a bungalow addition that he and his wife designed in total, the room is literally divided into four distinct areas, designated for four distinct pursuits.
Spinning around clockwise, one sees shelving with books and news media and a stately desk with pens and paper atop it for rendering cartoon drawings. Next, a corner area for all types of print-making, including materials such as zinc plates for printing small, illustrative etchings. Then, an easel, standing near loads of paints, pastels, and the like, for creating mixed media artwork. And finally, a clean and simple desk with materials and inspiration for drafting residential design plans. While each area is clearly defined, there is no doubt that each overlaps the next within the context of Hall’s work, making up an artistic arsenal that lends a unique approach and outcome to all he creates.
The nexus for all of Hall’s professional creative paths is the University of Florida (UF), where it all began. A Jacksonville native, Hall attended Wolfson High School and took architecture classes that led to a design award his senior year. So, when he entered UF, he did so as an architecture major. “That first year, the math blew it for me,” Hall says, “so I thought, ‘what can I do that’s still design-oriented?’” The answer was pursue a Bachelor of Design degree, which meant switching to the College of Fine Arts and taking many studio art classes. These classes inspired him to stay at UF to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree, and his thesis project culminated in dramatically large-scale figurative works. During this time in Gainesville, he also worked at the well-known, student-run newspaper near campus, The Alligator, drawing political cartoons.
Hall says he left UF a figurative artist ready to teach at the college level. But when he returned to Jacksonville in 1987, there were no university positions available, so he pivoted, switching gears professionally for the first of many times; unknowingly setting up what has become his personal and professional strategy – to follow the tide of each creative market in which he is skilled and shift his focus accordingly. This first redirection was toward his original passion, residential design, and he started working for large homebuilders, honing his skills in designing house plans, eventually setting out on his own and forming his company, Design Alternatives, in 1991. Though it varies by state, in Florida, a residential designer, who is not a registered architect, can design homes of up to three stories. Hall creates plans for new homes, additions, and remodels.
Hall’s wife is an architect and interior designer, and they met through architecture he says. This shared passion led them to remodel their San Marco home together, executing a seamless two-story addition that replicates all interior and exterior details original to the house.
“For awhile there, residential design was my bread and butter, giving me the time and resources – well, maybe not time, but resources – to cartoon and paint,” says Hall. “The main thing was that I was working for myself in my home.”
Around 2000, Hall did get a chance to teach art, adjuncting first at the University of North Florida (UNF), and then at Flagler College in St. Augustine until 2003. That year, he joined the cartoon syndicate Artizans, based in Canada, to help distribute his cartoons internationally. At that point, however, the housing market was booming and he felt the need to keep his main focus on residential design.
But, when the housing market crashed in 2008, “I had to find another way again,” he says, and he started concentrating on cartooning.
Written by Meredith T. Matthews