Hal Mayforth is more of “an idea guy” than a narrative guy. He started his artistic career in music, which he continues to this day, but found that you needed other people too much. But he found fine art too heartbreaking. Hence his move to illustration and comics.
Hal is a big believer in sketchbooks. He uses them for lots of experimentation like they are his laboratories. Your brain is like a muscle, he says, and you have to use it. To stay in shape, your body needs physical exercise. Your brain needs both mental exercises and the physical. Hal goes on long bike rides for the endorphins to pump up his brain. Hal is currently on sketchbook vol. 101, but that doesn’t include the over 70 sketchbooks he uses for job work or the family and travel sketchbooks.
To maintain his freelancing life-style, Hal is all about maintaining many small income sources: comics, illustrations, humorous paintings on wood panels, and more. He will often come up with a marketable series: dental, pets, math, coffee, reading. He will make illustrations and work to sell them to the appropriate audience, like libraries for the reading illustrations.
One of the main medias Hal uses is watercolor. But he is completely self-taught. He got the book Exploring Color by Needle Seeland and employed lots of experimentation. To aid in this experimenting, Hal would keep the illustration simple and let the watercolor do the heaving lifting. He also practiced by making one watercolor painting after work every day. He says watercolor is all about pigment. He works almost entirely wet on wet. Recently, though, he has moved more into acrylics because you can do light over dark. To scan his watercolors, he uses an old S1400 that has 2 lamps which helps negate the paper texture (he uses rough Arches watercolor paper), which he doesn’t want. However, this old scanner has a scuzi connection, meaning he has to maintain an entirely separate operating system just to scan. In the future, he does plan to get a new scanner.
Hall draws his characters “like they are calligraphy.” He knows them as well as writing. And he loves the alphabet. Saul Steingberg was a huge influence on him, saying Saul has “talent so deep he’s gotta be an old soul.” Hal thinks its because with architects, every line is permanent. Saul Steingberg once said it “took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a kid again.”
Photos courtesy Abe Olson.