One pencil, 30+ hours and $100,000 raised.
When I was fortunate enough to interview Seattle artist, Keegan Hall on AW Live this past June, we concluded by talking about our mutual love of Pearl Jam music, and Michael Jordan – the player, The Last Dance series and the shoes. Hall then slipped in that he may have something in the works in terms of a new artistic project that includes Michael Jordan, and also had a few “others” in mind that he one day hoped to team up with. It was just a “Matter of Time”….
Ten days later his Air Jordan piece was announced and 2021 kicked off with Hall collaborating on a project with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. 200 prints of an original drawing Hall did of Vedder would be produced and signed by both Vedder and Hall (selling out in one hour) with all proceeds going towards EB Research.
Hall, a builder of bridges, uses his draw-dropping work to bring people together. In this case – it was an adjoining of his artistry with Vedder’s musicianship with Danny Clinch’s photography and Jill Vedder’s heartfelt initiative to include EB Research. Having a charity tied to his art is something that has been of utmost importance to Hall as his work has raised $541,593 for various charities to date.
I caught up with Hall recently to dive in to his recent collaboration with Vedder. Here, Hall takes us inside his artistic process of creating such an unbelievable piece and the emotion of raising $100,000 for EB.
How did this project with Eddie Vedder come to be?
It all started with an interview that I did with one of the local news stations here in Seattle. There’s a show called “Seattle Refined”. They did a profile on me and my artwork, and shared my story. At the end of it they asked if there was anyone on my bucket list – basically asking who was on the top of my list to work with that I haven’t with yet. Of course, at the top of that list was Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder. That’s my all-time favorite band. The host of the show looked into the camera and said something like, “Eddie, if you’re listening give Keegan a call here.” Once that interview aired, I had posted it on my Instagram and actually tagged Ed’s wife Jill on the post. Jill replied right away saying this was awesome and she’d talk to him about it. So, almost instantly this starting coming together right from that very first post.
We then exchanged contact info and had our first call of many. Jill was so awesome to work with, and obviously Ed was as well. It was a wild turn of events – from that interview, to an Instagram post, to connecting with Jill, to doing the project and raising $100,000 for EB Research Project.
How did you decide which photo you would draw?
That was quite an interesting process. A few photos were sent over initially. I have a certain feel and things I look for in terms of if a photo will translate to a piece of artwork. So I sent over a few that I thought could work and were iconic images that many people were already familiar with. We ultimately decided to go towards something that hadn’t been used too much already. Jill reached out to legendary photographer, Danny Clinch. We started going through some of his shots and I particularly love the shots from the Ukulele Songs record. The visuals that Clinch did for that record were a little bit gritty and captured a mood. Jill found the shot we ended up using and I think it’s just perfect for the project.
How long did it take you to complete this drawing?
I recorded a time-lapse of my entire process and it was over 30 hours of footage. This was the first time I ever recorded a full-length video of my drawing process in real-time. I had multiple cameras setup in my studio. I posted them on my YouTube and had to break them up into six hours each.
When it comes to capturing highly detailed pieces of work, I always have to go back in and refine it. The first time through, I’m laying everything out. From there I get my first layer of detail added in. I’ll then pause, go back and basically start over again – adding into my previous layer. This happens a few times in an effort to capture even more detail. Once I think I’m done, I’ll go back to the drawing two or three more times and focus on those transitions from dark to light. The process at the end is what really takes it from a really detailed drawing to almost like a photograph.
How many pencils did you use and do you have a particular pencil you always go to?
I do. I use a mechanical pencil from Pentel. It called the graph gear 1000. It’s a heavy metal pencil and I really like the weight and balance of it. It’s the same pencil I use for all of my drawings. I have a few and replace the lead and graphite in them. I have a few variations that allows me to go light or dark based around the shading, but the majority of this piece was done with one single pencil.
What was the biggest challenge with drawing this piece?
There a few but one in particular is the image is purposely out of focus slightly. When I do hyper-realistic drawings, I want to get it as sharp and realistic as I can. That meant here I had to back off of those sharp tightly focused areas of the drawing because that’s not how the image actually is. I wanted to capture the blur as much as possible. A blurred background is tough because you don’t have any sharp transitions. The gradations are so soft. This image also had a very elaborate design in the background. I had a lot of fun trying to capture that, but it was certainly not easy. It was a new approach to anything I had previously done.
Can you describe the setting for where you were doing this work? Were you in your studio, listening to Pearl Jam etc?
I have a ritual for creating my artwork. If I do a piece of a musician I only listen to their music the whole time. I did the same with my Chris Cornell drawing. It creates a new experience for me personally and enhances the connection between me, the music and artist itself. I’m hearing their voice, I ‘m drawing them, it’s a surreal experience as I’m capturing their voice and putting that into artwork.
Raising $100,000 for EB Research is remarkable as well. What was it like for you to have that be part of this project?
I wasn’t very familiar with EB until my first conversation with Jill. She walked me through her experience and how it lead to her and Ed being co-founders of EBResearch.org. It was devastating to learn about how painful this is to kids, but inspiring to know that they are so close to a cure. It’s uplifting to see the progress they’ve made over the years. Given this is a genetic skin disorder, if they can solve EB it will also simultaneously cure thousands of other skin disorders at the same time. So, there’s a lot riding on it and there’s going to be a big payoff once the cure hits. I was really excited to not only learn about it, but also to be just a small part of raising money to go towards that research.
What has this artistic experience meant to you?
It’s been almost life-changing in some regards. I’ve always been such a big Pearl Jam fan and to be able to spend some time with Eddie as we put together the video and getting to know him as a person has been special. We have quite a bit in common – learning about his creative process. We also share a love of sports. We got to talk a bit about the Chicago Bulls vs. The Sonics battles of the 90’s. He’s such a student of music and music history. He shared some cool stories behind some songs.
This was an experience I will never forget. Hopefully this will lead to more projects and raising more money for great causes like EB Research and other charities as well. It was amazing to see the impact that a few people can have – coming together for a common good.
I also can’t forget about the Pearl Jam fans. To sell-out in an hour was unbelievable. We hadn’t posted on social media yet, we just sent out an email and it sold out. Fans just wanted to be a part of the project. People didn’t even know what they were getting, the image hadn’t been shown yet. People took a flyer and it was incredible to see the trust just based off my past artwork. The response as I progressed through it was great well.
Everyone from Jill to Ed to the entire Pearl Jam team was top notch from start to finish. We have a successful campaign to show for it. Overall, it was just incredible. I was fortunate to work with them and for all the fans to come along to be a part of it and make it the success that we hoped it would.