Multidisciplinary artist is an understatement when it comes to labelling Ohara Hale. The Montreal-based creative can also be called a graphic designer, illustrator, animator, gig-poster maker, children’s book author, director, singer/songwriter, and musician. (Wow!) Or in her words, she does “a buncha stuff.” Luckily for us, she also draws dogs. As things. Surreal things, like a dachshund as a big human toe peeping out of a flip-flop, or a pup as a happy little snail growing plants on top of its shell.
With such an imaginative outlook and industrious nature, we checked in with Hale to hear more about what inspires her, how she works, and life with dogs.
As a multidisciplinary artist, does creating in one medium inspire another?
Oftentimes it does, and sometimes it creates a break as well. If I work on music, for example, it might be that it is a different colour or tone than what I am drawing, which helps me move from one creative space to another and give each place (medium) its own individuality to express itself. But I think overall it all sounds/feels like me. Whether I paint something or draw or dance or sing or write, it still feels like me expressing different aspects of myself in different ways, and then I am able to offer a garden of various fruits of those labours to the world with the end goal of inspiring others to do the same—to play!
How do you find the time to accomplish so much? Are you always drawing/making?
Gosh, I feel like I haven’t accomplished very much these last years, but I used to produce a lot of content in the past. However, during that time it was the only thing I did. I didn’t have time for relationships, for example, and so that energy went into my work but then I wasn’t so happy either. And so then these last few years I put my energy into my relationships and that left little time for work and also left me not as happy, haha. Now I am trying to find that happy middle place where I can do both!
I am not always drawing or making, sometimes I don’t draw or make anything for a long period of time. Those times I find are listening and learning times, and also resting and digesting times which are also really important, and then after a period of these times something will happen and I will feel this energy come up and I will come out with a lot of work very quickly and suddenly.
How would you describe your style, and does it vary by project type?
I like to think my style is honest and funny and colourful and appreciative of form and space and thought. Generally, my style is quite minimal and strong, but it took a long time to get my hand to be steady and simple like that. And sometimes I wish it was a little looser, so I’m trying to soften it here and there in a way that also still feels honest and unique and interesting. There is a certain time when I work where it comes out just right—not too perfect and not too loose—I want to try to find that place more often.
What do you enjoy most about writing children’s books?
I love how a book is like a song: there is a tempo to the turning of the page and the colours on the pages are like musical notes. I love that you can take a book and interact with it, you can hold it and see it and smell it, and it can last for a while holding in its melody. I love this the most about making books—that they become physical forms/friends that you can tote around holding lots of information in them that can be shared with others. I also just love thinking about things: about life and what we are doing and why, and trying to have a conversation about the mystery of it or a laugh about it. I think that’s also why I like it so much.
Do you have any animals?
I used to have a rescue dog called Banana. She was a small Boston terrier that was all white instead of black with these big circles on her back, which I thought looked like planets and stars. She was a sassy little dog that snored really loud (so cute), slept in late (later than me!), and liked eating veggies (we would sit on the floor and eat celery and seaweed together for snack time). I loved her so much. Since we think she came from a puppy mill, she was not bred with much care and so her genes weren’t so great for her and she went blind at a very young age and died. It was really sad, but I was glad to have given her a nice life compared to the one she had before, and she came into my life at the right time as I needed a little buddy like her. Animals are so good to us for those reasons. (Thank you animals!)
Lately I’ve been volunteering at the local dog shelter and there are so many funny and sweet dogs there that we take on walks and play with, each their own distinct personality. And last week I fostered my first rescue dog whose name just happened to be Coconut. It was a really special experience as he had been badly treated before and so I was able to give Coco his first walk, first game of fetch, first time running free, first cuddle—lots and lots of cuddles, actually!
Have you ever imagined Amy Winehouse or Nick Cave as a Chihuahua, Neil Young as a Vizsla, or PJ Harvey as an Afghan hound? That’s exactly what San Francisco-based artist Michael Gillette has done through his unique illustration project, blending beloved, iconic music legends, both past and present, with their dog counterparts. Pack of Dogs, our first foray into book publishing, is a celebration of pup and pop culture for music and dog lovers alike.
August 25, 2020