Whole LOTA Love

Keith Hall

I've been drawing as long as I can remember. The first thing I drew when I was a kid was the Ninja Turtles. I was a big comic book fan. I read the old cult books that were way more violent than I had any right to read at that age. Then I saw the cartoon version, and that's when I started drawing. I was probably five or six years old at the time.

I've always been the kind to doodle in the margins of my notes. The teachers never bought it, but I always felt like I learned better when doodling. I grew up in a small town. Our school was impacted, so the 7th and 8th grade were at the high school. I got familiar with the art program there, and invested all my electives that I could in art classes. The classes were all taught by the same teacher, Ms. McKee. She was my mentor. I got my first freelance project when I was 14 because of her, working for a local backhoe company doing their advertising in the newspaper. I ended up going to school for animation after high school, left the small town, and moved to Southern California.

Initially, I went to Cal State Long Beach. It was very daunting though. CSU, Long Beach was about the size of my hometown. I spent about a year there, eventually leaving to go join the work force.

While working at Kinko’s one day, I got a reply to an email I sent to a local comic book studio, "Hack Shack Studios." I lost my mind. They invited me in, I showed them what I had, and the next thing I knew I was working on Spider-Man and X-Men. I was there for 4 years then decided to go back to school. Going back to school turned out to be one of the best decisions I made because I got an education from teachers that taught at the Art center in Pasadena, and the Laguna College of Art & Design, but I paid for it at a junior college rate.

The director of animation at the college was a former storyboard artist for Family Guy. We had guys that worked at Disney that came down and did classes too. I soaked it all up. I stayed after class, asked questions, found my teacher/mentors that I’m in contact with today, and began freelancing shortly after that.

I ended up getting a job at the video game studio Blizzard Entertainment. After 6 years working there, I got laid off. I took a job at a small little mobile game studio in Long Beach. They folded after 8 months. Then I found out we were having my son. I became a stay at home dad for 19 months until I found OTA.

I came to realize that throughout my life of working that being a stay at home father was the hardest job I'd ever had. Totally rewarding, but the demand is real. I have so much respect for stay at home parents. It was wild. You can't clock out of this job. You don't get a vacation.

I was recently involved in the annual Red Dot Auction, a fundraiser in Orange County for the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. Every artist that gets invited contributes a canvas; sometimes based on a theme, sometimes it’s the artist’s choice. Last year was The Golden Years. My piece ended up selling. All the proceeds go to the Center for Creativity to do more programs. They host programs and workshops for children all over the community, as well as people with special needs. I love the idea of being part of that.