Get to know Ohara Hale, Keynote Speaker May 2014

Photo: Richmond Lam
Photo: Richmond Lam

This Friday, May 16, Marks the fifth edition of Behance Reviews . For the very first time, we’re introducing the concept of a keynote speaker to the Montreal Behance Reviews events. We will be featuring two speakers, starting with the multi-talented Ohara Hale.

Ohara is a woman on a mission. She’s just put an EP out on Sunday, and returns to us in Montreal having been off at TCAF. Illustrator, musician (in two bands), author and just about everything else in between, it’s a surprise she found a spare moment to chat with us… but she did.

Here’s what she had to say.

Describe your work (in seven words, because that’s the thing to do right now)

“GAH. Okay…ummmmm…well…it is me?”

HA?! That is hard. I don’t know! It’s always changing – evolving.

How did you come to work across so many disciplines?

Procrastination? Haha. I just really love to explore many different ways of expression. Art, music, writing, etc…it’s all a form of communication – language! I really love to communicate and share what I’m thinking and learning because I think we should do that: share. So that’s a general explanation for why I do anything that exists in the public realm and why I do many things ( art, music, etc!) – more forms of communication! The second reason is because I HAVE to : Being a freelancer forces me to be more flexible and open to various projects and disciplines because I need to find a way to support myself and my art and my freedom to do my art! The third reason is because I think I just enjoy the challenge of learning new things and finding out what I like and don’t like by experience. There are jobs I’ve done that I probably won’t ever do again like paint on t-shirts because I’m terrible at painting on t-shirts, or corresponding with factories in India about zippers at 3am, for example. But, I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try so I’m keen to try and I’ll do my best even if I don’t like it of course. And lastly, I just love to do a lot of things. There are so many things to do! They say to not spread yourself too thin and there is truth to that, so, when I was younger I had many more professions on my plate and I realized I needed to just get some solid ground somewhere and really focus on what I loved and what was the easiest. So I turned my focus mainly on just illustration and music – and then as I got my footing in each area I was able to take the next steps: children’s books and recording, etc…

Despite your wide range, there seems to be a common thread of humour throughout. Is that something that’s important to you when creating?

Hmmm…I think with illustration, children’s and comic work there is definitely humor there and yes it’s important to me. However, there are a lot of heavy and serious underlying themes in my work too that you don’t really see at first. Humor helps translate those messages or makes them easier to digest I think. I mean, sometimes I don’t even know what I am saying exactly until later and I am like “OH! WOW! Okay cool. HA!”. Recently I’ve been a little more aware of what I’m doing and aware of what kind of messages I want to share. BUT sometimes I just wanna have fun. If you’re having fun for the sake of having fun ( and not in a hedonistic sort of way too) then it’s easy for others to play too. Sometimes we need a break from all this heavy philosophy life learning heart stuff we are all going through every day. A little “comic relief”. I know we are all in some sort of pain or confusion, everyone is, so I just want to soothe that for everyone a bit if I can by sharing my jokes that make me laugh, haha. I’m mostly just entertaining my own self most of the time. Hahaha.

But, in my sonic projects there isn’t humor at all – this is on the other side of the spectrum of my work.  These sonic creations are the spaces I dedicate to a different type of language and approach of communication. The most important thing to me isn’t HUMOR but HONESTY.

Is there a project or piece in your portfolio that you can single out as being “the one”?

Not really. I think the ONE is pretty much the most recent thing I put out. We are always evolving and changing. I can’t look at something I did and hold on to that as my best – I should always expect that I will continue to do the best work I can and by working hard and being as honest as I can with it. However, that being said, I can definitely look back at my work and see when I was really “on point” ( moments when the work came easily and I was really pleased with it) and remember what kind of space I was in and try to get to that space.That space is probably where I am closest to creating “the one” – for others, and that’s important. I’ve been drawing a ton of bananas lately and every banana I draw I am like “OH YAH THAT IS IT! THAT IS THE BANANA!” and then I draw a new one and I forgot about the other one.

What can guests expect from you as a speaker?

Hopefully a nice time. I get really excited about creativity and inspiration. I get really excited for everyone else – for their desire to learn and grow and find themselves in and through their work, whatever kind of work it may be. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a great letter to a group of high school students which seems to have been my life instruction manual – he said:

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

I was thinking about doing a cartwheel too but that might be unwise. It’s probably most definitely unwise.