"Grandpa Hal", as he was better known, was born July 28, 1915 in Toledo, OH – one of eight children of Austrian immigrants. As he was starting his career as a graphic designer, he left civilian life to serve in WWII, drafting directional and weather maps.
During life after his service he was a graphic designer in Cleveland, OH. Working on projects for companies like General Tire, Goodyear and The Cleveland Browns, he eventually retired from American Greetings in the 1970s. Throughout his career, he would paint at home to satisfy his artistic urges.
In his later years, he suffered from wet macular degeneration, an age-related, chronic eye disease which severely limited the center of his field of vision. It was a formidable handicap for anyone, but especially someone who'd made a living off his artist's eye.
That all changed for Hal when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present. His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software, a program developed in the 1980’s. The program is more kitsch than cutting edge, but it's easy interface and pixel precision allowed Hal to journey down a new artistic path with a style many consider “retro cool”.
In his last year of life, he had his first solo gallery show, spoke at a conference and was featured in a Super Bowl commercial. He passed away just shy of his 99th birthday in 2014, leaving us with a legacy that passion knows no age, and for Hal, the proof of that is surely in the pixels.
Hal spoke to a full house at FITC Toronto in an intimate chat discussing the nature of art, technology, and the freedom of limitations. What does it mean to be born in 1916 and become Internet famous?
When released, we didn't think our film would go beyond friends and family. We were wrong. After two million online views and making the rounds on the festival circuit, Microsoft licensed the footage for a Super Bowl commercial.
Hal was interviewed for this incredible series that explores the stories of individuals who've become reliant on technology to keep living the lives they love. How does technology allow an artist to carry on painting when their eyes fail?