One of the state’s most renowned artists walked into a small room crowded with Troy University art students and removed his hat.
“This is wonderful,” exclaimed Fred “Nall” Hollis, a Troy, Alabama, native whose work spans multiple decades and multiple continents.
After taking a moment to observe the collaborative art piece the students had been developing, he smiled and took off his coat, a gleam in his eye.
“Do we have bricks? We need bricks,” he said, and Nall was off to the races, the ideas firing from his brain while he greeted several awestruck students during this special workshop, which took place during “Nall Day” festivities Tuesday.
The students, in collaboration with Nall, created a mixed media assemblage consisting of everything from found art to student-created paintings and drawings, and the visionary lent advice and hands-on help along the way.
“It’s a really cool experience,” said senior Allison Riley. “He’s an extremely talented artist, and it’s been great to watch his process. He had us move around the different pieces to balance the color (on the assemblage). Several times I thought it looked fine, but he was like, ‘No, no, it needs to be moved one more time.’ He was right, and it did look so much better after.”
Nall’s experience traveling the globe and honing his craft inspired students who are seeking to pursue careers in the fine arts.
“For me, this is a first, and it’s very interesting to have this opportunity,” said junior John Suyak. “Just being with him this morning was an experience unto itself, and it was really heartwarming to be chosen to work under such a renowned artist. It’s been an honor.”
Senior Deandrea Nesbitt, who wants to blend her art with her cosmetology business after graduation, studied Nall’s process closely throughout the day.
“It’s an amazing experience, especially seeing the things he’s done and the way he goes about working with things, his patience and attitude toward everything,” Nesbitt said. “He’s organized, and he does a lot of his organization beforehand, but then when he gets into it, he lets his creativity take over. He mixes things up and goes with the flow.”
Senior Lizzie Orlofsky is particularly interested in art history, and she viewed the Nall workshop as a valuable learning opportunity.
“It’s prepping me for working in a museum one day alongside notable artists,” she said. “Each artist has their own approach, and what I’ve been most interested in is his approach to creating art. We’re in this warehouse-style room, we’re using bricks and things of that nature, so he’s creating art from humble means. That’s been exciting to see.”
Riley said she walked away from the workshop with some important lessons that will help her as she works to build her own artistic legacy.
“One thing he’s passed on that is particularly helpful is, ‘Don’t stop until it’s finished,’” she said. “Don’t settle for good enough, because it needs to be the best. That’s what he does in his work — he keeps going until it’s the best it’s going to be.” The art piece Nall and the students created will undergo some finishing touches and then be put on display in the International Arts Center.
A full gallery of images from the workshop can be found here.