Artist Taylor Ralph Hale, 85, showed his appreciation for his cardiologist, Dr Mustapha Hashem of Downriver Heart and Vascular Specialists of Southgate, with an acrylic mural for his waiting room.
Hale says he has been painting for over 60 years, is self-taught and was first inspired by the landscapes he saw while vacationing in Canada.
“I started painting a stone church in 1984,” he said. “I was in northern Quebec.
Hale said that when he retired from Wayne County in 1984, he and his wife owned land on a river in northern Quebec, on which he built a cabin and went to every summer.
His wife died in 2019, after being married for 63 years.
Hale said his painting was a way for him to capture what he saw around him.
“I just wanted to do a good job, and I kept practicing and studying,” he said. “With determination, you can do almost anything.”
Hale, who worked for the Wayne County Road Commission and the Wayne County Drain Commission for a combined 29 years, said painting was a hobby for him, along with fishing and hunting.
“I painted in Florida, and in Canada, and I sold a lot of paintings between Quebec and Florida,” he said. “I also used to do a lot of sculpting work, making macaw parrots out of coconut shells, palm fronds and tree branches, and they ended up looking like the real deal. “
Hale said he sold six macaw sculptures to a doctor with six different treatment centers.
“He wanted them all to be the gold and blue variety,” he said. “I would put them on a stand with a pole, on a concrete base, with flowers on them, and vines, and he would put them in his offices and they looked like the real thing.”
Hale said that when he placed part of his sculpture next to the canal where they were staying in Florida, people would stop their boats to photograph it.
“It was the real macaw,” he joked, adding that the birds were lifelike in size.
Hale said he made many different bird sculptures, including pelicans, parrots and cockatoos.
“I didn’t advertise them, but somehow word of mouth got around,” he said.
Hale said when they left Florida and its palm trees in 2009, when they returned to Michigan, he was no longer making the macaws, but he still does a lot of painting, despite his health issues, which tend to exhaust his energy.
“My studio is in my basement, and I try to go there every day, but it’s starting to feel like a chore to go there,” he said.
Hale said he told Dr. Hashem he would paint him a painting of dunes for his wall.
“He saved my life,” he said. “He put three stents in my heart and a pacemaker.”
Hale said he had to shorten the entire painting to get it out of his studio in the basement.
“Ultimate Movers did a great job of getting him there,” he said. “And the Oakland (Art) installers hung the picture.”
Hale said he told his doctors he still had a lot of things he wanted to do with his life, as well as paintings to create.
“I would like to be gone a little longer than what my grandmother went through,” he said. “My grandmother lived to be 99 years and 10 months old.”
Hale said he loves to paint and at 85 is still learning new techniques.
“There are things I would like to try, like pastel painting,” he says. “There’s so much you can do with it.”
Hale said painting helps capture the images you can’t capture with a camera.
“With paint, you can paint anything in your mind and put it on paper,” he said. “With photography, you have to take what is given to you, but artists, you can put your own ideas on paper.”
To learn more about Hale’s work, visit paintingsbyralph.com.