ST. PETERSBURG – With the sidewalk of Second Street as his easel and bustling downtown St. Pete as his open-air studio, street artist Roosevelt Hall kneels over his shoreline illustration and he deftly touches it up with a piece of pink chalk. Hall, a recent transplant to St. Pete from Orlando, decided to turn to art after a low point in his life—a five-year prison sentence that ended in early 2008.
“I’ve been doing artwork ever since because it’s hard for me to get a job,” he said, though he has held down jobs in various fields, including restaurant work and even a stint at Disney.
With his term served, Hall followed his muse to not only express himself, but to make a little money while he’s at it. Completely self-taught, the 56 year old loves to depict nature’s many faces in his work—everything from beach scenes to birds.
“I love nature,” he said in a voice that holds a touch of gravel. “A lot of people done forgot about nature. Nature is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
He expertly employs a variety of media to make his pictures come to life, including chalk, pastels, acrylics and oils. Over the last several months since he’s taken his talents to the streets of St. Pete, Hall has earned the admiration of some of the downtown denizens—so much so that some of them have donated materials for his cause.
“They buy my supplies because they look at it like, ‘Hey, he loves doing what he’s doing.’ And I do love doing what I’m doing!” Hall said.
Since he has no set prices, Hall takes whatever he can get for his paintings and drawings. After buying his pieces, some of his local patrons will periodically come by to check on him and see how he’s doing. Others who have purchased his work come from all over the globe.
“They like what I do,” he said. “I got a lot of stuff pretty much all over the world, almost.”
Though he sets up shop right on the street, Hall would love the chance to be set up in a proper studio.
“I got no other choice but to sell it one the street,” he stated. “Don’t nobody put me in the studio, so this is how I make my living. It might not pay much. A lot of time I don’t make nothing. But I’m a survivor.”
The way Hall sees it, he had everything and then he lost it all. But he gained something out of losing.
“I always wanted to be an artist and that’s what I wound up to be,” he said. “That’s what I asked for when I was growing up. Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’ve been through, be happy and enjoy life to the end and to the fullest. And that’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me.”
With every stroke of the brush or chalk, Hall adds a touch of local color—and beauty— to the downtown St. Pete scene.