Pencil in Hand, a Seattle Artist Fast Becomes a Favorite of the Stars

Keegan Hall gave up on art for a decade. He’s returned to it with wild success.

Keegan Hall, 34, of Kirkland, grew up in a single-wide trailer in Sumner, went to the University of Washington to study visual art, and upon graduating in 2003 quit drawing “cold turkey.”

He loved sports growing up, even though his family rarely had the money to go to games in Seattle. His favorite Seahawk was Steve Largent. His favorite basketball player was Michael Jordan.

Out of college, he got a job with the Seattle Supersonics in the sales department. He advanced over the years, eventually becoming the team’s top sales rep—for season tickets, corporate suites, things like that.

From his position, he saw the organization implode from the inside. He couldn’t fault Howard Schultz’s business decision to sell the team. “When your business is losing $20 million, you got to sell it or do something,” he says.

He met the new owner, Clay Bennett. “He assured me nothing would happen to the team.”

By chance, during a trip to Las Vegas, he ran into then-NBA commissioner David Stern. “He said, ‘You guys are fine.’ ”

Then the team moved to Oklahoma City and Hall was out of a job. That did not inspire him to start making art again.

He went back to school, earned an MBA, then went to work at a series of startups. But sports remained an important part of his life. He watched as Mariners teams floundered and the Seahawks built a Super Bowl-caliber team. In 2010 the Seahawks drafted strong safety Kam Chancellor. In 2011, Richard Sherman. In 2012, Russell Wilson.

While the Hawks were building a championship team, Hall’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She beat it once, but it returned last fall. On a Friday in November, she said she wasn’t feeling well. “She went to the hospital on Saturday and died on Sunday,” Hall says.

For three months after her death,more than 10 years after graduating from art school, he still didn’t feel like drawing.

But then, in February, he did. His mom had always loved his artwork, and had it hung up around her condo.

“It was a culmination of . . . connecting the dots about what made her so happy. Something was pulling me to draw that day,” he says.

But he didn’t know what to draw.

Michael Jordan came to mind. So he drew Michael Jordan, midair in the midst of a fade-away jumper. He shared the drawing on Facebook, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

He asked for suggestions on whom he should draw next, and a friend requested Chancellor, saying he’d pay $100 for it.

So he drew Chancellor. It took him, he estimates, about 30 hours. Sketching, fixing, filling-in. When he was done, he shared the drawing on Instagram and tagged Chancellor in the post, just in the hope he’d see it, nothing more.

Much to Hall’s surprise, Chancellor not only saw the artwork, but shared it and commissioned another. “S/o to the talented @Keegan.Hall for this pencil drawing. Can’t wait to see the final touches on the new one to come,” the safety wrote.

Keegan couldn’t believe that Chancellor recognized him. And that he’d stopped drawing for so many years.

Chancellor’s social media reach was such that lots of people saw the work, and came calling.

From his time at the Sonics, Hall had connections with the Seattle Storm. When they saw his drawings, they asked if he could do some for them. They commissioned a drawing of Sue Bird and top draft pick Jewell Loyd. The drawing is now the centerpiece of the team’s season-ticket renewel campaign. Video of Hall working on the drawing, time-lapsed, is shown at Storm games during warm-ups.

As thanks for his work, the team gave Hall courtside seats for a game. By chance he was seated next to Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara.

“It’s ridiculous. This whole thing is kind of ridiculous,” he says.

He posted selfies of the three on Instagram. He drew Clint Dempsey. He drew Felix Hernandez. Sometime this past spring, expecting nothing to come of it, he reached out to Richard Sherman to see if the star cornerback wanted to collaborate on a charity event. Sherman was into it.

“Both these guys, Kam and Richard, are so thankful. It’s cool to see they care about the normal guys,” Hall says.

The result of the collaboration goes on sale Friday: 200 limited-edition prints of his drawing “The Huddle,” signed by both him and Sherman, for $200 a pop. The proceeds will go to Sherman’s Blanket Coverage, which provides school supplies to low-income kids.

The drawing depicts the Seahawks’ defense in, well, the huddle, with Sherman and Earl Thomas III in the foreground. You can see a bit of Chancellor, too.

When the Seahawks start the regular season against the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday, there’s a good chance Chancellor won’t be in the huddle. He’s holding out over a contract dispute with the team. Such are the vagaries of professional sports. Such are the vagaries of life.

This time last year, Hall wasn’t even thinking about drawing. “This whole thing has been bizarre over the last six months. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or my mom was pulling strings,” Hall muses. “I’ve always been a believer of, if you’re a good person, good things will happen.”

Daniel Person serves as news editor for Seattle Weekly. He can be reached at dperson@seattleweekly.com or 206-467-4381. Follow him on Twitter at @danoperson.

 
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