ENCINITAS — You could call Bob Hord a Renaissance man, or simply a tightrope artist walking the fine line between genius and insanity.
Either way, his body of work has found a loyal, disparate audience across the nation who appreciates both fine art and quirky musings.
Perhaps there’s a clue to Hord’s brilliant sense of whimsy in the fact that he studied at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla. John Ringling North, owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, funded the school.
Hord was a senior at the school when he was recruited by Hallmark and moved to Kansas City. It was there that he designed party centerpieces and drew art for “pop up” and “contemporary” greeting cards — the tall, narrow ones. Most importantly, he learned the fine art of paper sculpture, which is derived from the traditional Japanese art of origami.
At the advice of a friend, he moved to Los Angeles where he designed calendars and contemporary cards for Buzza-Cardozo in Anaheim. He went on to work for Mattel Toys where, among other projects, he designed the Barbie Airplane, a carrying case designed like a commercial airplane that, when opened, becomes a cabin. It was about this time that he started freelancing as a commercial artist.
The popularity of his paintings, paper sculptures, ceramic sculptures and metal sculpture also grew. By 2000 he found his way to Encinitas where his oldest son, Tavis, lives. Tavis is also an artist, specializing in custom multimedia, software, and website development. Hord quickly became a favorite in the local arts community. This included being named art director of the 101 Artist Colony.
“Bob is one of the main reasons I got more involved,” said Danny Salzhandler, president, 101 Artist Colony. “No other artist does anything like his work. It’s sheer genius.”
Salzhandler explains that good art is defined by its ability to affect humans.
“Bob’s art affects you in a positive way,” he said.
In 2005 Hord moved to Costa Mesa to be closer to his three grandchildren. During that time he expanded his repertoire by making cigar box guitars.
“Someone said, ‘That’s cool. Would you make me one?” he said.
Hord was surprised to learn both about the history of the guitar, which goes back to the Civil War, and a surge in popularity today with websites that cater to what is known today as Cigar Box Nation. With only three strings, Hord says the guitars are easy to play.
“It’s always fun to see someone pick up something that I’ve made and have it sound good,” he said, adding that he’s equipped some instruments with a piezo transducer that can be plugged into an amplifier.
Earlier this year, Hord decided to return to the arts community in Encinitas.
“There is nothing like being here,” he said. “I missed being back in the art world, and having friends in the art world.”
Already, his fine art has been exhibited in three local shows, such as the Cardiff 100th Year Birthday Centennial and Elks Club. Currently, he has three pieces at the My Best Friend pet portrait exhibit at the Encinitas Library.
While Hord seems like a shy, soft-spoken guy, he writes and performs what he calls “goofy songs” at “ship launchings, snake handler conferences and Star Trek conventions” through his alter ego, Meaty Ochre (mediocre).
“He’s been sponging off of me since the 1980s,” Hord said, wryly. Hord will be making Meaty Ochre available to a mass audience through a video in the works where he and his “characters” will be performing original songs such as, “I’m in the dog house ever since the cathouse moved into the neighborhood.”
He’s also penned books for friends including, “‘Nanners: An Apeeling Look at the Day-to-Day Life of a Banana through the Eyes of Bob Hord.”
The book is a compilation of cartoons of bananas in various personalities: Santa Banana, with a peel curved like a white beard, and Carlos Sananna, a banana playing double-neck guitar.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from absurdities of day-to-day life,” Hord said. “I see the world as a cartoon in a lot of respects.”
For more information, visit Hord’s websites at bobhord.com (art), smokeboxbob.com (cigar box guitars) and flashhog.com (animation). Hord can be reached at (760) 944-3858.