Leo Kahl takes his art to sporting levelsBaltimore...


June 26, 1994|By Patrick A. McGuire

Leo Kahl takes his art to sporting levels

Baltimore commercial artist Leo Kahl wanted to get creative with his assignment for one of the sponsors of the International World Cup tournament: Depict two players colliding on a soccer field.

The soccer player and fan, whose artwork regularly oozes tension and dynamic movement, took several cups of paint, stood them on a canvas, then blasted them with a shotgun.

The spectacular splatter result, used by World Cup sponsor General Motors on one of its program covers, "simulates the power, emotion and passion of the World Cup," says Mr. Kahl. It says a lot about his own explosive style, not only as an artist but as a life-long soccer player as well.

"Soccer is the most creative sport on the face of the earth," says Mr. Kahl, who has played the game since boyhood and still goes at it with the Bay Area Strikers in an over-30 adult league in Anne Arundel County. "There is constant action, and every guy on the field is an artist with the ball. My personality has always been spontaneous and creative, so it's a perfect match."

Not surprising, then, that after being turned down in attempts to secure World Cup promotional art work, he talked his way into a General Motors executive office and a contract. GM used three pieces of his art in their World Cup promotions and agreed to send him to the opening and closing games of the tournament.

Meanwhile, at Leo Kahl Designs, in Hunt Valley, he also designs a variety of commercial products. "I am constantly shifting gears," he says, laughing. "One minute it's creative art, the next it's the technical engineering end. But that's soccer. You need technical ability with the ball, but then you need the wide-open vision of the whole field at one time. I guess that's why I've made art and soccer my life." With "The Return of Peter Witt," Kathy Hudson has written an optimistic urban parable suitable for children as well as their elders. Her imaginative account of the restoration of Peter Witt, a streetcar that ran through Baltimore for some 30 years, also

revives a colorful era in the city.

Ms. Hudson had no lasting impressions of Baltimore streetcars until 1988, when she attended a friend's art show at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. "I fell in love with these trolleys," says the Baltimore author, who also publishes the Hudson Monthly, a children's newsletter.

With factual assistance from John Thomsen, a streetcar historian and museum volunteer, Ms. Hudson wrote "Peter Witt," the tale of a valiant steel car scrapped and then restored with loving accuracy by a volunteer named Sam.

The book, printed in pamphlet form by Hudson Monthly Publications, speaks to young readers, Ms. Hudson says. "Peter Witt was a victim of circumstances beyond his control. I didn't want a pat, overly optimistic, happily-ever-after ending. On the other hand, I didn't want children to think he was doomed."

The original publication of "Peter Witt" was derailed when the publishing company that agreed to print it was bought out. Determined to see it in print, Ms. Hudson published the book herself, and local artist Greg Otto contributed pen-and-ink drawings evocative of old and new Baltimore.

"The Return of Peter Witt" costs $3 and is available at the $H Streetcar Museum, the Children's Bookstore and the Bookshop at Stevenson Village.

Stephanie Shapiro

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