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home : news : news Thursday, December 14, 2017

4/19/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
First Central Gallery at Operahouse Theatre features work of watercolor artist T.F. Hempel

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

T.F. Hempel feels blessed.

He is a renowned watercolor artist whose work is widely distributed in and around the Quad Cities.

He is a published author, whose book, "Boats, Barns & Bungalows," sold out - but not before it took second place in the country for fine arts books in the National Independent Excellence Competition in 2015.

Not to mention, his eyesight is still good and his hands don't shake.

The 70-year-old admitted, at this point in his life, he couldn't ask for much more than that.

Through May 19, Hempel, of Davenport, is displaying his work at First Central Gallery, located in the lobby of the Operahouse Theatre in downtown DeWitt.

Area art lovers can expect to see some familiar scenes from around the Quad City area, including a number of rural landscapes.

"I just love painting barns and farm scenes," he said. "I just love Iowa in general."

As for how Hempel chooses what to paint, his process is simple.

He paints whatever happens to catch his eye.

"I look around and whatever looks beautiful, that's what I paint," Hempel said. "Whether it's an old boat that's dry-docked, a neat barn ... maybe it's something you've driven by 100 times, but on one particular morning, the sun hits it just right.

"One thing I've learned, is if you go looking for a scene, you'll never find it. It has to find you."

Inspiration everywhere

Hempel even draws inspiration from what he sees on television.

With his camera always at the ready, he takes a picture of whatever is on the screen and works off the photograph.

The newest piece in his display at First Central Gallery is called "Rio Bravo."

It is a scene taken from the movie of the same name, starring John Wayne. It features Wayne being greeted by a gang of bad guys, and was filmed on location in Tucson, Arizona.

No matter what his subject might be, Hempel likes to add a touch of color in order to make his paintings more eye-catching.

When people see his art, Hempel hopes it will inspire what he calls the "wow factor."

"When people come in, I want them to say to each other, 'Come here and look at this,'" he said. "I want them to say, 'Wow.'"

Improving with age

As someone who has been painting since he was just 12 years old, Hempel believes his artistic ability is getting better with age.

He has become more patient, and while he still makes mistakes, he knows how to correct them.

Now, his one goal in life is to paint the tug boat of Living Lands and Waters founder and President Chad Pregracke as it travels under the new I-74 bridge.

In the meantime, he is thankful to be able to do what he loves and to share it with others.

"I love to paint. Period," Hempel said. "Sometimes I find myself unable to put my paintbrush down. Sometimes you just get into the moment, and it's a neat feeling."

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