Davenport watercolorist Tom Hempel to display works in Bishop Hill

Local News

During the month of October, accomplished watercolor artist, Tom “T.F.” Hempel of Davenport, who is known for his ability to make his paintings come to life, will have his works featured at the Bishop Hill Creative Commons, at 309 N. Bishop Hill St. in Bishop Hill, Ill.

His creations include a wide array of subject matter, but his specialties are boats, barns, and bungalows, as well as other buildings and landscapes. Hempel has been painting for almost 50 years. Despite having suffered multiple strokes in years past, Hempel did not slow down, and is painting now more than ever and, in his own words, “producing his best work to date.”

He feels that time and experience are excellent teachers and that artistry helps keep a mind sharp while avoiding a physical toll on the body, according to his bio.

Hempel proudly served his country with the U.S. Army as a construction engineer, serving one year in Vietnam. He then joined the private workforce and eventually retired. During these years, he met his future wife, Marti, who was instrumental in reconnecting Hempel to his artwork. When Marti learned that he had once been so passionate about painting, she encouraged him to visit a quaint, older shopping district near their home, known as the Village of East Davenport, and to paint a red brick structure there.

The building he chose to paint was owned by Boyler’s Ornamental Iron Company and had begun as a livery stable in the late 1800s. When his newest painting was complete, Hempel took it to have it matted and framed so it could be properly displayed in his and Marti’s home. While Hempel was waiting in line at checkout, an elderly gentleman approached him and offered to buy his beautiful creation. He had never yet sold any of his artwork, as he had been painting strictly for pleasure. He told the elderly gentleman it wasn’t for sale, accepted his business card, and headed home.

When Marti learned of the encounter, she suggested her husband call the number on the business card to tell the elderly gentleman he had reconsidered. Not only did this man become Hempel’s first paying customer with this purchase, he also commissioned the artist to paint his home as well. The year was 1975. The spark was reignited and the rest is history.

A 2020 painting of a West Virginia mill by Davenport artist Tom “T.F.” Hempel.

Hempel has sold over 1,700 paintings to date, including both prints and originals. Each is signed and numbered. Just a few of his many customers include: Chad Pregracke (Living Lands & Waters), CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year; Todd Hamilton (pro golfer), winner of 2012 British Open; and Ed Froelich, Quad-City Times Bix 7 Race Director.

Hempel has received several awards, including second-place in the country by the National Indie Excellence Awards for his coffee table art book (entitled “Boats, Barns and Bungalows”); People’s Choice Award through the Figge Art Museum and Beaux Arts Fair; and River Renaissance Award of Merit (Best of Show for Watercolors). Hempel also teaches his craft to others in various venues and attends multiple art shows and sales throughout the year.

To see samples of his work, visit tfhempelwatercolors.com. In addition to Hempel’s works, the works of 10 other area artists who comprise the Bishop Hill Creative Commons artist cooperative can be viewed as well.

For more information, visit bishophillcommons.com.

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