LEGACY of an ARTIST • Celebrating the Creative Range of Thomas Hammond

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 917   By: Robert E Martin

04th August, 2021     0

As is true with any artist of influence, Tom Hammond believed in creating work that engaged and inspired by transcending cultural boundaries through lines of movement that caused people to look at things in a different way - or to quote the great painter Marc Chagall, “Great art picks up where nature ends.”

As a commercial graphic design artist and watercolorist, Hammond had more than 40 years of experience creating iconic logos for local companies such as Bierlein, Wolgast, Spence Brothers, and Jakes Old City Grill, while also gaining recognition for his detailed watercolor paintings, which won awards in regional competitions since he began his professional career back in 1962.

After his untimely passing a year ago, much of Tom’s immaculately detailed work was also sadly lost or irreparably damaged in the flood of 2020 that resulted after the Sanford dam broke and caused the Tittabawassee river waters to fill his ground level studio; but fortunately, a substantial amount of his work was also salvageable and will be on display for the public to appreciate at an Exhibition that will be staged at the Andersen Community Enrichment Center from August through October 15th. The original works on display will also be available for sale to interested attendees from the general public.

Hammond believed that all subject matter was a result of shape and rhythm and these two elements were the basis that gave his art an expression that is uncommon in realism today.  His ability to capture the image and feelings of the subjects in his paintings led to a visual and emotional engagement with the viewer as divergent as were the subjects of his paintings and commercial work.

Tom’s watercolors resulted from a deeply personal love of seeing every detail of his subject, which allowed him to capture its essence. Through becoming completely engrossed in each of his paintings, Hammond strived to relate that feeling to the viewer, with his goal as an artist focused upon the viewer sharing his own visual experience.

A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, in addition to his work for major national companies, as well as local and regional firms, Hammond also taught graphic design for two years at Northwood University.  As an artist, his work is well represented throughout Michigan, Arizona and Florida in private collections.

According to his wife Jeanie Hammond, “Tom’s watercolors were his getaway and his hobby - a way to relax and expand his visions beyond and apart from his commercial work. He also loved to hand paint cars and decorate automobiles with his design work.  Up until the early 2000s when computer art became the vogue and commercial interest started to fade from custom hand-rendered designs on drawing boards, Tom was very busy.  But as the commercial work faded, his focus turned to perfecting his craft with watercolors, painting cars with custom designs, and also doing portraits for people as commissioned works.”

“Eventually, I talked Tom into marketing his original watercolors through Art Fairs,” she continues. “He was displaying his work at the Old Town Art Fair before he met me and did quite well with it, so I suggested that we purchase a tent and start doing the Midland, Charlevoix, and Elk Rapids Aft Fairs and he loved doing that.  Tom sold quite a few paintings and then broadened to places like Plymouth and Northville, until people started buying more artwork online, or traveling to other places to purchase artwork.”

When asked what she feels were the distinguishing qualities of Tom’s work, Jeanne points to the precise defined nature of his work.  “Tom used a lot of straight and very detailed lines when he was painting his subjects and was not of the Impressionistic school of thought.  When we were in Scottsdale he would take lessons at art school for several weeks because he thought it was fun to learn different approaches and techniques.  He did this painting of flowers that was not as defined as his other work; not as detailed as his other work, and when I asked him about it he said that the goal of impressionism is to do things more outlandish.”

“It was funny because Tom would do these detailed portraits for people and they would ask him not to put lines or wrinkles in their faces because his work was so true to life,” laughs Jeanne. “Tom loved playing the game of golf and would take photos of a guy’s golf swing and then do a beautiful painted portrait of them. Some of these guys would say, ‘Can you slim my gut down?’ and he would usually comply; but I remember once one guy asked Tom to slim his nose down because he thought it stuck out too far, and Tom said, ‘I can do liposuction but I don’t do angioplasty.”

“If he was painting a building every little window would be carefully detailed, which is so different from many other watercolorists that go for the more quickly rendered impressionistic approach,” she states.

According to Jeanie, Tom painted close to 500 watercolor paintings over the expanse of his career for himself and others, and while he had slides and photos of every water color he ever created, approximately half of those he retained were lost in last year’s flooding.  “I would say we lost at least 30 in the flood and about another 30 or 40 were salvageable. The glass and frames protecting the paintings were covered in total mud, and when we wiped away the mud the paintings were still good, even though the frames were trashed.  We lost thousands of dollars in that catastrophe.”

While Hammond excelled with watercolor paintings, Jeanie says he never worked well with oils or acrylics. “Tom didn’t like working with them,” she recalls. “When I asked him about that once all he would say is that he felt they looked too fake and not real enough. With watercolor it looks like you can pick it up and touch the object because of its clarity. And Tom loved mixing his paints to achieve those results. He could paint a glass of wine and it looked like the wine was sitting in the glass, which is something I attribute to his education in Chicago at design school, which stressed the emphasis of rendering a design exactly the way it is, especially if it pertains to buildings.”

A member of the Saginaw Watercolor Society, the impact of Tom Hammond’s work still endures and lives today, not only through the numerous murals, logos, and commercial work he rendered through the decades, but the equally significant paintings that he created for so many people that has left an enduring and permanent body of work as his legacy.

Legacy of an Artist: Thomas Hammond 1941-2020 will be on display at the Andersen Enrichment Cente, 120 Ezra Rust Drive in Saginaw now through October 15th Monday through Friday from 9 am to 3 PM. This exhibition is free to the public. For more information phone 989.759.1362.

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