Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lee Hammond by Tanya Thomas

     I chose to highlight the work of Lee Hammond, a mostly self-taught American artist and art instructor from Kansas City. She attended the University of Nebraska in 1976. She teaches nationwide and even worked for NASCAR to produce art for the company, and currently works as a Police Composite Artist for the Lincoln Police Department in Nebraska. My first exposure to Hammond’s work was a few years ago through her book How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs, one of her best-selling art instruction books. I always loved to draw realistically when I was younger but never had any formal instruction. Hammond’s book really explained a novel yet straightforward method (to me, at least) to really look at the image or scene in front of you and try to project it onto the paper as it was, with minimal input from preconceived notions of what an object is supposed to look like, with the help of grid lines to establish a proportional line drawing. Her graphite works focus heavily on blending pencil lines smoothly with blending stumps and pulling out the highlights of the light with different erasers, similar to how we’ve been learning in class to use the kneaded eraser and gum eraser as tools to draw or carve with and not simply to erase perceived mistakes. This approach to drawing, building up and blending contrasting values and then pulling out the light from on top of it, really makes drawings of complex objects like hair look super-realistic, as can be seen in this Hammond graphite portrait below. I also really appreciate how she is able to capture nuances in skin tone and hair color with just pencil by using a varied application of value and shading.

     I appreciate how Hammond works with a variety of media—her work features graphite, colored pencils, and acrylic, and her subjects vary widely from people to landscapes to still lifes. Her style of painting acrylic landscapes focuses on capturing textures and color contrasts as they appear, rather than trying to paint what a person’s brain thinks is supposed to be there. For example, in her book Lee Hammond’s Big Book of Acrylic Painting, her chapter on landscapes explains how to use textured tools such as kitchen sponges to capture the porous and layered appearance of leaves on a tree, instead of trying to outline each individual leaf on a branch. The sunset below (for which she provides a tutorial in her book) simply uses black paint and a sponge to capture the trees in the background.

     As can be seen above, Hammond’s style of acrylic painting also doesn’t shy away from strong applications of color. Red and orange aren’t typically the colors I would think of when painting a sunset or water landscape, but the pronounced use of these colors really captures the intensity that the original scene must have evoked. She also does a good job of capturing lighting variations on objects, and portraying how lighting can affect the perceived hue of an item. The acrylic rendition of a grassy stone pathway below really captures the direction of lighting from the sun, and the different textures of the subject, like the smooth stones, rough lawn, and pointy blades of grass. Hammond’s way of evocatively presenting common poses and scenes with conscientious applications of value and color is a style I hope to emulate in my own work.

Works Cited:
Hammond, Lee. Drawing in Color : Drawing in Color - Animals. Cincinnati, US: North Light Books, 2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 22 February 2017.

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