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Reviewed by Nandita Keshavan for Readers' Favorite
Boats, Barns and Bungalows is an excellent collection of water colour paintings by T.F. Hempel. They are vivid, beautiful, exquisitely rendered with a lot of eye for detail. Amazingly, Hempel is a natural artist, mostly painting scenes from his home town in Iowa, and has not had extensive formal training. The descriptions under each painting give a great idea of some of the techniques he used and stories behind the paintings. The descriptions are down to earth, honest and spontaneous. He makes the process of painting and his artistic ideas seem effortless and natural. I truly appreciated these descriptions.
Hempel has described techniques that work for him, something which artists and non artists will find interesting. He often paints scenes from carefully taken photographs, but occasionally he adds details and describes which ones are added. I was not originally an aficionado of cityscapes and buildings in art. However, in the process of reading this book, I started to see beauty and character in several things that Hempel paints. The joy of Hempel's paintings are in the wonder that you get from seeing beauty and drama in what is ordinarily thought to be mundane.
“Vander Veer Park Duck Lagoon” is a dreamy lagoon scene with reflections in the water painted beautifully. “Taco Mexico” makes a cobbled street in a small town a joyful celebration of colour and character. “Lobster cove” gives an interesting feel to water which is rendered beautifully in shades of green with swirling shadows. The paintings are beautifully rendered to give a familiar feel to the subject, such as windmills, tractors and wagons, country and riverside trails, dramatic and beautiful harbour scenes, and commercial establishments which have been open for many years. “Our home” is a faithful depiction of Hempel's own home - a beautiful rustic cottage.
Hempel is an expert in ascribing character to a building with colour, light and details. For example, a sun-drenched cottage is rendered as a shy beauty, a thatched roof cottage as a bold beauty, an inn in rural England as a place of rest and repose, a taco restaurant as a place of drama and warmth on a cold rainy night, and an electrical shop as an aged but faithful centenarian. Several evening and night scenes are rendered in deep colours, with contrasts, so that they speak of the beauty and character of scene themselves.
I began to develop a better artistic eye for detail and character using the descriptions, and saw beauty in the lucid contrast between sky and snow, in the reflection of a sidewalk after rain, in the play of light and shadows, in sun drenched vibrant colours, puddles, greenery, brick patterns and buildings of heritage and character in these paintings. It struck me that my evening walk in my local area had changed, that I started noticing the beauty of buildings, light, shadows, and plants, and it was sad that I had never even noticed the beauty of the copper green bridge I crossed several times and the graffiti on the walls.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in finding beauty in everyday life. Once you develop an eye for art, your mind can see art, beauty, character and charm in any moment, in a scene from your travels or even a familiar place such as your own town. Some of the paintings have extraordinary blending techniques and other effects which appear difficult to master, although Hempel is humble about his abilities. Hempel's unique style and original approach to water colour painting are a delight to explore in this book.