Art doesn't take a holiday

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By David Pierini

Staff Photographer

The 365th piece by the "Everyday Artist" did not come easily.

First there were problems downloading photos she had planned to use for reference to create the oil painting. 

Then the caps on her tubes of paint would not open. Pliers eventually got them to twist free.

Then when Kathryn Hempel finally finished, her daughter accidentally sat on the painting left on a bed to dry.

The paint came off the jeans, but the moment will leave an indelible mark in Hempel's memory when she looks at the painting years from now. In fact, she is able to remember every day of 2013 just by looking at the piece she created on each date. 

The Oak Park woman, featured in "Friends and Neighbors" at the halfway mark [June 26] during her quest to create an artwork each day for a year, reached her goal just before 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. 

Hempel, 49, celebrated with a family photo surrounded by all 365 pieces. 

Now what? Well, she's afraid to stop.

"I'm nervous about going back to creating a little bit of art here, a little bit of art there," Hempel said. "The concern had always been: If I want to create art, why wasn't I doing it?"

She motivated herself by making a public declaration on Facebook last Jan. 1 that she would post a picture of each creation.

Fear had to be removed from the process. No matter how she felt about a finished piece, she forced herself to post it on her page.

"It's risky putting each piece out there," she said. "There were times when I thought 'Oh, I'll hear crickets chirping on this one.' Then someone would react and say they liked it. The deadline, and the public statement of posting it, was what helped me get it done."

Hempel fit the project into an already busy life. A film editor, wife and mother of two, she kept on creating even through a busy business trip to Paris. She created one piece in the car while the family drove to Door County, Wis., for a vacation. When she was sick and bed-ridden one day, her husband, Curt, suggested she "phone it in." So she sketched a phone. 

There were times when her daughter, Daisy, would catch her mother nodding off over a sketch or painting or worry about the clock as time on a day ran out.

"I learned she has a lot of motivation and talent, which I already knew, but she is very motivated and talented," her daughter said. 

The art — mostly paintings, with some sculptural objects — were sometimes documentary records of her day, such as a scene out her office window, walking the dog on a snowy day or a birthday trip to the Skydeck of the Willis Tower. 

There are loving portraits of her husband and two children, a large painting of Polish military hero Casimir Pulaski and a painting of the word "Dream," made on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's famous, "I Have a Dream" speech. 

Some are abstract shapes and all pieces seem unified by her sense of color and graphic design.

She spent several hours over the last two days of 2013 with photographer David Kindler, who carefully shot each piece to help her produce a book on the project. 

"I feel like I now can say that maybe I am an artist," she said.

To view all 365 pieces, search "Kathryn Hempel-art" on Facebook.


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