Kathryn Hempel’s year of art

Artist and editor Kathryn Hempel with a few of the 365 paintings she completed in 2018 (photograph by Betsy Grimm).

Artist and editor Kathryn Hempel with a few of the 365 paintings she completed in 2018 (photograph by Betsy Grimm).

Every day in 2017 — when she was not meeting the responsibilities of a highly awarded film editor — Kathryn Hempel was committed to painting it as it goes.

“Sometimes it was journalistic and sometimes it was random,” she explains. “It’s a great way to explore and practice as an artist.”

Before 2018 rolled in, the Cutters’ partner had completed a piece of art on each of the preceding 365 days.

Working out of favorite spaces in her suburban Chicago home and makeshift studios wherever life was happening — Detroit, Minneapolis, Puerto Rico — she recorded a year of spontaneous visual expressions.

The running theme of the final collection is, to her delight, no theme at all.

"Praying For Us All"
“Praying For Us All”

“Every day was such a surprise and every day is a surprise,” she says. “I kind of like to do that, and go with what I’m feeling, topics of the day, and how I personally express myself.”

Each piece in the collection occupies the same 12-inch by 12-inch dimensions — “The size of a record album,” she says — but the content exceeds categorization.

“Watercolor, India inks, and crayons are nice, especially for traveling,” she continues. “Also, I like these Japanese Posca pens. They kind of sit on top of the paper in a nice opaque way.”

The resulting collection ranges from abstract expressionism to colorful pointillism, with fun-loving pop art, whimsical post-impressionism, and friendly watercolor in between. There’s also at least one Rockwellian portrait of Winnie, who appears to be a dachshund. And that’s just a sampling.

"Winnie After Dark"
“Winnie After Dark”

“It’s good to bring creativity into different aspects of your life,” she explains. “It’s fun to talk about and it enhances my editing as well.”

Hempel accomplished the same feat in 2014 and showed the results at an exhibition titled, “KH365. Make art. Make peace.” in the streamlined main lobby of 515 N. State

Although she has been painting in the meantime with “a group of artist friends (who) get together and encourage one another,” she held off from daily artistic deadlines.

But something about 2017 motivated her to do it again.

“It became kind of a way to keep my focus and keep developing,” she says. “It’s a really good way to journal a year.”

To help her stay on schedule, she let the unique mission be known.

"Night Lights"
“Night Lights”

“A crazy goal kind of helps you get it done,” she says. “When you publicize it, it kind of motivates you to complete it.”

Inspiration most often came late at night in places ranging from Florida, Wisconsin, and Iowa to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and a wedding in Arkansas. Consistency came from coworkers at Cutters, who were instrumental in helping to strengthen Hempel’s appreciation for deadlines.

“I am so used to producers coming in and asking how it’s going,” she says. “When it’s your own project, you have to learn to treat it with the same respect.”

"Power to the People"
“Power to the People”

Hempel, who started painting after her parents bought her an easel when she was a child, is currently reviewing spaces to show her work. She is also open to creating a film or book version of the effort.

Although she admits that, “it’s certainly risky to put it all out there,” she finds a wealthy source of confidence in the people she keeps close.

“Luckily, my family and friends have been so supportive,” she says. “That helps a lot.”

To keep up with Kathryn, click here.