Former Mad Man artist draws on Bainbridge history

Home is where the heart is, and a picture can say a thousand words. Put those two phrases together and what do you get? Most likely, it resembles something like a pen-and-ink portrait by artist Bill Hemp.

Bill Hemp's pen and ink portrait of the Lovell House.

Home is where the heart is, and a picture can say a thousand words. Put those two phrases together and what do you get?

Most likely, it resembles something like a pen-and-ink portrait by artist Bill Hemp.

A New York transplant to the island, Hemp has quite a story to tell from his pre-retirement days to the pen he now wields.

While thousands flock to televisions and tune into “Mad Men” to get their weekly fix of the hit show, Hemp doesn’t have to — he lived it.

However, comparing the show to his real-life experience doesn’t stop Hemp from enjoying it.

“I watch it all the time, I love it,” he said. “I do think there are a lot of discrepancies, though.”

“We did not have florescent lights in those days,” he added. “We had globe lamps.”

Hemp also recalls that his Madison Avenue offices in New York were a little less flashy than what he sees on TV.

He spent his career in advertising and public relations in  the Big Apple. And when it came time for the adventure of retirement, Hemp decided to leave Madison Avenue, New York, and moved to Madison Avenue, Bainbridge Island.

When he came to Bainbridge, he brought with him an artistic craft that he has carried with him over many years. And he has found quite a niche for it on the island.

For years Hemp has drawn pen-and-ink portraits of friends’ and family’s homes, cars and boats. Now islanders have taken advantage of his talent and Hemp has been busy drawing portraits of islanders’ abodes.

One such islander is Councilwoman Anne Blair, who got a portrait drawn of her home for her husband Wayne and their three children.

“Our children are grown, they don’t live here but are sentimentally attached to the house,” Blair said. “I wanted something that honored the idea of our home.”

“He really does wonderful work,” she added. “Because they are pen-and-ink there is a quality to them that has some imagination and personality beyond a photograph.”

Hemp has been spending much of his time touring the island and documenting its historic homes through his pen, from the Lovell House to the building that now houses the Four Swallows Restaurant.

But Hemp is not just focused on houses. He has begun a new project to produce a poster that features prominent and historic island boats. Hemp hopes to be able to provide it at local island shops such as the Chandlery.

Hemp does his work with old-school flare. With no website or email, he is hired via word-of-mouth.

Islanders can see an exhibit of Hemp’s work at the Arts and Crafts Gallery on Winslow Way.

Or, if islanders drive around long enough, it is not uncommon to come across Hemp perched in front of an old island building, pen in hand.

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