Bill Hemp is a sketchy guy.
And that’s why Bainbridge loves him.
Everywhere he goes, the island artist has pencil in hand, paper at the ready, set to craft detailed mono-color sketches of Bainbridge landmarks, his preferred subject since moving here in 2011.
Hemp recently collected 26 such sketches and published the well received “Bainbridge Island A to Z Sketch Book” in February 2017. It’s now in its second printing. His drawings of local landmarks regularly appear in the pages of the Review as well and, most recently, he compiled 12 choice illustrations into one collectible poster, which will be available (for $25 each) in the gift shop at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and Eagle Harbor Book Company next week.
Hemp will mark the debut of his latest creation with a signing event at BIMA, in the gift shop, at 6 p.m. Friday, March 9.
Despite the popularity, the artist himself attributes the success of his recent printed work more to subject than style.
“I just think they love the island, they’re proud of it and here are 12 icons that really represent the island, they would like to have it to hang in their study, their living room or someplace to remind them about the island,” he said. “It was born out of the sketch book. I was working on the sketch book and it seemed so many of the chapters, the A to Zs, were an icon. And I thought, ‘Well, maybe we ought to do a poster spotlighting the icon itself.’”
Though his own love for his new hometown is apparent in the craft and care of his drawings, Hemp’s previous residence could not be less quaint.
He’s a true blue Mad Man, a survivor of the storied Don Draper-era of Madison Avenue life where he worked in copy writing and promotional marketing for Young & Rubicam New York, and served as creative director for Burson-Marsteller until he retired in 1992.
He hopped islands in 2011, making the move from his longtime home on Long Island, New York to Bainbridge with his wife Maggie. They’d previously been vacationers here and both loved it too much to leave again, he said.
It was then Hemp began roaming the Rock in earnest, exploring his new home in his preferred way: with his sketch pad. He reveled in old farmhouses, thick forests, Winslow storefronts and the flotilla of boats in Eagle Harbor, filling sketchbooks all the while from front to back with intricate pen-and-ink drawings of some of the best (and least) known sites of Bainbridge.
Among those ultimately chosen to appear on the poster are Day Road farms, Bloedel Reserve, the iconic Frog Rock, the historic Rolling Bay Post Office, BIMA, Bainbridge Gardens and the historical museum, among others.
Hemp rarely works from photographs, preferring to post up personally and sketch on-site. Thus, he said, the most difficult of the icons featured on the new poster was probably the IslandWood treehouse.
“That was very difficult,” he said. “Because it’s way up on the tree and there were an awful lot of people going up and down and I had a heck of a time. I was sitting on a tree stump, and I kept falling off of it.”
Hemp’s next project is another poster, one spotlighting “Iconic Trucks” of Bainbridge Island.
“I think I’ll take a rest after that,” he laughed. “I’ll think of something else.”