Anne Hempel’s home art studio is literally surrounded by nature. A high canopy of ancient oaks lets scattered rays of light shine down on the wooden studio building, and the birds and other wildlife that provide Hempel with her inspiration can be seen and heard, playing and chirping up in the trees.
Hempel, a Tallahassee-based artist, taught art in schools locally and in Japan before making what she calls the “leap of faith” to becoming a full-time artist.
“I painted all my life. I can remember being 2 and being at an easel in pre-school, painting,” Hempel said, adding that her grandmother, also an artist, sent her art supplies and often encouraged her to create. “But professionally, I’ve been painting for the last 10 years.”
Hempel has a children’s easel set up for her 2-year-old daughter, Evelyn, to paint alongside her while she puts scenes of nature onto handmade wooden canvases made by her husband, Todd. To put it simply, art is a family affair for the Hempels.
Todd’s hand-crafted canvases add a natural feel to Anne’s works, she explained.
“I love working on wood. I like the way that the surface has markings, it helps me to build a texture.”
Even young Evelyn inspires and influences her mother’s art. “She picked phlox blooms for me from our yard and even found the purple paint in my studio,” Hempel said. “She chooses birds from her picture books.”
Naturally, the Hempels have felt right at home for the last five years attending the LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival, which is held this Saturday at the Park Avenue Chain of Parks.
“One of my friends told me about the show and said ‘you really have to participate,’ and I just loved it. I was so inspired by some of the artists,” Hempel said of her first time attending the festival.
“I couldn’t believe how it propelled my career. I expanded my client base, and met a lot of artists that I was able to network with,” Hempel said. “A lot of my clients come back every year. They look forward to seeing my new work, and I look forward to seeing them.”
The festival, which is in its 15th year, is a juried art contest that brings over 150 artists from all over the country to Tallahassee. Musical acts and food vendors like Cypress Restaurant, the Miccosukee Root Cellar and various food trucks make the event a one-stop shop for the arts.
“It’s really high-quality art from quality artists” Todd Hempel said. “It’s a juried competition, and a lot of people apply.”
Anne said that Todd’s help on the day of the festival is essential. “He helps at the show by packaging things, moving paintings and of course setting up the tent. There’s a lot that goes into it. And he critiques my work.”
“Setting up is usually a lot of fun, meeting up with all the other artists and getting everything ready before people start arriving,” Todd said. “We bring our own tent and usually set up Friday or Saturday morning. It’s just a really fun atmosphere.”
Anne and Todd said they brought Evelyn to the event for her first festival last year, and she was able to enjoy the children’s tent, which is supervised by event volunteers. Kids can participate in making spin art and other easy arts and crafts.
Anne also uses the festival as a way to discover and get new art for her collection.
“I have a tradition at the show to connect with an artist, usually one that I’ve never met before, and exchange a piece or buy one,” she said. “I have a couple necklaces, a hand-woven shawl, a painting, a metal sculpture and a mixed-media piece. I treasure these pieces.”
if you go
Chain of Parks Art Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Bloxham, Lewis and Randolph parks along Park Avenue, east of Monroe Street in downtown Tallahassee
More information: http://chainofparks.com