who i am
John Hemmen is a self-taught artist. He was born in 1947 and was raised alongside his 5 siblings in Fullerton, California. He spent his youth outdoors in that idyllic climate playing sports and wandering around the beaches, hills, and orange groves. The intense light and color of that environment have stayed with him ever since. At a young age he was good at drawing and was encouraged to draw in school, but he was always counseled to seek a more secure profession than one in the Arts.
John went to Pomona College where he developed an interest in zoology and literature. He also underwent his political awakening as this was the period of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. After college, John was a VISTA volunteer in Vermont, working in the War on Poverty and trying to help people. The things he saw there rekindled his interest in the visual arts and he started teaching himself how to paint. Then he decided that he could help people the most by being a doctor, so he gave up this early interest in painting and pursued his dream of being a doctor. He went to Medical School at the University of California, Davis, then practiced with the Public Health Service in New Mexico and Washington, then settled near Seattle and worked as an Emergency Physician for 30 years.
The demands of practicing medicine were great but John was determined not to be consumed by this vocation. He chose Emergency Medicine because it is characterized by intense periods of work alternating with periods of time off to do other things. This time off was used in his early career to build houses and landscapes, travel, engage in outdoor sports, and help raise his young family. By his mid-thirties a yearning for more artistic expression began to take hold and he started to draw and paint with a commitment that was constant. He has been painting steadily since 1985 and has compiled a large body of work. Although he has had several one-man shows he has not pursued this avenue yet for getting his work out to the public. Instead, he has been content to keep producing it, choosing instead to let his inner muse be uninfluenced by an established artistic world or public. Now that he has finished his career and retired from the practice of Medicine, he has decided the time is right to devote his life to making Art and showing it.
John’s work is largely narrative in style, with the story usually shown in a representational format, and with color used to help express the work. The subject matter runs in various themes which rotate according to interest. More concentrated depictions go into the portraits and landscapes where detail matters in rendering things like they appear. This gets tedious and the need for imagination to go wild intervenes and images from the head come out onto the work. These appear more in the abstract and free-form works. Always the themes reappear, especially the fish and the northwest landscapes because that is omnipresent in John's life.