One would never guess Tulsa-area artist John Hammer is new to the painting scene.
Those who frequent Guthrie Green, the popular new Brady Arts District park, might have caught a glimpse of a painting of the iconic Blue Whale of Catoosa or Tulsa’s famous Golden Driller. They are the works of self-taught artist John Hammer, who recently opened a booth at the Green, and are included in his “Okie Icon” series.
Hammer, an Okmulgee native who resides in Claremore, only began his painting career in May 2012, after spending 27 years in graphic design, a profession he continues under the name HAMMER Designs.
How long have you wanted to be an artist? I have always wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. When I was in the third grade, I remember winning an art competition, and (I) won several others through high school. I would also draw pictures from Cracked and MAD magazines and of KISS to sell to the other students.
I am self-taught as a fine artist and just started painting last May (I’ve talked about doing it for the past 25 years). When it came time for college, I was advised by my art teacher to pursue graphic design and have made a career out of that for the last 27 years.
Which artists have influenced you the most? I would say some of my favorite artists are Van Gogh, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. I also think graphic design has been a large influence on my paintings.
Do you have a favorite painting among those in your body of work? My favorite painting at this time would have to be of the Tulsa Driller. It’s titled “Gleaming.” I’ve always been intrigued by things that are larger than life, so I knew the Driller would be one of my first paintings. The contrail was added once I was finished and knew it needed something. It gives the Driller almost a heroic, space-age feel, like he’s protecting the city. It’s interesting how one little thing can change the feel of a painting.
From where do you receive your inspiration and what medium do you use? I would say my inspiration at this time comes from challenging myself to paint different subjects. I’ve painted buildings, animals, landscapes and portraits.
I use acrylics. The best thing about acrylics is how fast they dry. It allows me to work fast.
Besides your website, where else are your works showing? I have had the privilege of doing 14 commissioned pieces for OSUIT in Okmulgee (Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, Hammer’s alma mater). Thirteen of them fill a Student Union lounge ...
I have a booth most Sundays at the Guthrie Green Sunday Market through October. ... I am also planning a new Driller piece for the “Oh, Tulsa!” show at Living Arts.
At this point, I create and promote my own gallery shows at available venues around town. Part of the beauty of being a graphic designer is that I can create my own promotional pieces. My plan is to continue to expand my reach and exposure until it’s worldwide. I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but when I do, I may have to write a book.
What are your plans for future paintings? I will continue to paint more of my “Okie Icon” series that focuses on anything that stands for, represents or brings back a memory of things in Oklahoma. I will be traveling to Huntington Beach, Calif., (this month) and plan to take a lot of reference photos for a series of California paintings. I lived there for a few years after college, and it’s still dear to me. I find there are a lot of Okies and Californians still connected these days.
I just finished 12 new paintings based on “The Big Lebowski” movie for a show titled “The Art Abides,” and I’m currently working on some commissioned pieces that range from buildings in Okmulgee, a miniature donkey, some portraits and a John Deere tractor. ... Commissions are ... a big influence on the future of my paintings — you never know what someone might ask you to paint.