Grandma Moses was 78 years old when she began her iconic career as an artist. "Poppy" (what his granddaughters call him) Hammer started painting realistic images of birds in watercolors at the relatively "young" age of 68. He did have a head start, painting in oils while in college, but his degree was in landscape architecture, and he made the pragmatic decision to earn a living in his new profession (and to raise a family). His interest in art went on the back burner.
Walking through Michaels arts and crafts store in 2014 with his wife and granddaughters, he spied a starter watercolor set; bought it on impulse....and his passion for art quickly returned, a half century after he had given up watercolors as a teenager.
For reasons he cannot explain, he chose birds as his first subject, interrupted only by portraits of his granddaughters, a red fox here and Biscuit the Cat there (now, unfortunately, deceased). His early efforts were based on photos from the web, until he learned that photos "published" on-line are presumed to be copyrighted, and creating derivative images of such material is a no-no. But the avian subject matter has not changed.
Enter Brenda Robert, his daughter Alison's mother-in-law, who is a supremely talented wildlife photographer. Her hi-res images of a wide variety of bird species became Nelson's subjects for more than 25 of his paintings. Other sources appeared: friends, family, and three professional bird photographers (Glenn Bartley, Jess Findlay, and Peter Brannon) who were gracious enough to grant him permission to interpret their stellar imagery into watercolors.
Nelson's goal is to recreate accurate renditions of bird forms and coloration, with the hope that a viewer will say "Hey, that's a Screech Owl!" when they see his work (provided, hopefully, they are not looking at his Blue-footed Booby, never mind another species of Owl).
With the help of his photographic contributors, he has created photo-realistic imagery in watercolors of many birds of prey (ospreys, eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls); waterfowl (ducks, ibises, egrets, and herons), and colorful tanagers from the tropics, among others. Future subjects will be several common species virtually anyone will recognize, such as pigeons, seagulls, robins, and with luck and patience, many, many more.
Nelson Hammer's "Sunset on the Ocean", 1969