Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 12, 2020
The Creative Within

Artist Scott Hammond has deep ancestral roots here and believes everyone has the ability to be creative 

Even at the age of five, Scott Hammond knew he was going to be an artist.“There’s a famous video of my mom filming us with a camcorder, back in the day,” he said. “I was so excited to show this bottom drawer I had, which was full of papers.”

Five-year-old Hammond proudly announced to the camera, “It’s my drawing drawer!”

“[My mom] looked at the camera and said: “Oh, yeah, he thinks he’s going to be an artist someday.”

Hammond is 37, and definitely achieved his younger self’s dream. Today, he runs an art gallery with his wife, helps host art shows and events, works as a commercial artist and graphic designer, and teaches art classes for the community that his ancestors helped to establish.

The art gallery, the Fox and Raven Studio, is housed in the Tooele Valley Wellness and Community Center. The center was once the Tooele Valley Nursing Home, and Hammond said there was much to update in an old patient’s room.

“It was a lot of rehabbing!” he said. 

All of the work on the studio, from wiring in new lights to painting the walls to replacing the linoleum floor with a painting of the titular fox and raven as constellations, was completed in less than three weeks in fall 2019.

Now the studio is open to the public five days a week, displaying Hammond’s work as well as works of local artists like landscape painter Aleta Boyce, ceramicist Brenten Petersen, and industrial-style lamp maker Paul Crepeaux.

When Hammond isn’t talking to patrons or other store owners in the Wellness and Community Center, he’s working on his commercial work with a business called Impact. Impact is a small company, Hammond said, but it contracts with larger businesses such as the National Parks and Six Flags amusement parks. He’s currently working on some DC Comics-themed designs for Six Flags, and has previously worked on geometric and nature-themed designs for Yosemite National Park, Alaska and other themed products.

“Most of my day-to-day work is actually digital,” he said. 

Staring at a screen all day can be exhausting, so Hammond does most of his own work traditionally —with pen and paper. The pieces are incredibly intricate, with many of them being inspired by history, fantasy or mythological stories. Some of his artistic inspirations are Arthur Rackham, a 19th century illustrator; Alfonse Mucha, a Czech art nouveau artist; and William Morris, an Arts and Crafts movement artist who created detailed bookplates and illustrations.

“I like getting into the details and kind of getting lost in it,” Hammond said. “It’s kind of meditative for me.” 

Currently, his largest personal project has been in progress since November 2018 — a huge, fantasy-themed piece full of trees, magical creatures, and hidden details. The piece is almost three feet across, and Hammond estimates that he has put hundreds of hours into it.

But he doesn’t just make big works. He’s also created a line of tiny pieces, only about an inch across, which still feature incredible detail — scenes of deer, pine trees, and landscapes like the Pacific Northwest where Hammond and his family lived before coming to Tooele. 

“I’m going to go blind, but whatever!” he joked.

The tiny pieces are going to be part of an upcoming art show the Hammonds are planning with local artists. Besides the monthly markets, Morgan le Grey, Hammond’s wife and business partner, plans with the Community and Wellness Center the Fox and Raven Studio art spotlights, such as the planned tiny show. 

“I like to make little pieces that are one of a kind that anyone can buy,” Hammond said. “My main thing is making art accessible to everybody, in one way or another, whether they’re buying a print or an original or engaging in an activity.”

That’s part of why Hammond also facilitates community art classes. There is a figure drawing session every Saturday, kid’s art lessons twice a week, which both of his children, Evie and William, attend, and paint parties for anyone who wants to learn to make some art of their own. One of the classes started a project to paint detailed faux stone on the walls of the building, bringing more creativity to life in its halls.

“I really believe that everybody has some ability for creating, and if you don’t foster that, that leads to some unfulfillment,” Hammond said. 

He’s experienced that personally.

“When we lived in Washington, I commuted an hour and a half to work every day,” he said. “My studio space was an outdoor storage closet that was four feet by five feet. … I wanted to do big pieces, but I didn’t have the space. Just having the work impediment … was stressful because I couldn’t work on my own stuff. When you have projects in mind and you aren’t able to do them, it wears on you.”

However, sometimes all of the work Hammond does with the community wears on him, too. “I love to work, I love making things, I love creating, and I love teaching. But at the same time, I’d like a day off!” he said.

Yet, he sincerely loves the work. 

“I don’t like to not do things. I don’t like to sit still. I’m always doing stuff,” he said “If we’re just sitting down at home and watching something, I’ll be drawing.”

 He gets a lot done, but sometimes it can be exhausting.

“I guess it’s a blessing and a curse,” he said. “My brain never shuts off, and I’m always thinking of a new project!”

Hammond and le Grey have made it a personal mission to bring the arts to Tooele in full force — and it’s especially personal to Hammond. Although the family lived in Washington until last year, and Hammond moved around growing up because of his father’s work as a military contractor, he always spent time in Tooele, the place where his ancestors came from. 

His great-great-grandfather, James Hammond, was a stonemason who helped to build the old Tooele Courthouse. According to family legend, he carved his initials into one of the rocks, but the carving has never been found. His great-grandfather was the Tooele School principal, and today’s Tooele County Chamber of Commerce building used to be his great-great-grandmother’s house. His brother-in-law lives in the area.

“I have a lot of history here, even though I never lived here,” Hammond said. “I have a whole lot of ancestors buried just over there,” he joked, pointing towards the Tooele City Cemetery. “I remember visiting here as a kid and being like ‘Ah, Tooele. It’s in the middle of nowhere.’ But I had one opinion then, and another one now.” 

Hammond said he was surprised by how beautiful Tooele is, and by the vibrant art community, shown in events and organizations like the Tooele Arts Festival and Tooele County Arts Guild.  

“We really love it here,” he said. “We’re trying to make it into a place where it’s known for art. It’s been a long journey up to here, and there’s a long road up ahead. But it’s amazing how quickly things are going.”

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