Partially-blind artist paints life-like portraits: 'I feel like God blessed me'

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RICHMOND, Va. -- If you want to find Tammy Hinkle, she's likely in her home studio, a place where hours slip away.

“I love it so much,” Hinkle said. “I can paint just about anything. I’ll be in here till 11:30 at night sometimes. They fly by when I’m painting. They fly by.”

The professional artist creates life-like portraits and landscapes.

“I like realism or hyperrealism as they call it. Making something look real. Or fooling one’s eye,” she said. “I feel this is my gift. I feel like God blessed me with this for a reason."

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The 57-year-old Norfolk native can’t remember a time when she wasn’t holding a paintbrush. She even put her goals in ink in a book dating back to the first grade.

“I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be an artist,” she said. “The fact that I get to bring joy to other people doing what I love to do is amazing.”

Hinkle pours her heart into each canvas, capturing her clients' loved ones and animals with striking detail.

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“I get this weird separation anxiety when a painting leaves my studio,” she said. “I really do miss them when I leave. I am extremely connected to them.”

The married mother of two feels a great responsibility to get it right.

“I put a whole lot of hours into this painting,” she said. “I wanted it to be as perfect as I could.”

Her paintings are priced well into the hundreds of dollars, but that is not her motivation. She even donates her canvases to non-profit causes she believes in like Fetch a Cure.

Her artwork even led to nuptials with her husband Chris. More than 30 years ago Chris noticed Tammy painting a mural at his gym.

“I am very proud of what she has accomplished. And also how she helps people,” Chris said. “She is talented and enjoys doing it. That is what is important as well. Some people may be good at something but not enjoy it. So it completes her and it is a big part of her life.”

With thousands of paintings under her bristles, nothing seems to stop Tammy. Not even blindness.

“I was born with what they call Amblyopia,” she said. “My brain and eye have stopped communicating.”

Her condition left her legally blind on her left side.

“I’m not sure how I can paint with one eye. It is a mystery,” she said. “Not many people know. I never really told them. The secret is out!"

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One doctor put it bluntly.

“I showed him some of my pictures and he said, ‘You should not be capable of this period,'" she said.

Her impairment never deterred her from doing what she loves.

“It is a miracle in a way honestly,” she said.

She can’t envision a time when she is not painting.

Tammy Hinkle an artist who blends colors and compassion in every single stroke.

“I think when you make the connection between doing what you love to do and bringing joy to other people,” she said. “That is your purpose. And I found it.”

Tammy’s latest creation of Bobby the Dog helped raise $5,000 for Fetch a Cure’s Mutt Strut.

If you would like to peruse some of Tammy’s paintings, click here and here.

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