Local artist illustrates book on Gettysburg

Local artist Tim Hartman has brought his talents to a new book on Gettysburg. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

While there is no shortage of history books, travel books, personal memoirs on a broad range of subjects, there are very few that combine all three with such original insight as can be found in “Discovering Gettysburg,” written by Dr. W. Stephen Coleman and illustrated by local artist Tim Hartman.

Hartman explained that the “team effort” began five years ago when Coleman “…asked me to meet him at the Public Theater to talk about a project he wanted to do.

Coleman had by then retired from acting, but Hartman was performing in a play there at the time, so it was a great location to discuss the possibility of pursuing mutual interests.

“Stephen had developed a passion for Gettysburg and had an idea to write a book about what it was like to walk the battlefield as someone who is in his 70s, a book which would give folks who were visiting for the first time a solid introduction to the town, the sights, the history, and how to get around. To make it a more ‘user friendly’ book, he wanted me to do portraits of all of the important historical figures, and the contemporary folk he interviewed about the town and the battle. That’s 200 people, and another 100 incidental drawings,” Hartman said.

And who might be found among Hartman’s drawings? Everyone who was anyone related to the Battle of Gettysburg, beginning with a politically correct rendering of General Robert Edward Lee and Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall Jackson, followed by caricatures of 90 Gettysburg military figures and over 100 people of the past and the present, including the author and artist, as well.

“The illustrations run from straight-out caricature to serious portraits and whimsical cartoons of situations Stephen found himself in while walking the battlefield. It’s mostly pen and ink with a water color wash,” Hartman said, adding, “Mostly faces. Generals and soldiers. Historians, battlefield guides, shop owners and battle reenactors.”

But where did Hartman find the actual images for him to transform into caricatures?

“Outside of the research needed to find historical photos, for some men there is very little out there, and the quality of the images can be washed out by age. I often just had to decide what ‘face’ to give them. The folks at that time were very much into having their portraits taken, but a [photo portrait] was a lengthy process, and everyone can come off looking very grim. It was impossible to smile if it takes 10 minutes to capture the image. [Photo technology, still in its early stages, required that subjects sit as perfectly still as possible for portraits.] Add to that an amazing change of character from how they looked before the war to how they looked after the war. I wanted to be kind, but at the same time, I wanted these to be honest portraits and to show the effects of the war. I’m amazed at how a resting faced portrait of a person will really bring out the soul. They did make it easier for me, because there is just so much facial hair,” Hartman added.

Some of his drawings presented particular challenges.

“Lincoln’s face is hard because he was a changed and aged man after the war, and you can see every Union death on his face. Meade as well. I drew some of the ‘monsters’ of the battle as well, and often you can see it in their eyes. Some of the historians have passed since I drew them, and that’s a sort of strange experience as well,” he said.

Far fewer problems with his depictions of present-day people -- Gettysburg residents, shopkeepers, restaurant and hotel owners, and others mentioned in the book.

“The contemporary portraits are true caricature,” he said. “Source material was just happy smiling faces, and those folk were really game to have a true caricature drawn. I didn’t meet anyone who was disappointed by how I drew them, but the style is very broad.”

The “Gettysburg” project marks his first foray into the genre of historical work.

“I have sketch books full of these kinds of sketches for my own pleasure, but never tried to get anything like this published.”

While most of his skills come “naturally” to Hartman, he did have some formal training.

“I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for one year. My dad insisted on it. But it was a very technical education. I’m not sure my skills were really developed in that year. I just learned about tools I didn’t know existed. When I went to college after that first year, I minored in fine arts, but that was mostly art history. I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil. Spent all levels of education using illustration as a tool for my own pleasure and the pleasure of others around me, and although I make the majority of my living in the acting world, art has always covered a percentage of my income.”

And for those who may not know of Hartman’s “stage side,” a quick summary: nearly 300 plays and musicals, including roles on Broadway in “A Tale of Two Cities" and the Tony-nominated "Finian's Rainbow," local roles that include C.S. Lewis in the Pittsburgh premier of “Shadowlands,” Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” and a variety of characters in “A Musical Christmas Carol” over the past 22 years. In addition to stage performances, he has appeared in films that include “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” “The Piano Lesson,” and “The Fault in our Stars.”

Tim also is an award-winning political cartoonist and illustrator whose work is syndicated in 30 newspapers across Pennsylvania.

And finally, in addition to the book, Hartman has created a poster of all the historical faces.

“It’s 18x24 inches, and is suitable for framing. There are 150 soldiers’ faces on it, and each man is named. It makes a great reference of the battle: Find a face and then search out information about that soldier,” he said.

Scott Mingus Sr., award-winning author of “Flames Beyond Gettysburg” describes “Discovering Gettysburg” as being “…witty, entertaining, educational, and downright fun.”

The book can be ordered on Amazon or at the publisher’s Web site, www.savasbeattie.com.
Additional ordering information may be accessed at www.timhartman.com.

Most importantly, the Coleman-Hartman collaboration gives this event more than just historical information. It sparks the imagination and makes the reader want to drive over to Gettysburg, tour the scene and the town and to record personal memories.