Charles W. Palmer - Paintings

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Photograph (detail) courtesy of Aimee Morris, and is copyright by the photographer.

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut during WWII. My parents encouraged me at an early age to make art by supplying me with pencils, paper, watercolors, and crayons. In 4th grade my teacher asked if anyone would like to decorate a chalk board for the Thanksgiving holiday. I volunteered, did a fair grouping of Pilgrim hats, cornucopias, and turkeys. As a reward, the teacher bought me a hot fudge sundae. The sundaes kept coming as I chalked my way through Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. When I was about 10 years old my mother took me to the Wadsworth Atheneum (a large museum in Hartford) where she encouraged me to enter a drawing contest to draw an antique bed warmer. I won the contest and was awarded a small hand made figurine made in Bali...which still sits on a bookcase in the living room.

In high school I took lots of art classes, did huge murals for dances, and developed a series of pen and ink drawings of trees with partially hidden creatures and things in the branches. I took a vocational aptitude test and they said I ranked high in art and nature. It suggested a vocation or "calling" as a landscape gardener. Forever amused by their somewhat backwards conclusion, I later became a landscape painter.  

When it came time to think about a college I applied to the University of Connecticut for science, Trinity College for liberal arts, the Coast Guard Academy, Michigan for forestry, and two places for art...Syracuse and Boston University. I only got into the two for art and decided to pick BU because it was a big city, had a lot of museums and many resources.  

I took the standard first two years of art classes with the intention of going into advertising design as a major. What I didn't know was that there was a big difference between advertising design ( to serve a utilitarian or practical purpose) and fine art (art for art's sake like that of a museum or galleries). When I had to declare a major, my PHD brother asked me which of the two I liked to do the best. I said I liked painting my own ideas...not what somebody told me to paint. We both then concluded that I needed to go into fine art. I did and have never looked back.   

I then decided that I would try to get into graduate school. I thought my art needed more refinement or finish...sort of, you made the cake, now put the frosting on it. I found a painter in California that I liked, Richard Diebenkorn who was from the bay area figurative school of painting. I learned that he taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I applied, got in and when I got there, learned that Diebenkorn had left that year for a job at UCLA...bummer. I majored in painting and had a big controversial final theme was my version of Christ's Entry into Brussels by Ensor. In effect it was "Palmer's Entry into Oakland in 1966". I did self portrait paintings that included odd balls and  characters from Bay area groups that were making headlines at the time such as the Hell's Angels, hippies, the Vietnam Day Committee, druggies and stoners, the Oakland police, go-go dancers, the Black Panthers, and British rock bands.   

After I graduated, my brother helped me with job concerns when I told him I couldn't make a living mowing lawns. He told me I was qualified (I had a masters degree) to teach college. I found an opening at Fort Wright College of the Holy Names in Spokane, Washington for an art instructor, got a resume together, and applied. I got the job and held it for 13 years attaining the rank of Associate professor.   

During the initial time teaching, I was doing surreal paintings but wasn't happy with the direction they were taking. The paintings were bizarre, strange, and difficult to paint. They were not connected to real life whereas reality had become a prominent part of my philosophy. I needed to use life experiences as the content of my paintings rather than using made up mental images. So one day a friend and fellow painter Curtis Hanson said, why don't you paint that creek you live near? I did a small on-site painting and surprisingly, my landlord traded me a month's rent for it. I've been doing landscapes ever since.  

In 1982 the Sisters of the Holy Names sold the college property and closed the school. After that, I was looking for income and fell back on my illustration skills by landing a job illustrating stories in the Spokesman Review newspaper. I got back into teaching at the Spokane Art School and had a one man show there in 1986. It was successful and led me to choose between teaching or sales through galleries. I picked the gallery sales and for the next 30 years I showed in a number of northwest galleries, some quite prestigious.   

These days I continue my travels around the Pacific Northwest still finding many scenes in nature for doing paintings. These range from seascapes of the Yachats, Oregon area to  mountain creeks of north Idaho. My current gallery scene has been pretty much ruined by retirements, one gallery owner's unfortunate death and resulting gallery closure, and the pandemic. I do have one outlet left in Spokane: MAC Art Sources, a rental and sales program of the Museum of Art and Culture. While self isolating at home this year, I have done at least 10 new works since last March 2020. I plan to show them here but haven't decided where they will end up: new works, recent works, or portfolio. 

Charles W. Palmer
December 9, 2020

Artist's Statement

I've been painting professionally since 1986, when I decided to make my living through gallery sales.  Before this, I always had a day job teaching art. After my landlord traded me rent for a small painting of a creek, I went into landscape painting full time. I found nature to be a subject I already loved, a source of inspiration to make paintings, a place where I could be creative in paint. I began to use that creativity as a vehicle for brushwork, color, and light. I would call my paintings naturalistic rather than intent is to exaggerate the brushstrokes with expression rather than to show photographic clarity and detail.  

I look at my paintings as 'interpretations' of nature. My job isn't to replicate nature, it's to interpret suggest it via paint. This means creating a 'symphony' of colors, designs, and textures. I start this by viewing nature with a selective eye...looking for unique and special scenes that, as they say, catch my eye. There are endless scenes in nature that are frankly, visually boring and monotonous...they are just ordinary, not very interesting and not worth painting. What I look for are those scenes that are visually special...the lighting, the angle of view, the arrangement of colors, and the composition...scenes that would make great paintings!  

I do use photography since I’m a studio painter and don’t do plein air (outdoor) painting. Photos instantly capture a view of a subject so when I get back to the studio, I can remember the shapes, the lighting, the atmosphere, and the design details. Then I choose what I deem necessary to put into the painting leaving out what is not important or distracting. I rely on photos as hard copies of scenes I have witnessed out in nature.  

I use local color (the sky is blue, the leaves are green etc.) but I'm most happy using exaggerated color. For instance my sky might be pinkish purple with blue undertones blurring into pale yellows. It may be several tones lighter or darker in value than what i saw. I also let brushwork and color accidents stay in a painting. Often they actually help by introducing a randomness that can give the piece a spontaneous fresh feeling.  

My manner of working is to paint loosely but still have a solid underlying drawing in the picture. Lately I have been painting very directly...not much underpainting except for drawing major lines of the design. In a second session, I'll block in major color areas. A third session is where I do most of the coverage...putting the paint on thick and buttery. Up close the strokes look slightly abstract but when viewed from a distance, one begins to see recognizable objects. It's a kind of duality of image…two ways of viewing the painting. The impressionists got similar results with dabs, dots, and spots of paint.       

Some of the artists that have most influenced me over the years are Rembrandt, Monet, Max Beckman, Soutine, and the Group of Seven. 

Selected Exhibitions

2019One Man Show, MAC Art Source, MAC Museum, Spokane, WA.
2018Group Show, Dodson's Jewelry/Fine Art, Spokane, WA.
2017One Man Show, Dodson's Jewelry/Fine Art, Spokane, WA.
2015One Man Show, Dodson's Jewelry/Fine Art, Spokane, WA.
2011One Man Show, Dodson's Jewelry/Fine Art, Spokane, WA.
2010Group Show, Art in the Garden, Kay O'Rourk studio, Spokane, WA.

One Man Show, Dodson's Jewelry/Fine Art, Spokane, WA.
2008One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Portland, OR.
Group Show, Seven Painters, DeVos Gallery, Marquette, MI.
2006One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Portland, OR.
2005One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR.
Miniature Show, Art Spirit Gallery, Coeur de Alene, ID.
2004One Man Show, In Focus: Regional Artist Spotlight, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA.
One Man Show, Kress Gallery, River Park Square, Spokane, WA.
2001One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR.
1999Juried Show, Watcom Museum, Bellingham, WA.
1998One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR.
1997One Man Show, Davidson Galleries, Seattle, WA.
1993OneMan Show, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR.
1992Camera to Canvas: Photo-Generated Art in the Northwest, Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA.
1991One Man Show, Davidson Galleries, Seattle, WA.
One Man Show, Lawrence Gallery, Sheridan, OR.
1989One Man Show, Traver-Sutton Gallery, Seattle, WA.
1987One Man Show, Traver-Sutton Gallery, Seattle, WA.
1986One Man Show, Spokane Art School, Spokane, WA.
1985Wintershow, 123 Arts, Spokane, WA.
1984Juried Art '84, Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane, WA.
Group Exhibition, previous purchase winners of Washington State Arts Commission, Touchstone Center for the Arts, Spokane, WA.
1982Commission by Catholic Diocese to paint two portraits of Spokane Bishops.
Purchases of two paintings by Washington Arts Commission, existing works purchase competition
1980One Man Show, Dupris Gallery, Spokane, WA.
1977,78Faculty Exhibit, Fort Wright Gallery, Spokane, WA.
1976Landscapes, Figures, and Interiors-a Group Exhibition, Juniper Tree Gallery, Spokane, WA.

$2900 Mural Commission awarded by the Washington State Arts Commission for the Art in New Buildings Program, 27' oil on canvas triptych.
1975Spokane Painters-a Survey, Juniper Tree Gallery
1974Two Man Show with Debra Allison, Governor's Office, Washington State Pavillion, Expo 74, Spokane, WA.
1970,72Spokane Annual Exhibition, Spokane, WA.
1970One Man Show, Fort Wright College, Spokane, WA.
196921 Alumnae Show, Boston UniversityGallery, Boston, MA.
1968,69Beth El Temple Exhibition, West Hartford, CT.
1966Group Exhibition, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.

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