Charles W. Palmer has a MacGyver-ish way about him; after spending time with him you’ll come to realize that he could probably get by with a roll of duct tape and an army knife. The only difference would be that while Palmer is a “guy’s guy” like MacGyver, Palmer takes aesthetics into account; beauty, not necessity, inspires him.
Palmer can make beautiful bows and arrows out of natural materials; he can rebuild a rifle, make a knife or jewelry from stone, build a table or a frame for his stretched canvases.
He can paint, capturing the beauty he finds on his nature treks. “I try to select views that are unique, appealing or inspiring,” he said, “the sunlight on a clump of grass, a particular arrangement of clouds or a formation of rocks in a creek.”
Hiking, crawling or boating in places like Yachats, Ore., Issaquah, Wash., Lake Roosevelt, Priest Lake, Indian Creek, Hawk Creek and Latah Creek, Palmer takes pictures to capture moments of inspiration. In his large studio at his home in west Spokane, he uses the photos as reminders and combines them with imagination, simplification, invention and accident.
The final product is a stunning scene in broad and loose brush strokes in oil paint. “Up close, the strokes will look expressive and slightly abstract and then, when viewed from a distance, the forms will be recognizable as objects in a landscape,” he said.
Palmer comes from a family of intellects; his grandmother got a college degree in the late 1800s. One brother is a math professor and another has an MBA from Harvard.
Palmer is intelligent with his hands. Choosing to focus on creative ventures, Palmer earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from Boston University, after which he continued to study with established artists. He moved to the Spokane area in 1968 to teach at Fort Wright College, where he stayed for 13 years. He also did illustrations for The Spokesman-Review and taught at Spokane Art School.
Tired of teaching others how to draw eggs and apples, Palmer stopped teaching in the late 80s. In the last 25 years, he has had dozens of one-man art shows in Spokane, Seattle and Oregon. He has done many program covers for the Chiefs and now does portraits for team members. His work is also in the Art at Work Program at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. He also does the occasional political painting.
Through December, Palmer will be the featured artist at Dodson’s Fine Jewelers, 516 W.Riverside Ave., opening with a reception on Friday evening. He exhibited there a year ago and sold much of his work.
Visiting with Palmer in his studio, as you stand close to one of his paintings, he will hand you a thick reducing lens and suggest you look through it. As you do, there’s an “oh my gosh” moment as the image transforms almost like magic to a crisp moment within nature.
Stepping back from the painting, the same thing happens; all of a sudden, there you are amidst the rustling leaves and the trickle of water – chaos conquered.