Enter Charlie Palmer’s home, and it is clear he is a hockey fan.
Six Spokane Chiefs hats hang from a beam that separates the living and dining areas. His fridge is half-covered by tightly arranged Chiefs promotional magnets, collected over his many years as a season ticket holder.
The hallway closest contains two dozen jerseys with names spanning more than two decades of Chiefs players.
And on the table in front of him are a handful of the dozens of paintings he completed to earn, via trade, all that memorabilia.
Back in the early 1990s, Palmer started attending Chiefs games, mostly because he’d heard of a dynamic pair of Russian-born players, Valeri Bure and Maxim Bets. As a Connecticut native and a New York Rangers fan, Palmer appreciated good hockey and wanted to see what they were all about.
But as he attended games something else struck him.
“I saw the programs had some artwork on the covers, and I didn’t think too much of it. I thought it was kind of high school-ish,” Palmer said.
So, he reached out to Don Jamieson, a Chiefs executive at the time, and told him he could do better that that. Jamieson asked for some examples.
“I did a watercolor of one of the players and he really liked it,” Palmer said. “He hired me on the spot.”
Thus was born a 25-year relationship between the team and a local artist. Palmer’s work appears throughout the Chiefs offices – a large panorama of the old Spokane Coliseum is the centerpiece of a meeting room – and for many years it adorned programs, tickets and other marketing materials.
Though some of that has gone away, he continues to paint portraits of the team’s three 20-year-old players each year, something that is presented to them at the end of the regular season.
“I actually have it at home right now in my billet house,” said Riley Woods, a recipient on this year’s team. “It’s a pretty special painting. It brings together all four years in (junior hockey), so it’s really nice and I’m glad he could do that for us for sure.”
Nolan Reid sent his home with his parents for now.
“We have a memorabilia room in the basement, so I’m sure it’ll go down there somewhere,” Reid said. “I’ve only had a couple (portraits done) when I went to Mexico or something and had that bobblehead picture, but this one is pretty cool. A lot better.”
Palmer, 75, is a professional painter, with landscapes in various galleries, including the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane and a pair of galleries on the Oregon Coast. His work was displayed by Dodson’s Jewelry before it closed.
But Palmer also has roots in comic paintings.
For a number of years he worked for The Spokesman-Review, creating comic art on various topics, like a map for the Lilac Bloomsday Run, and a panel on silencing digital devices in theaters, a problem that apparently existed even in 1985.
“This stuff is just sort of comic illustration,” Palmer said, going over some of those paintings. “When I was a kid, Walt Disney was big so I did a lot of cartoons.”
His player portraits each take about three weeks for him to complete. He starts with an action photo from the team and then visits the team to take a photo of each player as well. The action shot predominates the painting, with a smaller portrait enclosed in a circle in the corner.
“The kids really like it, but when they’re really gonna like it is 20 years from now,” said Bobby Brett, managing partner for the Chiefs, who are owned by Brett Sports. “These pieces of art are fabulous. Each year Charlie has done an even better job. … It’s been just a great partnership.”
Reid said he’s sure he’ll have his for a long time.
“He did such a great job, and the 20-year-olds really appreciate what he did,’ Reid said. “We’ll have that memory with us for forever.”
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