Lifestyle

Color, cranes and concrete

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Florence Palmer stands in front of her paintings depicting the construction of I-90 on Mercer Island. The paintings were bought by the city and are on display at the City Hall. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Florence Palmer stands in front of her paintings depicting the construction of I-90 on Mercer Island. The paintings were bought by the city and are on display at the City Hall.
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To the untrained eye, the chaos of dirt and heavy equipment isn’t a thing of beauty. Yet, the tangle of cranes and concrete that accompany construction of new roads and bridges is was what attracted Florence Palmer to paint I-90 as it took shape. In fact, construction is one of her favorite subjects. Among the 500 art pieces to her credit are scenes of cranes operating over Eastside condos and businesses.

“The fact that the landscape was changing caught her eye,” said Palmer’s son, John. “She was always looking for something interesting.”

Two of Palmer’s oil paintings, titled “Island Crest Construction” and “I-90 on Mercer Island,” are currently on display with two books of Palmer’s numerous works at the Mercer Island City Hall. The paintings were recently purchased for $800 by the Arts Council, with the City Council’s approval.

Palmer, 80, who was born in Illinois and now lives in Bellevue, began painting in the late 1940s while attending the Chicago Art Institute, where. Palmer graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and again in 1952 with a Master of Fine Arts.

After the Palmers moved to Bellevue in 1966 with their four children, Palmer learned figure drawing and painting in art classes, and began to use acrylics and to create portraits of still life and landscape. She found it difficult to paint landscapes alone; therefore, she joined a group of local artists who worked on landscapes together. The group was affiliated with senior centers and a Kirkland gallery. The “more adventurous” of the group, according to John Palmer, went from painting still-life images to landscapes, which is what his mother did.

Palmer’s vibrant colors and broad strokes depict everything from the ordinary to the intriguing: an arrangement of camellias and plum blossoms, tomatoes, acorn squash, geraniums, pears, poplars at Redmond’s Marymoor Park, historic houses, the domed and spired Seattle Russian Church, the Lady Washington Ship in harbor, Alpental Club House, a Kirkland beach, Seattle’s Railroad Bridge. Scenes from all over the Puget Sound region are forever preserved in her works. She simply set up her easel and paints, sat down in a chair and started working.

“It was quite an undertaking to haul everything around,” said Palmer’s son.

Most of Palmer’s works are oil paintings but also include watercolors, pen and ink, acrylics and charcoal, all in four categories: still life images, landscapes, abstracts and portraits.

On Mercer Island, Palmer participated in judging art shows in the 1990s. She describes those years as her “most productive.”

A stroke seven years ago took a toll on Palmer’s health, and she “doesn’t expect to return to an energetic life.” But she “hopes her painting will bring a smile to its viewers’ faces.”

Florence Palmer’s painting tips

For beginners, a small word of advice: Don’t work on a flat table if your canvas or paper is large; your eyes will make the top part too large and the bottom too small. You need an easel, or prop a board up with books so that the distance from the top is similar to the distance from the bottom. Then just paint what you see.

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