Spike Palmer attempts to answer questions when he paints. Inspiration strikes him whenever he sees something he deems wondrous, beautiful or mysterious. For the Camas resident, the mystery lies in the attraction of what he sees, and the ensuing painting is an investigation into that mystery.
“I try to let the world in,” Palmer said. “Whatever strikes my fancy I start to paint, just to understand why I like it. Why do I like these trees so much? If I paint them and spend hours and hours with them, I learn a little bit more about them.”
The work of Palmer and 18 other artists will be featured at the 2021 Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance’s (WACA) 2021 Washougal Arts Festival, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at Reflection Plaza in Washougal.
Palmer is excited to return to the event after participating for the first time in 2020.
“Last year (the festival) was a juried exhibition, so I sent in a bunch of my pictures and they were accepted. But since (the organizers) didn’t have an actual, physical festival, they said, ‘We’ll invite you back this next year,'” Palmer said. “I’m new to the Camas-Washougal area, and I just wanted to be part of the community. (Last year’s festival) went really well, so I was actually looking forward to doing (it again). It’s always great to get the art out for people to see, as many people as you can. And people are fascinated with the creative process, so it’s cool for them to have a little peek into it.”
Palmer has been an artist ever since he was a young boy growing up in Sacramento, California.
“When I was a little kid, I was always drawing,” he said. “Even in class, I was doodling while the teacher was talking. When I hit high school, I got kind of serious about painting. It had always been kind of something that I did along the way. It’s always fascinated me how people can take one thing and make it look like another thing.”
He put his painting career on indefinite hiatus in the 1980s after taking a job as a tattoo artist, a profession which he held for the next 30 years.
“I tried (tattooing) and liked it,” he said. “It’s definitely a better moneymaker than (selling) canvas art. But it also swallowed up all of my time for more than 20 years. It was hard to be creative when I came home from working five to six days a week. In 2012, I picked up the oil paints again and earnestly started painting because time’s running out. I plan to be standing in front of the easel until I can’t anymore.”
Palmer has been working from his home studio since moving to Camas in January 2020. Most of the work he produces is on commission, including a large number of “pet portraits” that have proven to be popular among his clientele.
He also paints a large variety of nature scenes.
“(I paint) whatever I see,” he said. “I’m interested in what I think is pretty or involves me emotionally. I do a lot of walking around and hiking. In the last couple of years, I started painting my own dogs, and people got a hold of that, and I’ve been doing a lot of commissions for pet portraits, which is great. People love the paintings, and they bring in a little bit of money. I can’t hope for more than that. But I try not to pigeonhole (myself) or get into one thing and stay there for very long.
“There’s usually a time when I’m about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through that I think, ‘This is the worst.’ Then I come back and dab a few times and finish it up and it feels good. But there’s always that little bit of self-doubt, and that’s part of my process.”
Nineteen artists to participate in festival
WACA leaders are “delighted to have our festival back in person” this year after holding it online last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many artists had time during the pandemic to create, and we believe there is pent-up demand from our local art lovers to bring some beautiful new works into their lives,” WACA co-president Joyce Lindsay said in a news release. “There is so much excitement already building around the festival. It’s going to be great.”
The event will feature the work of Linda Andrews-Riggs (water color), Eric Berlin (porcelain jewelry), Shirley Bishop (fused glass), Jean Blatner (watercolor and acrylic), Chrissie Forbes (found art and oils), Kayla Rae Friedrichsmeyer (watercolor and ink), Suzanne Grover (pen and colored pencil), Charlene Hale (fused glass), Brenda Lindstrom (oil), Beck Lipp (woodworking), Toni McCarthy (jewelry), Diane Moeglein (fused glass), Liz Pike (oil), Karen Roule (silver jewelry), Hiroko Stumpf (watercolor and acrylic), Cyndee Starr (mixed media), Barbara Wright (watercolor ink and pencil), Tom West (acrylic), and Palmer.
The festival will also feature a raffle and silent auction.
“A goal of the festival is to raise funds to bring more public art to our city,” WACA board member Chuck Carpenter said. “The raffle and silent auction is one way we do that. We appreciate the generosity of our festival artists for their donations and the participation of festival attendees to purchase tickets and bid generously on these wonderful items.”
WACA leaders are asking all patrons to wear masks at the event.
“This is for the safety of our artists, who will be interacting with many members of the public that day, and of course other guests,” they wrote on a Facebook post. “We will have masks available for free if you forget. Artists are self-employed business owners and can’t afford to take sick days. Please help us keep everyone safe.”