Monday, January 10, 2022

Individual Artist Fellowship 2022: Works on Paper

Dear friends, I'm so so happy to announce that I have been awarded a 2022 Individual Artist Fellowship by the Delaware Division of the Arts in the category of Works on Paper for my "Making the Invisible, Visible" migraine series of self-portraits.

Words can not even begin to express my enthusiasm - mostly because anyone who knows me, knows my enthusiasm is most aptly expressed by exuberantly jumping up and down with an excessive waving of the arms... Oh wait, here's a video of me doing just that...


So, it's fair to say I am BEYOND thrilled! I have seen so many talented Delaware artists like Shannon Woodloe, Eric Zippe, and Lauren E. Peters awarded this fellowship in past years and I am so excited to join their ranks! It is rather funny timing, as I was just discussing this body of work in my last blog post, and how it has taken me many years to follow the advice from my professors at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art about creating a cohesive body of work. And well, my friends, here is the proof, because it was with that very same body of work that I created over the summer that I was awarded the fellowship!

A little bit about the fellowship and what it means for me and why I am so excited. The fellowship "recognize[s] artists for their outstanding quality of work and provide[s] monetary awards. Individual Artist Fellows are publicly acknowledged and benefit from the additional exposure to their work." In addition to the monetary award, fellows are given the opportunity for a solo exhibition as well as participation in the group exhibition, Award Winners XXII, at the Biggs Museum of American Art tentatively set for June 3 through July 23, 2022 with an award ceremony and reception to be announced. 

As a longer lasting bonus, awards such as these add to an artist's general reputation and can be helpful in winning future awards, residences, other exhibition opportunities, etc. In other words, it looks kick-ass on your resume! 

You can learn more about the Individual Artists Fellowships awarded this year here: and stay tuned for more information about upcoming exhibitions and events!

If you haven't already seen some of my work in this series, you can read my artist's statement here: When you have gone through six years of intensive art school training, you get used to writing about your own work pretty quickly. But I've never really read someone else's interpretation of my work before! Getting the news that I had won the fellowship made me so incredibly happy, but reading the juror's comments and knowing that a complete stranger resonated so with my work made me want to cry! Particularly given that this work has been so personal and meaningful to me, even just knowing that it could reach someone else who has suffered in a similar way makes me feel that I have succeeded. And so, I leave you now (to go jump up and down some more, obviously) with the words of the juror...

"The works shown are impressive. For anyone unfamiliar with this "invisible illness" the drawings on glassine paper, china marker and thread are beautifully rendered and convey the intense frustrating pain that accompanies this illness. The works rendered in pastel and paper are haunting, and show the despair, nausea and depression that this disease can bring. They show the intense claustrophobic isolation that one endures. In these works the artist has indeed may the invisible visible. As a one time suffer, I appreciate the artist acknowledgement of the creative power and strength that can be obtained by overcoming this debilitating disease." 

Okay, one LAST last word: Thank you to all my amazing friends and family who have supported me to help me get to this place in my career - I sincerely couldn't have done it without you in so so many ways!!!!!! Seriously, Delaware is my home because I live here, was born here, and work here... but most importantly it's home because the people that I love and that love and support me are right here with me! Sending you guys All. The. Love!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Coming Full Circle

Updating my website has been an ongoing endeavor, but as I worked on it these past few weeks, I was reminded of some most excellent advice that I got as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon School of Art. At both my sophomore and senior year portfolio review, the repeated, resounding advice that I consistently got was, FOCUS, MAIA, FOCUS!!! Sometimes I wanted to paint, sometimes draw, sometimes work in the foundry… Their advice definitely checks out, because as I have found in the real world, most applications, fellowships, grants, etc. are looking for works that speaks as a whole, not a little bit of this, a little bit of that. So clearly, armed with all of this real world knowledge on top of 6 years of art school, I took their sage advice, and…

…Completely ignored it! My work continues to be all over the board, ha! Some days I feel like cats and comics, some days I like to revel in the beauty of a landscape, or maybe some creepy skulls, but no, what about portraits? Let’s paint them, no, let’s draw them, wait, what about a coloring book? So yeah, I continue to explore my vast and varied interests which leads to a bit of a random website, but on the upshot, it definitely helps me as an art teacher!
I’m still not quite sure how I landed my dream job at the premiere art school in Delaware, but I’m pretty sure that my knowledge of everything from printmaking, digital art and photography, murals, ceramics, painting, and drawing may have played a part in it. (Also for which I have CMU to thank for giving me such a well-rounded foundation!) One of the biggest challenges I have found teaching at the AP level is that students are doing ALL sorts of different artwork, and having a diverse skillset to be able to help them is definitely key, although let’s be very clear, I am STILL very much learning! I am lucky to have had such amazing coworkers over the past few years, like Cheryl Lynn, Kate Huffman and @dweldzius , and now Lindsey Ostafy– I have learned SO much from all of them!
Aaaaaaand, circling back to my professors at undergrad, Mary Weidnerand Susanne Slavick, they will be happy to know that I did SOMEWHAT take their message to heart... It took about 20 years, but I think that this past summer I finally figured it out, and have created a body of work that I’m truly proud of. It is cohesive, meaningful on a personal level, and it is a style/technique that I find myself falling into and in love with and see so much potential for coming projects. It’s actually interesting that I have come full circle in more than one way. It was in undergrad that I embraced large scale charcoal drawings, and I loved it so much! But somehow, somewhere along the way, drawing fell by the wayside for me. I think I fell into the trap of trying to make the artwork that I thought would be “marketable” or saleable versus the artwork that I truly felt compelled to make. Another great thing about teaching, is that hey! I don’t have to sell my work for money – that’s what the teaching is for, ha! But realizing this means that I feel more freedom to pursue my own interests, and I’m not beholden to any market.
So thank you to my profs so much for helping me all those years ago – I’m still learning from you both, and I’m super excited to see where this body of work will take me! Ya’lls can check out this body of work under the “Portraits” tab (okay, and then the “Self-portraits” tab… yes… still too many tabs and sub menus, but hey, work in progress, right?). Check it out and let me know what you think of my website!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Once an art teacher, always an art teacher!

Now that I have been teaching art for some time now, I have a hard time turning my teacher brain off! As I was working on this drawing, I kept thinking about all of the things that I would tell my students to notice if they watched this video, or what I would tell the if they were creating a similar drawing (newsflash, they will be, quite soon!)

It was also heartening to realize that I do, in fact, do the things that I am always telling my kids to do! I think they think I'm nuts, with some of the advice that I give (particularly the not using black for shadows part), but I truly do believe what I tell them, and am about to tell you :)

Some of the advice that I would give, that I think I did pretty well in this piece are as follows:

1. Don't be scared to start over! Students HAAAAATE to start over, and I get it, it's scary and hard and it sucks to have spent time on something just to realize that you may need to do it again. This is actually my 3rd version of this drawing. I did one in my sketchbook, liked it so drew it larger (you can see the remnants of it in the top right hand corner at the start of the video), but I didn't like it so I erased/smeared over it, and then did version 3 straight up on top of it. And am happier with this version than either of the 2 prior.
2. Plans are helpful, but sometimes you have no idea WTF you are doing till you do it! I hadn't intended for this work to be in color, it was black and white, with maybe some purple for my hair as I envisioned it in my head. But I was so confused by my earlier drawing, I had to add color to help me sort out new/old drawing, and then I just ran with it. Sometimes, you just gotta go where you drawing takes you!
3. Don't use just "skin" colors for skin tone!!!! I mean, you CAN, and some artists do that very convincingly. But after my initial pass of a skin tone, I ran with the reds, purples, blues and even some greens. I love it when you layer colors and the hints of one color peeps through to the next layer.
4. Avoid black holes!!!!! omg. If I have to take away one more black colored pencil LOL. To be fair, I did go in with some black conte crayon at the end, but only after I had exhausted my full repertoire of conte crayon colors. And I love working with black and white! But why make a shadow with just black when you can get such a richer more lively dark shade by layering colors?? My kids laugh at me b/c they know my answer to almost every color question is JUST USE PURPLE (so they won't be surprised when I show up to school with purple hair at least haha!)
5. Mark making is beautiful! STOP THE SMUDGING! I totally get it's not everyone's jam. But sooooo many of my kids default to using a smudge stick (or heaven forbid, THEIR FINGERS!....actually.... I smear my big charcoals drawings with my hands all the time for the same reason I tell them not too, shhhh!!!) In my opinion, this can be a bit of a cop out. If this is the ONLY way that students know how to create a gradient, then they won't have as many skills in their skill set as the student who can both use a smudge stick AND one who can use just the pressure of the pencil to create variances in value. I always feel like why learn only one method that only will get you one sort of result, when you could learn MANY methods and then choose the one that makes more sense for your desired goal????
6. LOOK AT YOUR SOURCE IMAGE! Students will spend more time looking at their drawing then at their reference and then wonder why it doesn't look right, ha! But no, my kids are doing well this year, and they suffered through a lot of blind contour drawings, and they are pretty good at actually looking at the thing they are drawing/painting. But watching this video made me laugh with my constant frantic head turning haha. It's because my computer is set up in the corner with my image. I usually have a print out but it was black and white so I preferred looking at my actual photo so I could see the colors better.
Can you see evidence of my tips in the video???

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Tortured Artist Paradigm

So, whoever invented the popular "tortured artist" paradigm (I'm pretty sure it was Plato with his "All of the good poets are not in their right mind when they make their beautiful songs") was, indeed, well, full of nonsense. 

Dear Francis Bacon, while I love your paintings, your indifference to happiness - "The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility"is also completely nonsensical.

Not to say that if suffering is your jam and its what gets your paintbrush moving that you should dump it for a smile and some sunshine! (Though I highly recommend it.)

I write this because I've been procrastinating for several weeks now working on this commission (see below) and I couldn't figure out why. But the answer is simple. I've been stressed and lonely, and I just really didn't want to make work. My heart wasn't in it.

And this made me think about the concept of the tortured artist which is so popular in today's culture - the mad artistic genius! Behold!

There are so many stereotypes that surround artists - we are solitary creatures; 
we are full of boundless creativity; anguish is a font of inspiration; we shall trudge on and work through the pain and suffering! Now more than ever I realize how I, and I'm sure many of my artistic cohorts, do NOT resonate with these concepts in the least.

I am gregarious by nature, an extrovert that thrives on physical activity and time spent with my friends. At first during quarantine, I was thrilled! Ecstatic! Time! At long last! But eventually, the loneliness, compiled by the stress of making new lesson plans and teaching art from a distance, the lack of tactile contact, have most certainly caught up.

Honestly, making art has been the LAST thing on my mind. And I say this to myself out loud in blog form in order to give myself permission to breathe, recenter, and take a break. Yes! I am an artist...and YES I am giving myself permission (and you too!) to binge on Netflix like every other person on the planet instead of feeling like you must wield your brush like a weapon and stave off the loneliness with dramatic bouts of creative genius!

What eventually pulled me out of my funk wasn't just "getting to it." It wasn't embracing my pain or my sadness...It was giving myself permission to not work, and to allow some joy to enter my day - specifically the joy of meeting with other artists for some "Virtual Shared Solo Practice." Knowing that I would be meeting with this group for a 2 hour session, I allowed myself to bing on some Netflix, take a nap, and snuggle with my cat for the entire day leading up to it. I finally caved and gave myself the go-ahead to do absolutely nothing of "value" or "worth." And it felt so good! I was then able - after a week of procrastination, wild stress and anxiety - to finally begin this commission that I had been putting off. It was that pass to play hooky, and the connection to others that helped catapult me into a positive mindset. 

So my final thoughts are this - even though we are artists, we are still human, and we do NOT all thrive on misery, anxiety and depression. And if that is where you are, that's okay. It's okay to not create. Sometimes we just need to allow a mental space for mindless activity until we can start breathing normally again. Your art will always be there waiting for you! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Memory Project: Creating Portraits of Kindness

I love that I love my job! This week has been especially meaningful; I love knowing that I’ve helped contribute to something greater than myself or even my students - Let me explain! (how many times can I say 'love' in one paragraph...Can you sense my enthusiasm?!)

Earlier in the semester, one of my design classes set a charity art project in motion. We were discussing the upcoming Fine Arts Festival (which, by the way, was a big hit!) and a student mentioned how at his sister’s school, they did a fundraiser at their art show to raise money for supplies, and inquired if we could do something similar.  I pointed out that as a private school, we already have a budget for supplies. I loved his response, “But, Ms. Palmer, couldn't we raise money for a charity instead? Like…an art charity?”

Yes, yes we can. I mean, how could you not love these kids?! After some research, I stumbled upon an organization called The Memory Project. You can watch this video to see the project in action!

In a nutshell, “The Memory Project invites art teachers and their students to create and donate portraits to youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence, and extreme poverty.

These portraits help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well being, and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future.  For the art students, this is an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”

27 of my students volunteered to participate in this project, and they spent several weeks working diligently to create vector portraits of 27 high school students in Bolivia. I've included just a few in this post.


Here are some of the challenges that these children in Bolivia face: “It is first important to know that Bolivia is the financially poorest country in South America. Such poverty leads to regrettable trends for many women and children, such as inadequate nutrition, limited healthcare, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Bolivia’s weak economy also creates a vacuum for narcotics, as many people can make far more money through the drug trade than they can through traditional employment.

These children all live in a particularly challenged area on the outskirts of a city, where many families live in one room homes with dirt floors and walls of sheet metal.”


It was inspiring to see how much my students cared about this project. Sometimes when students become frustrated, they fall into an attitude of “I just want to be done” or “this project is too difficult.” But these kids were amazingly dedicated. Despite the fact that this was the first time for all of them using Adobe Illustrator, or even digital art of any kind, they were motivated to keep at it until they had created portraits that the Bolivian students would love and cherish. They even wrote letters in Spanish (with the help of our Spanish teachers!) introducing themselves and explaining their artistic choices to make it even more personal. One student said, "The Memory Project helped me to fully appreciate just how powerful art can be. It's so crazy and inspiring to think that someone thousands of miles away has benefitted from my art project!"


This week, we received a video showing the delivery of the portraits. Overall, portraits were created for over 800 children in Bolivia, with the help of about 160 schools in the U.S., including Archmere Academy. In addition to the portraits, the participating schools as a group managed to raise over $4,000, which will help provide much needed services to these schools in Bolivia. I feel so proud that my students were part of this effort. 

I can’t imagine a better example of how we can use art to change lives and create powerful, social change. It’s a good day to be an art teacher!!


Monday, April 24, 2017

In a Framing Frenzy!

I haven’t written in about a year – and that’s because things have been busy! I am now officially a full-time art educator at Archmere Academy, and life couldn’t get any better!

In addition to working full-time, I have also been preparing for my first solo exhibition in the area, featuring a combination of my dictionary drawings (see below!), portraits, and landscapes. I am so grateful to my amazing co-worker, Terry Newitt, who suggested that I contact Darlington Arts Center. The center is wonderful, and currently has a beautiful high school art exhibit on display. Definitely worth a look!

It has certainly been a learning experience for me as I prepare for the opening on June 15. I realize it’s still quite a ways off, but I decided to do the bulk of the framing myself, which has been an uphill battle. I have almost finished framing 16 of my dictionary drawings! They were a particular challenge for several reasons. I didn’t want to use a standard matting option because I love the edges of the pages – I want everyone to be able to see them, as they add so much visual interest to the pieces. This means I needed to float them, but I didn’t want to damage the pages because of their fragility. With the help of Jerry’s Artarama and Wendy at The Talleyville FrameShoppe and Gallery, I finally came up with a solution.

I ended up using a self-adhesive hinging tissue on the back four corners, mounted to black mat board, and a cream frame around the drawing. I was concerned about my dubious ability to center the artwork correctly, so I added strips of foam core in between the two mats, and then added the artwork after the mat was assembled. Because the frames now have a shadowbox effect, the distance between the edges is constantly shifting anyway, so small discrepancies are less noticeable. That said, I'm sure I centered them all perfectly! It was arduous cutting the 32 mats, but I think the end result is worth it. Even worse than cutting the mat was the deceptively simple task of cleaning the glass. Every time I thought I was finished with a frame, I’d notice a new speck of dust, a smudge or a stray cat hair trying to sneak its way behind the glass. It seems I spent the bulk of my spring break windexing my way through the process!

Over the past few years, I have participated in several group exhibitions, and it definitely helped me come to understand the importance of framing. I won’t lie – I tend to skimp on the framing process and go for as cheap as possible. But it definitely costs the artwork in terms of overall power and presence. I’d previously been using a clip frame for my dictionary drawings, and while functional, they certainly didn’t add anything to the pieces. My new strategy is a decided improvement! The black provides a nice contrast and also ties in with the pen and ink work.

Now that they are just about complete, I can’t wait to see them all up and on display! Next up in the process, reframing my miniature landscapes…go go go!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Create an Animated Color Wheel: High School Art Lesson Plan

This year, I decided to try something a little new (and very challenging!) in my freshman Intro to Design class. Since our art department doesn't currently offer a motion graphics class, I added a basic animation project  - an Animated Color Wheel - to my curriculum. The combination of new concepts such as timing and key frames, plus two new programs (Illustrator and Photoshop) was overwhelming for students at times, but it was heartening to see that many who struggled with drawing and painting really succeeded at working digitally! 

Here are a few samples of their work:

The great thing about this project is that the you don’t need a lot of skill with the pen tool to create a shape that will look interesting once it is rotated and copied to form the color wheel. This provides a really nice opportunity for success without a whole lot of knowledge. The kids were always like, “WOW, THAT’S SO COOL!” after the wheel was complete. I can't claim authorship of the basic color wheel project, however. When I was a long-term sub, the teacher I was covering on maternity leave shared the project with me. It was a really wonderful idea, and I'm so thankful for her creativity and generosity!

Overall, I think the animation process was a success. Although it was not the most creative project, the primary goal was for students to understand the concept of keyframes and how basic animation worked. Many of the students simply followed the step-by-step instructions, as I did not grade this project based on creativity (see rubric below). All I was really looking for was the basic requirements of opacity change, scale, rotation, and text. That said, many of the students were quite creative and went above and beyond the requirements to create some pretty interesting works of art!

To introduce the unit, I had my students draw color wheels in their sketchbook and we reviewed some basic color theory. I also spent some time with them going over the fundamentals of using the pen tool in Illustrator. Here is a great tutorial if you need to brush up on some basics.

Step-by-step instructions:

I would definitely practice this a few times on your own so that you can figure out where the students are most likely to make mistakes – because you will have made them too! If the written instructions are too confusing, here is the video tutorial:

Grading rubric:

Common mistakes: incorrect aspect ratio, which made it difficult to compile all their final videos; forgetting to convert a layer to a smart object; confusing seconds and frames; extra time at the end of the video. Lastly, make SURE they watch their video before they submit so that they can catch any errors that they made! 

Let me know if you have any questions!