Brooke Palmer is painting in his Toronto, Ontario studio prepping for The Artist Project. The four-day exhibition, held in Toronto, Canada from February 21-24, features 300 artists and will be held at The Better Living Center. The artist is also a stills photographer in the film industry and IT: Chapter Two (2019) has recently wrapped, giving him space to step back from the camera.
“It’s been an interesting career. It’s never the same day twice,” Palmer says. Most shoots average around two-to-three months, during which the stills photographer is present for every scene to capture images for publicity and media. Palmer’s photos become the movie posters and Instagram posts (among other modes of advertisement) that draw people to the box office and Netflix. The hotly anticipated IT: Chapter Two was a four-month long shoot. As the stills photographer, Palmer was present 5-6 days each week for up to sixteen hour days. Of his lengthy career, he says, “You’re constantly working on new projects with new crews, and new actors, and new stories, new locations – sometimes different cities. It changes, and it never becomes boring because you are never in the same place for very long.” In this pause between film projects Palmer is creating expressive works, paintings that are emotive in their depth and form. The fast-paced film world is a contrast to painting. Modern-day binge watching makes the world of film and television increasingly passing, as people consume one episode or film only to want another. Viewing a canvas makes us pause. The world contained inside its dimensions speaks to another side of the artist.
Painting has come in and out of Palmer’s life for years, leading up to this stage where he is immersed in the practice. “I started painting about thirty years ago before my first child was born. Throughout the years I would be drawn to periods where I painted quite a bit, and then there’d be sort of fallow periods where I would go a certain length of time without painting anything.” Four years ago, Palmer felt that it was time to have studio space and commit to the process of art making. “Those kinds of choices pushed me to paint on a regular basis and more seriously, because I was making not only emotional commitments to it but financial commitments to process, to sell. I was sort of pushed more intensely to see what I could produce and to try to get some results out of it.” Palmer’s effort has led to several exhibitions and garnered the attention of art collectors worldwide. International clientele of Toronto galleries, as far away as Iran, own Brooke Palmer originals. Still, like many artists he finds that saying goodbye to the work has two sides. Knowing that someone else connects to the work is exciting, but letting deeply held pieces go isn’t always easy. Among them Palmer counts ‘On Iridescent Wings’ and ‘Passage to Heaven.’ “At the end of the day it does leave me with a feeling of satisfaction and gratification to know my art is providing joy in a total stranger’s life. Selling pieces also opens both the physical and emotional space to embark on new creations and this keeps the creative process constantly moving forward. It’s a win-win for all involved.”
The creative process begins with a loose, unstretched canvas “that allows me to manipulate the canvas and to create values and depressions,” says Palmer. He then pours the paint on the canvas to create shapes and qualities of movement. The first color dictates what the next will be, and layers continue to form a dynamic whole. The translucent quality is created with water “to soften the edges and cause one color to run over the other,” he says. Layers of warm colors can become luminous, “creating the illusion of the painting sometimes being lit from within. If you have beautiful yellows or oranges underneath darker colors, sometimes they appear to illuminate the painting as a whole.” Unexpected colors can emerge from the process of mixing, layering, and adding water. The play of color, the mood and dance of this process, has Palmer captivated. “The outcome is never guaranteed or completely predictable. And sometimes what I started off intending to do and what the end result is are very different,” says Palmer. The layers of various colors cause each painting to become a kaleidoscope of its own.
Like painting, stills photography began with one image that led to more, unexpected opportunities. In the late 1980s Palmer was an editorial photographer for magazines. His cover shot on TV Guide Magazine of Canadian musician Anne Murray caught the attention of film distribution company Alliance Atlantis Communications INC. He was brought on the set of the television series’ Ready or Not (1993), Flash Forward (1995), and Traders (1996) to capture stills and now has ninety-three credits on his resume. Highlights for the artist are Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001), meeting and photographing Elton John, and of course working on the IT (2017) franchise.
Palmer’s comfort with unpredictability is present in both his paintings and his film work. On the set of a film there a host of unknown factors. Each actor’s process is unique, as is the process of the producers and crew. “When you begin any film project the first day or two are really telling in terms of what the process will be like.” Building a rapport with each actor in their own way is essential to being able to shoot dynamic images of them. Shooting still photos while filming is taking place, some actors need more or less space or respond to different angles. The subtle balance of interacting and blending in is an art form. With painting Palmer allows the colors to be, interacting by occasionally thinning their edges and applying a gentle hand, trusting in what will emerge. “I like the unknown part of [painting]. Every time you start one there’s opportunity to be surprised and take it in another direction, which I think is one of the most intriguing parts about making art and painting.”
“Random Childhood Recollections”
Still, the difference between the two artforms is distinct for Palmer. “I have spent over half of my life on film sets. I have had a great career and enjoyed the ride. The world of film and television is transient. We live in a world of voracious consumption. People love a particular TV series or a film and almost immediately after consuming it are on the hunt for the next show or film to become infatuated or obsessed with. It is impermanent, fleeting.
“I believe we reach an age in life where we reevaluate what our purpose is here on earth and in this life. We take on ‘legacy’ projects. We begin to examine and work towards the important question of ‘What are we going to leave behind?’ when our time is finished here. Without question, my 6 beautiful children are by far my greatest achievement and accomplishment. A father could never be more proud of his children than I am of mine. Still, I cannot help smiling, and I actually felt a chill run up my spine in contemplation of this thought. Someday, far into the future I hope, my paintings will live on and hang in the homes of my beautiful children or a complete stranger. ‘Who made this painting?’ someone will say. ‘My father’ could be the reply or, ‘There was an artist named Brooke Palmer who’s work charmed and captivated me.’”
View Palmer’s work at The Artist Project in Toronto, Canada from February 21-24, 2019.
(Images courtesy of Brooke Palmer)