In the Studio with Palmer Earl
How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
My personal experiences, and how I interpret them, are reflected in every painting I make. As a woman, I often wonder how my life might be different if I had been born a male or if women enjoyed the same privileges that men do today. My recent work is heavily inspired by my studies of ancient cultures and how their ideals shaped the modern patriarchy. In my paintings I explore what the world might be like if women and men had been equals from the start.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
For me painting is like working on a puzzle. To consider it solved, each area of the painting must be up to my standards and the colors and composition balanced in a way the pleases my own brain. On top of that, I have to make sure I’m conveying at least some of the idea that inspired the painting in the first place. If I can do those things, I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment….however fleeting. As for the viewers of my work, I want my paintings to show the unique strength and beauty I see in women, and to provoke questioning of the social and political position women are in. If I can point to injustice between the sexes and maybe provide a peek at what a more egalitarian world might look like, then I would be satisfied.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could talk to my 20-year-old self, I would tell her to trust her ideas and always keep painting. I used to get stuck in these horrible ruts where I would shoot down any idea I had because it didn’t seem important enough. This would leave me unable to work for days and doubting my path as an artist. Since then, I have learned that being a painter is my passion but also my job and to be productive I must sometimes treat it like that. Specifically, I can’t allow myself to be derailed by self-doubt. Instead, I must trust my ideas and keep going. If it turns out badly I remind myself that it’s just paint and I redo my work till I like it or I start something new.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I do a lot of reading about the roles of women both in the past (BCE) and the modern (CE). I am particularly interested in ancient cultures and how the patriarchy began. I read books by archeologists and historians who offer glimpses to the past when people worshipped female were gods and women held equally high positions in society as men did. I also read about archaic philosophies, myths and religions to understand the role they had in diminishing the realm of the female experience. Reading about the stifled history of womankind leaves me angry or longing for a world where women have equal access to all of the things men do, are equally respected and only help each other instead of competing. These feelings keep me motivated and are where all of my ideas come from.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
When I have a vague idea for a painting, I often write on the side of the page about my intentions and what will be in the painting to help organize my thoughts. Then I’ll draw rows of rectangles in my sketchbook or a large newsprint pad and very roughly draw out a bunch of possible compositions in pencil. Once I have a few sketches I like, I do bigger and more detailed sketches and I play around with variations of the sketches by taping different layers on to them or using tracing paper. By that point I have an idea of the main colors I will use and once I pick a sketch, I use it as jumping off point to start my painting.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve gotten is to get out there, see art and meet people. I sometimes have a hard time leaving the studio to go to shows but I have realized how important it is to see other people’s art regularly. Not only does it inspire me to try new things or to see my work in new ways, but it also useful and comforting to spend time talking with other artists. It is very hard to be a part of the art world where you live if you are never exposed to it.