Because I grew up on a farm, much time was spent outside, gardening, doing chores, feeding animals, walking to my country school. It gave me time to observe nature in minute detail. I drew on everything close to hand… cardboard packaging, boards salvaged from apple boxes, used envelopes ripped open, cereal boxes turned inside out. New disposable tissues demanded a delicate hand with a ball point pen. The subjects were endless. There were lilacs and apple blossoms, garden vegetables, rustic old buildings, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and their beautiful eggs and feathers, quiet reflections on our dam, textured rocks, unusual weeds and wild flowers in the pasture, cats in the sun, horses frolicking, the beef and dairy cows following their established paths to graze and then come home, the little calves kicking up their heels in the spring. The far purple hills stretching south beyond our fields, capped with endless skies of thunderheads, snow ripples and mare’s tail wisps, changed with each season on the ceaseless prairie wind. The long, lingering sunsets staining each twilight above the tidy chequered fields sent an urgency through my sketches, as I hurried to catch the subtleties. School projects were thinly disguised excuses to illustrate my books with fine crow-quill pen drawings. I believe that’s why I loved Biology so much. My parents, Achille and Eda Palmier, gave me such a very strong love of the land that I couldn’t help but detail and notice all the things that make the prairies unique. It wasn’t hard to find beauty in the treeless vastness because it was there since first memory. As a tiny tot, the sunbeams and the lightening storms watched from the veranda imprinted an expanse of horizon on my soul forever. It is that which still makes joy leap up each time I see the spreading distance and even though I’ve traveled to other places, I’m content to see its vastness when I come home again.
I enrolled in the U of S in a B. Sc. nursing program. Strong advice then was that art could never be a vocation but two years later, I enrolled in a four year teaching program at the Regina Campus where I studied Art Education taking as many Fine Art classes as possible. The sixties eschewed realism which made it hard to find methodical teaching with firm techniques or methods. Joe Fafard and Ted Godwin influenced me the most. Joe would quietly talk to us in the sculpture studio while he worked on a sculpture, effortlessly it seemed yet by class end, a cow, as only a farm child could understand it, sat placidly in clay! I painted hours in closed studios at the old campus and in my third story rooms with turpentine and varnish. We weren’t really aware of the toxic danger and so the fumes soon began my lifelong struggle with chemical sensitivity. It took years of trial and error to find materials that I could tolerate. Still to this day, I am extremely careful to paint so as to avoid months of reactions.
While at university, I did private commissions, logo and mural projects as well as some commercial design. I practice taught at Davon and La Bret Elementary Schools. I met my husband Nigel at the campus where he was on a four year chemistry scholarship. We sang together at the Folk Guild and also sang as French folk singers in campus events, then married in 1973. In 1973, I obtained an Arts Board grant, purchasing materials to set up a studio. Nigel began a photo business, going to people’s homes for family portraits. He changed his major to music/band education and completed four years in two. We already had our daughter Tabitha and our son Christopher when Nigel graduated with honours from the Education/band program. He immediately applied for two band positions and was hired for both, so, randomly, we made the choice to move to Cut Knife, Saskatchewan.
Cutknife was an unusually creative community with much support for art, drama and music. We had an art guild, a potter, many musicians, a band parents association, a small art shop with some very top quality supplies, and I was asked to teach adult art classes. The experience kept me scrambling to stay ahead of my enthusiastic students. I was so proud of their amazing work. There were commissions, community art projects, and fund raisers. We displayed works in local businesses which then led to local art shows then a gallery display in North Battleford.
Nigel taught the Band Program as well as Chemistry and English. Photography and art led to a part-time photo studio in our “spare” hours. I learned hand tinting, removing glare from glasses, opening shut eyes with a tiny 3 haired brush. (How amazing digital photography is today!) Students and friends dropped over at all hours and there was always a project on the go… a favourite family pastime was sketching and photographing the beautiful surrounding area. These habits continued wherever we lived.
Nigel built me a big sturdy easel copied from a picture of Winston Churchill’s easel. That big easel, set up in a corner of the kitchen, was a focal place shared with my children, my big canvases clamped on top, their projects set at their eye level. I would make an oven meal and we’d all paint as the afternoons spread out deliciously. The kids loved this and I still have the canvases they produced from those times. Nigel designed a studio/garage at the end of the yard for me but the kitchen was still the place of most inspiration.I somehow felt too distant from the hubbub of the kids to go out to paint.
In 1981, we moved to Caronport, Saskatchewan, to study. We always had the desire to return to Cutknife. We missed the easy way that art and music fit the fabric of the small community, and wondered where we ourselves fit. Still, here, I did backdrops for several married student programs, the ice carnival, and several staff banquets. Nigel (thus I) became involved in the High School Dessert Theatre building sets. An opportunity arose for him to direct for several years, so he built sets, worked out the lighting and sound issues and helped me paint and design the sets. I designed the posters and we burned the midnight oil, pulling all-nighters as production drew closer…. I always loved the “fool-the-eye” art of stage and we had fun developing realistic props and fakery. Each one of our children sang in the High School touring choir and for a very short while, we took this choir through Saskatchewan and Manitoba during Easter break. The sets and costumes had to be put up and struck down at least twice a day. The Easter story was challenging to present in a fresh way on such a vast variety of stage sizes. I loved seeing the dramatic vignettes of costume, lighting and sets coming together to transport audiences to a different time. It always impressed me to watch the students transform each night. Each scene glowed out like an Old Masters painting.
I taught several adult art classes here, created posters for community and school events for many years then began designing cards and letter paper. As well, we spent 17 summers and many weekends singing as a family. We packed our van full with our electric piano, synthesizer, microphones, amplifiers, several guitars and music and our family of six as we led camps, sang at churches and at conferences across Western Canada. The singing was part of life even off stage as road trips always involved impromptu singing; the smaller kids picking up harmonies just for fun. Eventually, we went to England for 6 weeks in 1989 where we had the amazing experience of singing in many historic churches, our first concert being in a 700-year-old thatched coastal church. We also sang where Spurgeon preached his first sermon! Our family almost outnumbered the tiny congregation!
In between singing, Nigel and I exhibited in the Joe Moran Gallery in Regina; Tabitha showed her watercolours alongside… we did the SaskPower “Gallery on the Roof” with photos and art. I had a display in Assiniboia for the Arts council. A few years ago, after all the family was moved to their various places of education or marriage, we presented a Family Art Perspective here on Briercrest campus featuring Nigel, myself and our four children with their various styles of art. My painting, “Another Nature Hike”, came about soon after. All four children had graduated and left home… some had gone as far as England and Japan. I was desperately missing them. The painting came together as I painted through a night flooded with memories and, by morning, the painting was complete. It won a place on the SGI calendar. Somehow, the love and fun of their childhood translated well and this now sells as one of my most popular prints. I just participated in a gallery exhibition at the Shurniak Gallery alongside Western Prairie artists and also have a painting coming out on the 2011 SGI calendar.
I have a wonderful studio space in our converted garage. Now “retired”, we’ve embarked on a full time wedding photography business. Nigel keeps involved in school and drama photography, as he continues a popular gallery of huge prints featuring the grade twelves for the grad weekend. Gradually, over the years, our talents have overlapped and we look towards a busy and challenging time together. We love shooting weddings and enjoy journaling the whole day. Because photos grab a moment so well, it’s hard to get back to the canvas at times. We are beginning to do giclee prints of my paintings. It’s been amazingly rewarding to use my artistic ability especially when it inspires others to “see” the amazing prairies. The subtleties of color in our prairies and the amazing variety of our Saskatchewan skies are highlights of my life anywhere I go. Sometimes the awe and majesty of our prairie vistas is almost too overwhelming to capture. My joy of nature has served me since I was a small child, investigating the pastures, the skies, the details that make up prairie. God has been the ultimate creator and I trust that the love and awe translate into my canvases and photos.
Tabitha was the oldest, and had the ability to sing maturely as a tiny three year old. Her singing drew in each other siblings as they came along until we had a lot of harmonies happening amongst the kids. While still living at home, she taught as a Fine Arts camp instructor in watercolour. She sang in worship teams (where she met her husband )and choirs, as soloist in the Messiah and had other solo parts. She went to England to work with disadvantaged children for a summer. She also sang with her husband in their work. She designs jewellery, cards, and turns her hand to creative projects at home and work, often doing sewing projects for the neighbourhood. Her work as office manager at a high school is good for interacting with teachers and students but she still tries to be involved in local drama productions and singing whenever she’s asked.
Chris sang in many worship teams, then toured with a drama team where he also used his singing and guitar. He was in many productions here including a fairly operatic scene, (not his comfort zone!) and made several CD’s with a touring group. He acted in a play which opened in Calgary, then became a music pastor in Calgary for a year, taught English in Japan, then trained at ACAD as a graphic designer. He now lives in Winnipeg where he has a home office, working for Critical Mass, a design company in Calgary, while doing freelance on the side. The work requires travel to Calgary, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Houston and other US points at times. He received an award for his work in the web industry in Seattle three years ago. He still plays beautifully and works towards a sound studio to produce his and others’ music one day.
Our daughter Toni had a display of her pottery at the Moose Jaw art gallery gift shop when in grade twelve. She also taught children’s art classes through the Gallery. She sang solos as well in many productions here as a student. She trained in ACAD, met her husband in a worship team there, then married, became a convention presenter for an international company and moved to Dartmouth as a means to study pottery at NSCAD in Halifax. She has taught after school art at her children’s school in Dartmouth, N.S., and now teaches pottery at several community centers. Presently, she has an exhibition in a gallery there and is working towards a one-man show this coming year. She also does part-time book keeping for a firm as she works towards establishing a pottery/art studio which is finally taking shape in her home.
Megan sang solo parts in her school productions as well, sang in worship teams here and in Calgary, studied at Sait where she became a wedding photographer/photo journalist. She is especially drawn to children and weddings. She covered several seasons of the Calgary Film Festival, involving Peter Fonda’s and Atom Agoyan’s week-long visits to Calgary, where she filmed the whole of Fonda’s motorcycle ride through the Rockies, shot Sait’s new building project for the Sun, photographed show homes, food and business reviews for local publications, as well as shooting conventions such as Wendy’s. She has discovered a talent in knitting so is presently working towards establishing an on-line site where she can sell her work. Eventually, she plans to have her photography business back up when her children are older. Meantime, she keeps busy sewing costumes for the kids, knitting complex designs and documenting every move of family and friends. We love her photographic contributions so much!
Somehow, the sense they have to be creative follows them since becoming parents themselves. Our nine grandchildren have access to art materials as their parents continue to encourage them to create as a part of their everyday activities. Who knows how this will nurture a future in art one day!