Story and photo by Vickie Jenkins
After 40 years of teaching, Dr. Bob E. Palmer, Ed.D retired in December, 2014. His final position as an Educator was a Professor of Art, in the Department of Art at the College of Arts, Media and Design with the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK. His plans have always been to continue his successful mural painting business with Palmer Studios, Inc.
Dr. Palmer remembers when he became interested in painting. “I was 8 years old at my aunt’s house. That is when I did my first painting,” he says with a grin. “I used food coloring to make different colors and added it to white shoe polish. I wish I had that painting today. I am sure one of my relatives has it now. Maybe one day I can find it and bring it home,” he laughed. “My painting materials have come a long way since then,” he adds.
You may not know Dr. Palmer personally but I am sure you have seen some of his art work. Dr. Palmer is best known and remembered by his over 1800 murals around the state of Oklahoma, Canada, Mexico and Eastern Europe. Being from Walters, OK, Dr. Palmer has done quite a few murals in small towns and one can hardly travel across our state without finding evidence of his works. Dr. Palmer takes pride in his public works; historically accurate and true to our western heritage. Palmer’s murals have served as back drops in TV commercials, major movies and television series that have been filmed in Oklahoma.
“What is your favorite thing about being an artist,” I ask. “I love being creative. I love working with my hands and making things. To me, painting is so relaxing and therapeutic. Most artists are risk takers and break the rules sometimes, so that makes me an artist,” he laughs. “When I was little, I was determined to paint. I did some drawings but I never had any lessons. Everything was self-taught. I always had colored pencils and sketch books to keep me busy.”
I asked Dr. Palmer to describe himself in 3 words. “I would have to say, creative, responsible and self-driven.” Looking around his studio at his art work, it was easy to see that he did possess these qualities. “What is your favorite mural that you ever painted?” I ask. “I would say the Santa Fe Railroad Wall. It’s a landmark here in Oklahoma City.” Asking Dr. Palmer what the largest mural he ever painted was, he replied, “The one I just finished in Duncan, OK. It is 30 feet high and 150 feet long. It took about 3-4 days to finish it, with my crew. Of course, we have to consider the weather too. We always try not to let it take too long.”
It was no surprise that Dr. Palmer is inspired by nature, other’s art work, photography, museums, sculptures and children. Palmer’s wife, 2 daughters, and 3 grandchildren keep the ideas going for him. “I feel like I need to be creative all the time. I even have an inspiration folder. I just go to my folder and I always have some idea of what to paint,” he says.
“What is something about yourself that most people don’t know?” I ask. “I have my MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Photography. I enjoy photography but there is nothing that I like better than being an artist and creating my art work,” he states.
Asking Dr. Palmer if he had any words of wisdom to give to someone, he said, “I remember my dad telling me, ‘Only boring people get bored.’ I am never bored and I suppose I lived up to that one. Being retired, enjoying life, every new day is an adventure. I feel like I was given a gift and I have a duty to give it back. I’m just out there, living my life.”
Dr. Palmer continues to paint, going to different art shows, conducting workshops while balancing home and family. He holds membership in several art and professional organizations, continuing to be in demand for public appearances across Oklahoma and around the globe.
Dr. Palmer is currently writing and publishing a book about his many murals, the stories behind the projects and the unique legacy of the artist and educator. You can view Dr. Palmer’s art work on his website Muralsbypalmer.com. Next time you see a mural, more than likely it has been done by one talented man, Dr. Bob E. Palmer, Ed.D.