We had the good fortune of connecting with David Palmer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, what’s your definition for success?
Success for me means doing. It means being completely engaged in my work. It means making art. Even when I’m tired, or feeling discouraged. It means learning, growing, and trying new things. It means being committed to doing something I love. Success is about process, not outcomes. Outcomes matter of course. It would be naive to pretend they don’t. It’s important to have exhibitions, to grow an audience, to make sales. And it’s nice to win awards, and to get featured in the media. But those are things that you can’t control. Sometimes they happen, and sometimes they don’t. You can work toward them, but working toward them is part of the process. Talent is overrated. So are results. So is external validation. Success is doing the work.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My paintings combine the vocabulary of Pop Art with an Italian Renaissance sensibility. They are inspired by dreams and childhood memories, and a fascination with the physical world. Their surfaces reveal patches of underlying color, reminiscent of aging frescoes and peeling billboards. When I finished grad school at the University of Massachusetts, I loaded my paintings into the back of an old Toyota Corolla station wagon and drove across the country to Los Angeles. The car died about three weeks after I arrived, and I spent my first year here living in Venice and getting around L.A. on a bicycle. It was a great introduction to California. It wasn’t long before my paintings were being shown in galleries, and they were selling. But it wasn’t steady income, so I had to find other ways to make a living. After having a bunch of different jobs, I ended up working as a digital artist on over a dozen big Hollywood movies, including Air Force One, Spider-Man, and the first Harry Potter film. Remember that 3-headed dog? I helped create him! I liked working on movies. It was a great day job. But the whole time I was painting, and having solo shows in galleries and museums. Eventually the film work ended (it’s mostly being done in other countries now), and I also had to re-evaluate my relationship with galleries. I realized that, except for at exhibit openings, I wasn’t meeting the people who were seeing and buying (or not buying) my work. I was sending more clients to my galleries than they were generating on their own. And I was doing a much better job than they were of building an audience on social media. So I decided to make the leap and go indie. These days, when I’m not in the studio painting, I’m driving around the country showing my work at outdoor art fairs. I’ve been to Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Park City, Portland and Seattle, and of course all over California. I love being on the road, meeting new people and sharing my artwork with a growing audience. I’ve also met a lot of wonderful artists out on the circuit, and some have become good friends. We all learn from each other. Not so much about making art, but about the business of being an artist. How to build a following. How to travel smart. How to secure an outdoor booth in 60 mile-an-hour winds! It’s an ongoing adventure.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So, I know this is Shoutout Dallas, but I live in Los Angeles 🙂 When someone comes here to visit, there are some things I make sure they experience. For art there’s the Broad Museum, and the Getty (not so much the inside, but the gardens that were designed by Robert Irwin). And a bunch of good galleries, especially in Culver City and downtown L.A. Depending on the time of year, we could go to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl (it might be the L.A. Philharmonic, or Radiohead) And they’d have to see Disney Hall (designed by our very own Frank Gehry). We’d visit the Farmers Market at 3rd Street and Fairfax (it’s not a temporary street market, but a permanent iconic destination that’s been there since 1934). And Grand Central Market downtown. Both are great places to eat. We’d take a bike ride down the coast from Santa Monica to Hermosa Beach. And maybe play some volleyball along the way. We’d visit the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and Huntington Gardens in San Marino. And then we’d get out on the freeway during rush hour. You haven’t really experienced Los Angeles until you’ve been in one of our traffic jams. When I come to Dallas for an art fair, I’m the visitor. One of my favorite things in Dallas are the longhorns. They’ve even inspired some paintings!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to my all my fellow artists. We’re on this journey together.
Other: If you want to keep up with my new work and find out about upcoming exhibitions, please sign up for my occasional newsletter. I send it out maybe 4 or 5 times a year, and I promise not to share your email address with anyone, ever. You can unsubscribe at any time. https://www.davidpalmerstudio.com/subscribe.html