Some of artist Annette Palmer’s earliest memories are from the days just after her baby sister was born. Since children were prevented from visiting hospital floors back then, Annette and her older sister would stand on the lawn underneath their mother’s second floor room and catch the love notes she dropped down to them from the window.
Communication. Emotion. Distance and separation. Letters written between friends, family, lovers—even these she finds in flea markets, written by strangers whose stirring words having outlived them. Those are the subtleties that have always been the source of her creativity.
Born in Falkirk, Scotland, Annette found inspiration at every turn: the architectural drawings of her father, the subdued hues of coastal Scotland, and the letters, of course—from her mother, her friends, her teen-age pen pals— dozens of them, all over the world.
Annette studied art through high school and attended the Edinburgh College of Art. Figural and fashion drawing had become her focus, as well a young Englishman named Bob Palmer, who’d come to Edinburgh as an offshore worker for BP. After graduation she began working as a children’s clothing designer. She and Bob Palmer married. The expressive exchange in the letters they sent back and forth over the North Sea further shaped Annette’s muse.
While living in Singapore on a BP assignment, Annette began designing her own line of women’s clothing and successfully operated her company, Cancan, for years. After a brief assignment in Dubai, the Palmers were sent to Houston and settled in The Woodlands twelve years ago. With son, Ross, and daughter, Faith, approaching high school, Annette began working as an art teacher at The Woodlands Prep and Esprit International School. For several years she even taught an adult painting class in her studio. She coordinated art exhibits for Hubbell and Hudson Kitchen and St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital, showcasing dozens of local artists.
In recent years, with her children grown, Annette has slowed her pace outside the studio. Inside the studio, however, she’s been hard at work on a multi-media series of acrylic landscapes and seascapes with textured and reflective surfaces.
“I paint with sponges, scrappers, pallet knives, paint brushes, shoe brushes, household cleaning brushes,” she chuckles at her unconventional techniques. “I love reflective surfaces: silver and gold leafing, foil, flecks of mica, paper. I sometimes use pieces of fabric I have left from Cancan—reflective in a different way.”
And somewhere on each piece in this brilliant, bountiful collection is the written communication that so moves her. Snippets of old love letters, for example, shape stars in the sky, or waves in the ocean, or birds in flight.
“I’ve always been inspired by written communication; because it never goes away. These days we text, then delete the messages. I believe something significant is lost in that process,” she says. “There’s something about taking the time to sit and write a letter that frees our consciousness, our feelings, and we express ourselves with much greater warmth and honesty.”
Since 2017, The Glade Gallery in The Woodlands has exhibited four collections of Annette’s work: “Between the Lines,” “Between the Lines 1.5,” “Home from Home” and “Love Letters.” Her “Across the Miles” collection was showcased at The Jung Center in Houston earlier this year.
With clients the world over, Annette Palmer’s creative life is thriving. Rows of completed canvases line the floor of her sunlit studio. Paintings in various stages of completion rest on easels. As we sit together, a re-homed cat saunters across our table, a rescue dog lies at my feet.
“My studio is where I’m happiest,” she says. “It’s all about love here, about eternal hope, and bridging that uncertain distance between us.” And I totally get it.
Annette’s newest collection, “Pause, Rewind, Play,” opens November 1, 2018 at Glade Gallery.
“This collection explores lost means of communication through mixtapes from the Gen-X era.” She says this with excitement that is at once proud, humble and enchanting, the manner of an artist fully realized.