A Life in Art
Composed, Compiled, and Edited by Irene D. Thomas
This handsome, lavishly illustrated biography of West Coast artist Olaf Palm (1935-2000) collects for the first time a broad sample of his diverse works, illuminated by often witty excerpts from his journals and letters, plus the reminiscences of those who knew and loved him.
Palm was a lucid chronicler of his times and not one to follow the mainstream art trends of the day. His influences were Old Masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, successfully merged with American Realists like Wyeth, Homer, and Hopper plus Impressionists Monet and Van Gogh.
Palm’s trademark softness of line and brilliance of color shine throughout his many subjects, which were largely determined by his life’s passions: back-to-the-lander, self-sufficient homesteader, counterculture raconteur, jazz musician, world traveler, lifelong reader, father, lover, friend, radical, and jolly curmudgeon. As the author summarizes, “Awakening the sense of wonder in the ordinary world of ordinary people and ordinary settings and ordinary occupations was Olaf Palm’s meditative labor.”
This compelling memoir provides a moving introduction to this extraordinarily versatile and prolific artist, detailing the various periods of his artistic life, from his roots in the sixties counterculture to the serene and bucolic settings brought on by his troubled final years, and highlighting his most popular series—that of artists, craftspeople and musicians at work. Also included are numerous examples of his exquisite paintings of Europe and other travels, his foray into the Western art of cowboys and Indians, and his intriguing works of fantasy and imagination.
While Palm chose the Mendocino coast as home, his canvas was far larger, chronicling the preoccupations of the rural West and the back-to-the-land movement of the last third of his century. Included in the book is a verbal portrait of the artist as he painted, by his lifelong friend, novelist James D. Houston. Here’s an excerpt: “Only the head moves, and the magic arm. The arm moves, it seems, of its own volition. A color finds its complement so quickly that the arm, the hand itself must surely make the decision. The hand wields the brush with a magic rhythm...”
Originally published at $45.00, now available from Bored Feet for $35.00
“Each page is a gift to the reader... truly a labor of love.”
- Debbie L. Holmer, Mendocino Beacon
“An absolutely gorgeous book!”
- Gerald Haslam, author of Haslam’s Valley &, Coming of Age in California
144 pages, 10" x 10", full-color cover, 188 full-color reproductions, 10 black + white photographs, 9 pen & ink sketches by the artist, index of paintings.
Published by Redwood Springs Press. ISBN 0-9725695-1-0 trade paper
The Muse, also known as Warm Spot on the Russian Gulch Trail
From the back cover:
“I believe the man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and scenes of everyday life around him.”
-Childe Hassam, 1892
Northern California artist Olaf Palm (1935-2000) was just such a man and well deserving of the posterity Hassam predicted in this quote, painted on a wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in August 2004, Painterly canvases by Palm continue to be well-loved for their everyday subject matter rendered and lit in traditional, richly nuanced styles.
For the last twenty years of his life, Palm had been reaping the harvest of his uncompromising vision. “The hands now know how to do it. I no longer have to give thought to technique. I only have to think about what I want to do in the painting.” It was his intense, solitary study in the fifties which led him finally to what he called “an understanding of the old ones,” the Dutch and Flemish masters he so admired.
The direction he chose couldn’t help but be informed by his bohemian appetite for a life lived with gusto and feeling wherever he chose to plant his feet... his heart... and his attention.
This book is dedicated to sharing that experience of being in the presence of Olaf Palm—artist, musican, raconteur. Enjoy the trip.
-Irene D. Thomas, Ph.D., compiler and editor
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