Bob Palmer Murals
If you happen to be traveling through Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district and notice some large murals portraying scenes from Oklahoma's past, chances are they were created by Dr. Bob Palmer, a prolific painting and photography professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.
"Yes, I painted nearly all of the murals in Bricktown," said the well-known muralist from the office in his home in Bethany. His paintings may be found in other places as well, from the Oklahoma State Capitol dome to the Will Rogers World Airport to private businesses like the Bass Pro Shop in Bricktown. Also, his work can be found in cities like Shawnee, Cushing and Anadarko.
For the past ten years the Walters native has been teaching mural painting at UCO and has recently won the Oklahoma Art Educator of the Year award.
"I was amazed," Palmer said. "I then went to New York where I competed on a national level."
Even though he didn't win the national award, Palmer smiles and notes that he enjoyed going to the Big Apple where he represented Oklahoma and has since "received some invites." He also added that in 2000 he received the state's Higher Education Art Educator of the Year.
While his teaching of the art form is fairly recent, Palmer said his mural painting had roots as far back as his own college days in Tennessee. Back in those days, in the early 1970s, Palmer took the time to paint landscapes of mountainous, eastern Tennessee on the walls of his dormitory. Then there was an artistic lull for Palmer for a few years. Through much of the 1980s, Palmer kept busy, working both as a school principal and an oil-field worker. In 1988, he saw an ad for a job as an art teacher at UCO.
While he was nervous and didn't expect to get the job, Palmer was interviewed and began teaching that fall. After teaching art and painting for ten years, Palmer approached UCO Dean, Cliff Warren and asked if he could start a mural painting class that summer. He was granted that request.
"It filled up immediately," Palmer said. It's been busy ever since. Palmer says his students are his "pride and joy" and that many have left UCO and gone on to become successful mural painters and artists in their own right.
Some have stayed in the area and worked for Palmer and have helped him on projects around the world. However, most of the mural-painting projects are done through his business, Bob Palmer Studios, Inc., located in Oklahoma.
One of those projects was his painting of the grain elevator on the south side of Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City. The structure features Palmer's work, including the state flag and the slogans, "Celebrate Oklahoma," and "A Unique History and an Extraordinary Future."
"That one was scary," Palmer said of the project. "I was 120 feet in the air. They had to get a special lift for me and had to get a special [painting] rig. Plus, it wasn't a flat surface. I had to work with curves."
He said being that high up wasn't as scary as it might have been due to his previous experiences working on oil derricks.
"On the big projects we have upwards of twenty people working with me," he said. A couple of Palmer's former students, Nick Bayer and Robert Wood, now work for him.
Bayer was a graphic-design major when he first took a class from Palmer. However, Palmer asked Beyer to accompany him on a number of mural projects.
"Eventually I was on every job," Bayer said. "It gave me a profession. A trade. I'm a very competent painter now."
Wood adds that he loves getting into the smaller communities with Palmer and painting murals on the sides of old buildings that may have seen better days and in towns whose time may have passed.
"[The murals] can be a real boost to the community," Wood said, "and celebrate the way the town was."
This summer, Palmer and his crew are planning to work on mural projects in Enid, Woodward and other Oklahoma towns.
"I'm also in the process of writing two books; one about what it is we do as muralists and another one which will be a coffee table book featuring images of murals we've painted."
And what does Palmer think of the murals he's painted throughout the state with his students and crew? Does he have a favorite?
"I get asked all the time. They're kind of like my children," he said. "My best answer is ‘the one I just finished.'"
For more information on Dr. Bob Palmer's work and services, go to www.muralsbypalmer.com or call (405) 206-2438.