Tom Palmore (American, b. 1945) credits his childhood experience with influencing his career. His grandfather was an outdoorsman, who took him fishing, hiking, canoeing, and taught him to raise pets: birds, ponies, cats, and dogs—animals that often find their way into his humorous paintings.
His grandfather’s appreciation of nature had a lasting influence on Palmore and instilled in him respect and admiration for the animal world. As he began to pursue art those early memories informed his work. Palmore isn’t a wildlife painter though, as he doesn’t depict the animals in their natural settings.
Sea Otter with Ducks
It doesn’t matter what career you’re in, Palmore says, “your personality needs to come through.” For Palmore, that means capturing a sense of wit and adding a whole lot of the unexpected. He may depict an almost photo-realistic otter with surprise rubber ducks drifting by, a noble hawk gripping a stuffed bunny as prey, or a monkey somewhat perplexed to find a teddy bear in the rainforest. Amusing chance encounters.
Palmore showed aptitude for drawing as a young boy. He pursued an education in art at various institutions, eventually studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Attending school there, Palmore says, was “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
He had his first solo show, Gorillas, Midgets, and a Couple of Dogs, in 1971. By the end of the first night, everything in the show had sold, a stunning development for Palmore, who had been working as a bartender by night and painting all day. That show gave him hope to make it as a full-time artist, a career he says takes “a lot of self-belief and courage” to pursue.
Palmore continues to paint animals in lifelike detail, positioning them as if they had commissioned their portraits themselves, and always with respect and tenderness for the subjects. His works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, New Mexico Museum of Art, Smithsonian, and others. He has painted many pet portraits that are held in private collections as well.
“I consider myself very fortunate,” he says. “I get to do what I want to do every day.”
Butch & Ginger Always Love Monet
Sometimes You Really Like Yourself
All images © Tom Palmore