Artful Living: Bill Parmer connects with nature

Like a growing number of artists in the north country, Bill Parmer likes to paint en plein air, that is, outdoors, in direct connection with the subject of his work. In recent years, plein air festivals have been popping up all over our region. For these events, groups of artists gather in scenic locales — gardens, nature preserves, waterfront villages — and work outside to capture the local beauty, each in his or her own style and medium. 

    Bill doesn’t wait for festivals to get outside to paint. He keeps his easel and paints in his car, and when a scene catches his eye, he pulls the car over and sets his easel up on the shoulder of the road to capture the moment. Unlike most painters, Bill does not require pleasant sunny weather to paint; he paints outdoors in every season. In fact, some of the paintings he likes the best are ones he painted during snow storms. Dark brooding skies and snow falling across the canvas reflect the winter all of us who live here know so well. Only heavy rain deters Bill, because it creates problems with the paint.. Bill works on the side of the road until a painting is essentially complete; only minor touch-ups occur in the studio. This process gives an immediacy and realism to the paintings. 

    Bill mostly stays away from the dramatic mountain and water vistas that inspire many plein air painters and instead gravitates towards quieter scenes of farm country in the northeastern corner of St. Lawrence County, where he lives. Small meandering rivers and swamps, rolling hills, old farmhouses and barns, bridges, even telephone poles. 

    Bill is one of several regional painters whose work we show and sell at The TAUNY Center. All of these artists share TAUNY’s commitment to art that is “inspired by and reflects” the north country, and in that way are compatible with the traditional art forms (woodworking, pottery, fiber arts and so on) that we typically display. Collectively, the work of these artists preserves a record of the people and places of our time in the north country. 

    In October, visitors to The TAUNY Center will get to see a collection of original pastels by artist Catherine LaPointe based on her “travels” around the north country. Like Bill, Catherine captures details of local scenes in her work that are familiar to all of us who live here. Milkweed and cattails around a small pond, a line of trees in a rural cemetery, camps, and even a movie theater marquee. The October exhibit of Catherine’s pastels will open with a Meet the Artist reception at The TAUNY Center on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. The exhibit will remain on display through Oct. 26.