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Denis Palmer: Homage to a Rural Townships Life

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large_larger_palmer.jpg“My father bought that gatherin’ tub in 1919, the year he started sugarin’. It was made by a fella name of Odd Aldridge over here in Moe’s River. He was a cooper – made washtubs, barrels, buckets… I tell ya I wouldn’t mind havin’ all the nickels and pennies worth of sap that’s gone through that tub.”
George Rowell, to Denis Palmer (1998)

Sawyerville native Denis Palmer is an accomplished artist. A modest man, he has been drawing, painting, and exhibiting his works in the Eastern Townships since moving to the area from Montreal in the late 1970s. He has taught art for many years. He also has a degree in architecture from McGill University.

Over the years, Denis Palmer has chosen to focus on the everyday things he sees around him in his adopted rural environment: a rustic woodshed, a cluttered workshop, the neighbours swapping tales in a farmhouse kitchen. Palmer’s medium of choice is watercolours. He is a master in this art form.

Palmer’s works sometimes portray people; often they do not. Usually they have a slightly impressionistic feel to them, though one senses they are faithful renditions of the Townships countryside and the people that populate it.

A while ago, Palmer decided to reproduce some of his work in book form. After much attention to detail, and with the help of friends, that project has come to fruition with the publication of Homage to a Rural Life / Hommage à la vie rurale.

This book features texts, written in poetic format, by Denis Palmer, interspersed with stories told to Palmer by his friends and neighbours. The book is dedicated to George and Myrtle Rowell of East Clifton, an older couple who welcomed Palmer into their lives when he moved to the area, and whose reminiscences are recorded throughout, in their own unpretentious words, along with those of other Townshippers Palmer has encountered.

In the author’s own words, these stories “express knowledge of family, ancestry and community: long memories for patterns of weather and the seasons, the joyful and difficult times of the past, the flavour of their speech.” Indeed, they are testament, as well, to a simple but enriching life.

Of course, the highlight of Palmer’s book are his pictures. Whether an intimate study of an elderly man sitting at a kitchen table, or depictions of a sleigh-load of firewood or the side of a barn, the pictures are stunning. And Denis Palmer is a very talented artist. His book is a pleasure for both the eyes and the spirit, and represents an enduring contribution to our record of life here in the Eastern Townships.

Available in soft-cover, Homage to a Rural Life / Hommage à la vie rurale is 128 pages, fully bilingual and lavishly illustrated in full colour. It retails for $35.00 and is available at bookstores and retail outlets across the Townships.