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Meet Nathan Parmer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Parmer.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I sold my first piece of art when I was in the fifth grade for, I think 10 or 20 dollars at a city festival called Art Break in Shreveport, Louisiana. When my teacher asked me to price it, I had no idea what to say. We were poor, so I remember feeling weird asking for five dollars. She convinced me to up it to whatever it sold for. And suddenly selling my art for money just felt kind of natural. It made sense.

But to be honest I’m almost positive that my story isn’t too unique. Probably millions of people have had pretty much the same experience. I mean subjectively, I’ve experienced it in a personal way that I can comprehend to the best of my mental and spiritual abilities, but yeah, visual story telling…I imagine all of us who want to do that have always known that and always pursued it. And if we weren’t doing it through an artistic medium, it was likely showing up in other things we did.

As a wee lad, I wrote full-on scripts and storyboards, made puppets and held pretty regular theatrical shows from behind the couch in the living room for my mom and brother. I was obsessed with anything and all things Jim Henson. Also I did improv comedy for friends at school and on karaoke speakers in their backyards and crap like that. Getting older, NES and SNES game visuals and storytelling further developed “teenaged- me” mythology. Then I found skateboard culture and with that came the next phase of me expressing myself.

Since then… I didn’t die a few times when I probably should have. Participated in many mind-expanding activities. Probably blew the chance to skateboard for a living, whatever that’s worth…a lifetime of pain from repeated injury, I imagine. Did stand-up comedy in front of a crowd a few times. Worked retail management to try and change my financial situation and move to Seattle with a corporation, which both depleted my soul and bolstered my faith in humankind. And I married the perfect woman for me.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, which I think is paramount to cultivating your deeper creativity.
I’ve been up beautiful Mt. Rainier, hiked the Sierra Nevada mountains in snow shoes with 40 lbs. of gear, guided only by moonlight in 7 ft. of snow, completed a Tough Mudder, been all over Europe, Spain, seen lame puppet shows in France, eaten the most spectacular seafood right out of the North Sea at a stand-up only restaurant in Belgium, gotten high in Holland, dived out of trees into cenotès in Mexico, swam with cuttlefish, procured and smoked cannabis on St. Whoever’s Island, got invited to some underground boxing on another island but didn’t go… and I still regret that.

I’ve also been lucky enough to be part of an art show to help get a skate park built in Houston. I wrote a full-length novel and made artwork for it, published zines, and illustrated a children’s book called, “A Chowder of Cats?” which you can get on Amazon. And then I got to give a presentation at Houston City Hall about all of that in front of like 70 people. The special-ness of these moments will still never be lost on me and they are all things that continue to inspire me to make art.

Please tell us about your art.
I’ve tried my hand at just about every medium you can think of. But I’ve recently settled into this paper cut art style using a lot of anthropomorphic imagery with watercolor paint. And it was developed because I discovered that even though I liked watercolors, I didn’t like having to worry about the paint spreading into parts of the piece I didn’t want them to. So out of not feeling a need to master the art of watercolor painting I just started drawing the objects and landscapes on watercolor paper then cutting them out and layering them on top of each other.
And I liked the way it looked like a little theater set.

What I create and why? Different reasons, like early on I think most of us have to go through that phase of creating something that just looks cool and we’re just developing our skills. Then we want to inject some kind of more meaningful narrative. And that might be something that weighs heavy on you or just something that brings levity to the conversation.

For instance, with my children’s book, I wanted each reader to feel this fun sense of freedom to get lost in little worlds for a while and maybe see something new each time they read it and then later maybe not all of it was as frivolous as it might have seemed on the surface. Which leads me to my next reason for creating. I generally use symbols and numbers and colors and images put right out in the open that speak to the subconscious mind. But even then, they can go unseen because most of the time we don’t stop to use our full awareness, our own eyes and ears. Which is one of our deepest flaws. It’s amazing what escapes our human eyes and ears.

For example: A guy bought print from me of a piece called “Octopi”, it’s this octopus wizard throwing chunks of coral reef that are shaped like numbers. The number sequence is the first eight digits of pi. He never even saw it, he was just drawn to the image, but his six years old son saw it one morning at the breakfast table, and asked his dad if those were numbers were deliberate. He even emailed me about it. That will always be one of the coolest interactions I’ve had with someone that likes my art. It turns out his son is big into mathematics.

And those are just like the magical moments I had as a kid when I’d really allow myself to be absorbed in an illustration or a painting or whatever. Suddenly, I’d see something nobody else had seen, or mentioned anyway, and I’d feel like I’d stumbled upon buried treasure. And here I am all these years later, getting to create those magic moments for others.

Magic is real. And we all are capable of wielding it. But it’s not what big movie studios want you to think. It seems to me to be subtler in nature. And it requires a lot of study and devotion. And it’s definitely not the same thing as sorcery.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
Unfortunately, I think artists are prone to a lot of self-censorship today because of cultural conditioning propagated by powerful people that have an interest in keeping us separated and that makes me very sad. But at the end of the day, it’s up to us whether we’re going to let our behavior be controlled by that.

This binary mindset of “either you’re on our side or you’re on their side” being pushed so strongly is stifling and divisive to say the least. It’s nothing new historically speaking, but it’s scary to see its ugly head being raised and embraced by a generation that doesn’t recognize it for what it is.

Art and literature should always be a respite from that kind of social conditioning, a place where honesty can be embraced whether we personally appreciate the message being delivered or not.

Truly open discourse has taken its place at the gallows, if you ask me. And I think it will always be up to artists that can’t be bought to keep it from being silenced completely. So with that being said, I have recently been moved to use my art to make my voice heard on some pretty important issues so follow along if you’re interested in where that’s going.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
nathanparmer.com is a good place to start and I’m pretty active on the Instagram and Facebook.
And I’ll be doing more markets and shows if you’re local and can make it out.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Karina Bose / Martin Holmes

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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