A Modern Day Journalistic "Hybrid"

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Gladys Perint Palmer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. Photo by David Dooley.

Gladys Perint Palmer hasn’t worked in a newsroom in years, but in many ways she’s a newspaper gal at heart.

Palmer, who was recently named Executive Vice President of Artistic Development for Academy of Art University, is all about deadlines. “I think if I didn’t have a deadline,” she begins to say and then trails off.

It’s probably not a good idea to go there.

Palmer is her own most demanding editor. Despite countless illustrations in books and publications such as Vogue, The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar, she says there are often piles of discarded drawings on the floor of her studio. As for her writing, she is self-taught and to this day, writes and rewrites. And rewrites again.

Like many who have worked in a frenetic newsroom environment, Palmer’s habits and her discipline likely date back to her days as fashion editor of the San Francisco Examiner. She has said that she entered the newspaper business unable to type or use a computer and was completely unaware of “journalists’ protocol.” But somehow it worked to her advantage and in many ways, she was way ahead of her time.

Palmer is a self-described “hybrid” and combined her writing, editing and drawing skills at a time when newspapers notoriously pigeonholed employees into specific roles like reporter, photographer or designer. No one dared to do all three. She arrived at The Examiner with an impressive portfolio and a degree from London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art (as it was then called) but ironically, her brilliant illustrations were considered an afterthought.


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Self portrait. Illustration by Gladys Perint Palmer.

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Gladys Perint Palmer’s illustration for the cover of her upcoming book “Designer Dogs and Couture Cats.” Illustration by Gladys Perint Palmer.

“Writing was the thing that defined me. My byline was big and my words were important and my drawings were sort of ‘oh well.’ If I ever just did a drawing, the credit underneath would be minute,” she said.

Somewhere along the line, Palmer helped change that. In situations where a photograph would traditionally accompany a story, she did an illustration instead. The more she covered fashion, the more she developed her signature style of illustrating high fashion and couture in clever, novel ways. Somehow she never runs out of ways to depict fashion’s over-the-top, at times glorious or even grotesque, creations.

She has captured fashion’s most interesting characters, including John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld, and they’re as interesting to her as the clothing they create.

“It’s the people who are in fashion,” said Palmer, who enjoys drawing, “not the frocks, not the little pin tucks and the frills.” She also favors “big strong noses” and interesting hair.

Palmer’s renderings of runway shows and colorful clothing collections are what she is best known for. Her fashion illustrations have lined the windows of 79 New Montgomery, appeared on billboards in San Francisco and New York, and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Though fashion will always be part of her life, these days Palmer broadens her outreach to other areas of the Academy of Art University and is currently drawing portraits of all of the school’s program directors for an international marketing and recruiting campaign that will take her to India early next year.

She plans to stop in a handful of cities, including New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Hyderabad and will be meeting with potential students, parents and industry professionals.