Writer: Karla Walsh
As a child, illustrator Laura Palmer was practically able to peer into a Magic 8 Ball when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“ ‘Artist’ was my consistent answer,” says Palmer, “although back then the artist I imagined—and drew—wore a smock and a beret and carried a paint palette. I feel like I’m living out my childhood dreams daily, just without the beret.”
Similar to the way someone’s handwriting just flows out, Palmer says she’s always felt connected to the way she doodles. It wasn’t something she ever learned; it’s more of an extension of who she is.
While working in the corporate world her first few years post-grad, Palmer launched XO-LP Etsy shop as a side hustle and in 2008 began selling handmade postcards. She eventually added coloring pages, notepad sets, calendars, greeting cards, stationery and custom designs like restaurant kids’ menus (see: Bubba, Django, Centro, Malo). In 2015, Palmer became a full-time illustrator.
While greeting cards and custom stationery are always top sellers, Palmer also enjoys designing coloring pages, table runners and more with young budding artists in mind. “Kids are my favorite art critics,” she says. “They offer great advice and direction for my next projects.”
To get into her creative flow, Palmer aims to draw daily: “Once I get my pen going on an idea, I like to put my head down and go, go, go.” She carries a few of her go-to drawing pens—black Paper Mate Flair—and small sketchbooks with her everywhere. This comes in handy when she’s hustling to and from Rod & Rivet, a fly fishing shop she owns with her husband, Kevin Hansen.
“Having the tools with me helps to make sure I can create when inspiration strikes,” Palmer says. “Like anything else, drawing takes practice. I’m practicing every day.”
All that practice is paying off, as she’s been asked to team up with the Iowa Finance Authority for something a little bigger than what might ship with a Forever stamp: She’s customizing a design that will be featured on a water tower in her hometown of Muscatine.
She hopes everyone who spots that tower or receives one of her cards feels a flicker of youthful joy:
“You know that feeling of wonder we experienced regularly as children? My goal as an artist is to recreate that sense of curious, childlike wonder for adults, even for a fleeting second. Kids have this way of seeing the world with fascination, with curiosity. I want my work to help reignite that perspective.”