Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Dancer at Rest (30x24) o/c

  Well, the end of another year has arrived, and they just seem to keep coming faster...  No matter -- I am still here and enjoying my life and family now more than ever.  I want to wish any and all who periodically check this blog the best of everything -- happiness, peace and good health in the coming year, and to those of you who paint & create, much success in your endeavors.  
Stay true to yourselves, love your neighbor and ditto on all the following salutations:

"Live long and prosper" -- Spock
"Be well and do good work" -- Garrison Keillor
"May all your wildest dreams come true" -- Pedro Sanchez
"Take care polar bear" -- Lily Bowman (age 6)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

Eric Bowman

Friday, December 2, 2011

Temple of the Pacific

"Temple of the Pacific" (24x36)

This piece was done from a couple of plein air sketches I did earlier this year, above a little cove on the north end of Boiler Bay (just north of Depot Bay, OR).  I've painted here under different conditions and times of day, always returning for it's classic Pacific Northwest character, but having an entirely different experience every time...

Living where I do (approximately one and a half hours from the beach) it's unpredictable what you're going to find there.  From here you have to traverse the coast range of mountains, and you never know what's going to greet you on the other side... Could be a clear, cloudless day from home to the horizon, but rounding that last curve of tall pines may reveal a thick fog bank obscuring the ocean altogether.  

Or, an overcast gray day at home could fool you from perfect conditions awaiting at the beach.  One thing I have become accustomed to though, is learning to accept what I find, no matter the weather (barring hard rain).   Of course back home in the controlled environment of the studio, I could take any time necessary to expand upon my outdoor sketches (which I did) -- and that's a good thing, as I believe every painting should be markedly different from any other -- even if it's a painting of a painting...inspired by a previous painting.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BLUE, period.

Burgundy Blue (24x30) o/c

This is a recent piece I had fun with -- the model for the singer had great attitude that made for a nice contrast to the more sober musicians, helping to covey a subliminal blurring of the lines between the genres of jazz and blues music...

While both forms produce sounds that have their associated moods, it's interesting what physiological effects a dominant colour palette can produce too.


Of course the colour blue has long been associated with melancholy, and the musical genre of the blues, yet it is far from restricted to that emotion alone.  While the musicians here appear serious and sullen, the singer's expression is on the verge of joy -- the paradox that blue music is...

On the one hand, it is an artistic moody expression that can yield a feeling of 'low down', while at the same time it can ease the pain of the suffering spirit... Strange, the effects art can have on the human condition -- be it audible or visual...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Back to the Figure

Now that summer is past, I started painting the figure again from a live model. It's a great workout and the best way to study how light falls on the form, while transforming that information onto a 2-dimensional surface...
Green Mantle (20x16)

Of course this is for study and exercise and not necessarily intended to be a "finished" work -- that's why I don't bother with unnecessary details like finessing the eyes and mouth, etc.  By sticking to the confines of a 3-hour time limit, you're forced to work quickly and spontaneously to capture only the basic information. This simple approach makes for a fresher, livelier image that retains more movement than a highly rendered one. 

Model at Rest (16x20)

For that, it would take another session or two, but this way lends itself to more potential for "happy accidents" (things you didn't necessarily intend, but sometimes occur when working quickly that benefit the overall picture)... Another benefit to painting studies, is the absence of investment -- I usually use cheap store-bought canvases or quick-coated masonite panels with a slight raw umber stain to kill the white (as you can see in the top example surrounding the image)... 

Mostly I enjoy doing these because it develops instinctual skills thru repetition that carry over to finished pieces, eventually training you to get those spontaneous strokes that make for a better picture.  Of course that said, I have a lot of studying to do!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Going Coastal

Netarts (8x10)

Here are a few sketches from a recent beach trip -- all during a 4 day period including several weather long as I could get under cover before it rained, I didn't mind -- over cast skies at the beach make for interesting grays.  This one above however was before the clouds rolled in -- a town called "Netarts" (don't ask, I have no idea).

Tide Pool Reflections (9x12)

 This one is my favorite because of the colour and reflection of the pools on the rocks....

  Cape Wall (9x12)

 This is the wall of sand stone at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, north of Neskowin...

Gorilla Rock (9x12)

A local surfer told me they call this Gorilla Rock because of the monolithic rock about a quarter mile out that looks like an apes head at certain angles...

Beach Path (9x12)

This one was a quickie of a beach path near Devil's Punch Bowl that led to a rising tide -- an artist friend, James (who had shorts on) braved the water up to his knees to get a sketch of the bluff from the beach -- I played it safe.  Still, as with all failures and successes, it contributes to the "mileage pile" on the way to better paintings...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pressure Sensitive

"Pressure Sensitive" (16x20) o/p 

There are a number of ways to achieve a variety of textures in a painting, but the first thing to consider is what you're after and the surface it requires...  In the painting above, it's the 'appearance' of texture on a smooth gesso'd panel...more of an optical illusion in this case than actual physical surface relief. This painting was done mostly in one afternoon with some tweaking the next morning (and it's more about the attitude and action, not finessing an abundance of details).

The brushes used were all synthetic flat sables, in three sizes... The dry-brush highlight stroke in the middle of her forearm is a good example of the kind of broken colour effect you can achieve on a smooth surface without shoveling on a boat-load of paint. 

Of course, painting a woman's skin requires at least some passages of smooth blending, and the wet into wet technique with the sable brushes served well for this purpose.  I also wanted to exploit the surface texture a bit given the nature of the subject's action, so a little variety of additional dry brush helped to achieve that end.

In this case it was the panel's surface prep that dictated the approach I chose -- like your individual style; sometimes the one you end up with chooses you, instead of the other way around...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Over the Rainbow

"Backyard Apple Tree" (8x10)

At the end of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy exclaims to Glinda the Good Witch;  "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't go any further than my own backyard..."   Well,  I can't tell you how many times I have wasted driving around in search of that perfect landscape, only to fall into the trap of telling my self there's a better spot just around the next bend...  Of course it never materializes, and you end up chasing rainbow's until the sun goes down.  

This year summer arrived extremely late, and for a very short time.  It probably wouldn't have phased anyone had a tornado touched down in the middle of July with all the gray skies we had.  Still, I remained optimistic and kept my painting gear by the door.  One afternoon as the day began to wane and I was feeling that twinge of anxiety wondering if there was enough time and where would I go and was it worth it blah, blah, blah, something caught my eye -- it was our apple tree...

We've lived here for nine years now, but I've only painted here all of three times;  once it was a beautiful wisteria in full bloom (just before we yanked it to add on a bathroom).  Another time it was the plum tree, but never the apple tree.  I guess like most things we take for granted, unless we stop to really notice, we miss the wonder and awe of it's beauty (if I only had a brain).  This day, the apple tree was glowing and had already dropped a few early "greens" which seemed to only accentuate a nice compositional pattern of cast shadows on the ground.  I thought to myself, "no reason to pack the car -- just set up right here and make something work"...and I think it did.

A famous landscape painter once told me "Beauty is all around us -- you just have to look for it"...  So next time I get the big idea to hit the road in search of the perfect muse, I might just take a deep breath, click my heels and say...(well, you know the line...)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Plein Air Trespassing

 Forgotten Homestead (9x12)

Not far from our house the geography gets rural pretty quickly. In fact, I'd like to live in such surroundings instead of the area we're in now -- we're close to the country, but still surrounded by freeways and suburban grid...  Out where the above scene was painted, you could actually live on farmland without necessarily being a "farmer" just cost money.  But for now, it's still free to go paint there as long as you ask permission of land owners (where appropriate).  Most of the time, people are fine with it, although there are exceptions...
Somewhere on Sauvie Island...

Here is a good example of plein air-phobia aimed at passive artists such as yours truly.  Of course this could have been posted by a disgruntled painter who couldn't find an ideal place to set up, or it's an official one-off alteration penned by Ranger Rick for an ITP* (intent to paint) warning...

 Either way, I ignored such nonsense and forged ahead to sketch the piece above -- it was a beautiful summer day on the island and I enjoyed the company of a couple of artists friends taking in the scenery..... (now as soon as someone can bail us out of the county jail, I'm sure they'll forgive me for suggesting this location...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road...

"Cello For One" (oil 20x24)

Ian Anderson once wrote a lyric that went; "I'd rather look around me and compose a better song, for that's the honest measure of my worth"... Now, I hope my worth is valued much higher than anything I've ever painted, but I think the point is, doing your honest best and not being afraid to be judged by that...

I've been becoming more and more enamored with the Russian
aesthetic of impressionism, and it's greater emphasis on everything else but exact drawing. Recently I have visited some galleries that deal exclusively in Russian & Soviet era impressionism and while it's an easy sell in my mind, it's altogether harder to achieve in practice with nothing but pure desire -- it requires an exodus from my old way approaches of over rendering, extraneous detail and just plain literalism...

It helps to slow down too... When I leave a painting overnight to set up a little, I can exploit the surface's skin with dry brush strokes that leave a much more interesting texture and random design than I ever would've achieved alla prima...

Plein air sketching can produce some wonderfully loose material from which to build, but generally wet-into-wet is the short route that more often praises spontaneity, but rarely achieves what the long road is capable of. What I'm after now is more about equalizing the quality of the journey as well as the destination, and those differences that can be discovered no other way...

This model was primarily painted from life in one session, but I wanted to take it further -- I also wanted to pose her with a musical instrument, but didn't have anything classy enough on hand. So I called a local music shop who usually only rent out for no less than a month or more at a time, but in this economy I offered $20 for an over-niter and the owner was happy to oblige.

Anyway, the background and several key strokes were layered on after the figure was 90% dry and much of the texture and over all mood effects came a lot easier this way. Setting it aside for a few days also has a tremendous effect on your thought process in developing a painting that you simply cannot get in a rush to finish.

So 'goodbye' again to a little more of the old me and my old ways as I learn another of life's lessons -- that it often takes just as much time to cast aside what I no longer want as it does to gather that which I desire.

I'm sure Elton and Dorothy probably figured that one out awhile ago too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sonoma Plein Air 2011

"After the Rain" (16x16)

Just got back from a week of painting at Sonoma Plein Air. This is a great event, except it's not really a competition like most of the other plein air shows that offer awards and prize money -- the only award at SPA is the "Artists Choice" award which has no monetary value -- just minor prestige and a bullet on your resume. The main thing is getting the chance to paint the landscape from life and hope you produce something a collector just can't live without... Still, the competition is there, only it's to out-paint yourself (which a true artists integrity would dictate anyway).

"Pork Stop" (12x16)

Doing these shows is kind of like being on the PGA tour...if your lucky and get juried in, you load up your clubs, er...I mean painting gear, make arrangements for housing, etc. and hit the road where you catch up with some of the same artists you saw at the last event. Another benefit in Sonoma is the high quality accommodations; when they put you up for the week, it's not in Junior's vacated bunk bed. These folks really know how to pamper their guests -- I was treated to the plush guest house of a very gracious host, overlooking their full sized tennis courts and personal putting green.

Of course it was hardly R&R time lugging a French easel around 12 hours a day, but I did sleep like Jed Clampett every night... The only downer came about half way thru the day of the show at the end of the week when it started raining... that may have kept some of the crowds away, but I still managed to sell a few pieces so all in all it was a great time -- I even got to see my brother and his family who drove up from OC to meet me there (thanks again guys, that was great!).

"Sonoma Valley Sunrise" (9x12)

I do miss the California landscape I grew up in though -- the eucalyptus and sycamore trees, the rolling, oak-covered hills and sunshine -- but this time even the rain was a benefit as it produced some really nice cloud formations...

Next is my solo show "Off Key, On Point" opening up at Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale next week -- they've already pre-sold several pieces down there so maybe I can upgrade my hotel room (but I think I'll leave my brushes at home for this one)...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Solo Show

"Listening To The Playback" (20x16) o/c

Here are a few more pieces for my first solo show with Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale, AZ. The show's title is "OFF KEY, ON POINT" which refers to the two main subjects; music & dance...

"The Rosin Box" (30x24) o/c

"When Harlem Was" (30x40)

"Warming Up In Amber" (30x40) o/c

"Another Girl In Black" (20x24) o/c

You can see more images that will be included in the show at my website:
and at -- Show opens on June 9... There's also an article about it in the new June issue of American Art Collector magazine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tutu Much Fun

"Take Five" o/c (30x30)

Been enjoying working feverishly on new paintings for an upcoming solo show at Bonner David gallery in Scottsdale, titled "Off Key, On Point" -- it will be a collection of jazz music & ballet themed paintings... This one above is a recent piece that will be featured along with 16 to 18 others.

The model is an actual professional ballerina with the Oregon Ballet Theater, but couldn't hold this pose without eventually passing out. Not being one to overwork my models (or risk a liability suit) I just had her hold the pose for a few seconds to photograph what I wanted... The water bottle however is painted 100% from life -- no slacking there, boy.

"Before the Barre" o/c (16x20)

This one was done from life (and a much more reasonable pose). A lot of artists paint ballerinas and for various reasons, but I fell into it purely by chance -- James, one of the artists who comes to my figure sessions is also a photographer and shoots for the OBT (mentioned above) and got some of the dancers to come model for us.

We've gone thru about 3 of them so far, but I don't think any of them will be returning soon. These girls are professional dancers and in great shape, but not very excited about posing for the 3 hour pittance we offer. Still, they've all done great and there are several more we could probably persuade before the word gets around of how torturous it can be....

At any rate, I chose ballerinas because I was fortunate enough to have access to some, but also because like painting, dance is an art form full of grace, strength and beauty -- a natural for any painter to really get into. So is jazz music (the other half of my show) for that matter, which I will post on soon.

Until then, back to the easel...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That Thing You Do...

"Every Day at Four" (18x24)

It's funny how people view what I do for a living. Many look at it through stereotypical lenses, seeing artists as irresponsible loafers who seemingly "drift through life, creating works of art that effortlessly flow from their fingertips" (actual quote)... with the underlying attached stigma that "it's not a real job anyway". Still others wonder why I bother with it at all.

Well despite the stereotypes, I am working those fingertips to the bone getting ready for a one-man show coming up in a couple of months, along with annual plein air events in Sonoma, CA this May and another one in Easton, Maryland in July.

"The Three Graces" (16x16)

Thankfully I have a very supportive family -- I support them financially, they support me with love and encouragement. I was fortunate to have parents who were supportive when I was a kid too, but I remember my mom counseling me to have some sort of back-up career in case things didn't work out. Sound advice I suppose, but it planted a seed of doubt that an artist could actually make a decent living....especially one who never went to school for it.

I think about those words of my mother who is gone 5 years now -- who missed my first ever one-man show and my first TIME magazine cover, and all my other blah blah blah's since then. Not that I need those achievements to validate what I do for a living. I mean, I appreciate those things, but I'm an artist whether I stink or not -- my paintings validate themselves, good and bad (and I produce in both categories with equal abandon thank you very much).

Anyway, when doubt creeps in, I just have to consider myself blessed as I have made a living for many years now doing what I do. But there's no rest for the artsy.... so what if my fingertips are bleeding, at least I'm enjoying myself -- it's what I do.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Draftsman's Draftsman (i.e. Hero Worship)

DEAN CORNWELL (illustration jedi 1892-1960) was a master draftsman & painter. If I had only one word to describe him it would be "Volume" -- volume in the amount of work he produced in his prolific career, volume in the amount of paint he applied, but mostly volume in the way he rendered his subject; he gave everything mass and solidity. You know there's integrity underneath his paintings, built not just upon the understanding of space and three dimensional structure, but the implementation of it....

Having an awesome facility for drawing and then studying under Harvey Dunn (another gusto illustrator of the "Golden Age") he knew how to build character into his figures from the ground up. Take a look at these Captain Blood scenes above; Where there's a hand clinched into a fist, he doesn't always delineate all five digits -- doesn't have to, he just lays in the planes of the fist and leaves it at that. It reads as a manly fist with a sculptural quality (which certainly serves as a better use of brush strokes, portraying a rough and gnarly pirate!)

He was also hugely adept at composition (sampled here by his association with British illustrator, painter & muralist, Frank Brangwyn) who adapted an organic oriental-influenced approach to all facets of design, including textiles and furniture. Cornwell obviously picked up the torch and ran with it, but to more of a precise end...

He often would take a mundane area of information (such as the captain's shirt sleeves pictured above) and apply much more design to it than the average artist ever would. Where most would either simplify or literally "follow the camera", Cornwell would boil down the folds into their base geometric patterns, then create more depth, volume and interest by rendering the planes of each individual fold (but without excessive detailing). He capitalized on these areas based upon a simple 3-value scale; dark accents, high-light & half-tone shadows with a very effective use of reflective light to increase the depth -- I just don't know how he ever found the time to do it all...

Examining his creases and folds, you can often find the resemblance of letters of the alphabet (as stated in Jack Hamm's book on Drawing the Head & Figure) Y, X, S, U, V, and even P & R where one fold passes underneath another, are woven into an orderly context. I know I may be getting a little anal here for some of you, but the attention to each of the individual components of his pictures are what makes his works so superior.

When considering his output over a 40+ year career, it's clear Dean Cornwell was an indefatigable craftsman. Biographies describe him working 7 days a week, even sketching to relax in his spare time, often at the end of a busy day at the easel. This of course was not without price to his family life, but whatever the price he paid, many an artist are indebted to him for the influence of his high standard of quality.

Anyway, I usually blog about my own work here as a supplement to my web site, but today I just had to share a little about one of my biggest heroes, the "Dean of illustrators" Dean Cornwell.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Name That Painting...

"?????" (24 x 36)

Every now and then I get writer's block when it comes to naming a painting, so I thought I'd throw my dilemma out there and see if anyone who actually looks at this blog (sorry I haven't posted in several weeks) might be so kind as to suggest some titles...

If you're interested, I'll give you a jumping off point by clarifying that this painting is not attempting to depict a scene from Swan Lake -- however I did get the inspiration from that famous ballet. In most productions of Swan Lake, the dancers wear a feathered head dress -- mine is a rose garland, and hopefully you can recognize the birds are not swans, but indeed doves...

'Freedom' or being set free was where I was going with the general theme, but just can't seem to pen an appropriate title with a lyrical, poetic sound to it...

Anything come to mind? Feel free to explore the spiritual metaphors as well with the dove(s) -- I'd sure appreciate your input...

Thank you guys!