The following article was written by Edrienne Kittredge in her Artrepreneur Forum Spotlight.
The My Artrepreneur Program Forum Spotlight shines on watercolorist Sallie Bowen, an artist who sees her work as a way of “Finding Peace through Painting.”
Bowen, who sees being an artist as an honor, believes that “To participate in art is to celebrate life. Our short existence on this earth demands that we give it full attention.” She also holds that being an artist requires spending time wisely to produce the best. She writes, “To spend time as an artist is such a privilege and an honor that I cannot imagine any other calling for my life.”
For Bowen, the subject matter for her paintings comes from her own experiences, such as her travel adventures and her sketches, all which reflect the how and the feeling of her recollections.
Bowen’s paintings usually take more than one painting session to be considered “done.” She writes, “Many of the paintings evolve and go through many changes. At times, the transformation is a slow process. Or it marvelously ‘flows’ from one stage to another with little effort.” She even admits surprise when, “the visual imagery comes from ‘nothing,’ or no preconceived idea.”
This artist sees “color as arbitrary, giving the work a more personal touch.” For her, shapes can emerge from what in art are called ‘negative spaces,’ which lie outside the focal object. She believes that “these ‘found shapes’ must work with the ‘internal logic’ of the paintings.” The ‘internal logic’ that she uses may emerge through characteristics like how space is used or how shadows may fall or even how lines provide clues of dimension.
Or there may be an internal logic that emerges in how the painting asks more philosophical questions. For example, in “Cascade of Color,” (accompanying picture) what could be the metaphor, the comparison suggested? Do the yucca buds resemble a cascade of water in which a piece, whether flower or water drop, illustrates the importance of the single element to the whole?
Bowen has found that “Paintings that have followed this process have been infinitely more rewarding in their creation than simply illustrating and working from photographs.”
This artist has painted most of her life, feeling at ease whether sketching on location, painting in her studio, or teaching drawing and painting. All have provided experiences that have enriched and deepened her love of living a life of contrasts.
Born and raised on Long Island, Bowen attended public schools in Port Washington, NY. Her education was filled with cultural opportunities, such as visiting the Metropolitan Museum as well as the Museum of Modern Art. She graduated with a B.A. in art history from Lake Forest College, IL., taking additional studies in life drawing and painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
After college, Bowen volunteered for ten weeks at the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder, MT. However, before moving to Montana permanently, she lived in Tucson, AZ, taking more life drawing at the University of Arizona. When the Butte School system hired her to teach Special Ed, she pursued additional art classes at the University of Montana-Billings, where she studied with Ben Steele who introduced her to watercolor. Steele’s instruction inspired her to venture deeper into watercolor, which has been her main medium since then.
Summers, Bowen traveled to workshops in the U.S. and visiting sixteen foreign countries. She was accepted by University of Minnesota-Duluth to a two-month landscape painting program in the People’s Republic of China at the Zhejiang Fine Art Academy in Hangzhou. Many shorter art travels have been to England and Wales, Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Japan, Jordan, and Israel.
More recently, in 2020, Bowen traveled on a plein air trip to Brittany, France. She was the seventh and last person accepted for the trip. A trip highlight was Yves Marie Salonson, art director of Sennelier Art Supplies, inviting the group for a tour of Sennelier, maker of watercolor, oil, and acrylic paints as well as Raphael handmade brushes. Besides walking on the beach and painting, the travels included the Pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel.
Retired from public school teaching, Bowen not only can travel more freely and give classes in her studio, but also pursue her art practice. She had been a member of the Main Stope Gallery in Butte for twenty-one years and has juried show acceptances in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, California, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, as well as Montana.
A signature member of the Montana Watercolor Society, Bowen has regularly shown in the Society’s Annual National Juried Shows, “Watermedia.” Her watercolor/Chinese ink painting was selected to be the cover for a book: Season of Dead Water, edited by Helen Frost.
Bowen was invited to Montana’s MAP Program and is currently in “Art and Style: a 2023 Retrospective of Watercolor and Acrylics” show at Feathering Your Next in Uptown Butte. She has shown her work at Radius Gallery’s holiday shows (Missoula, MT), in a one-month show at Bliss Art (Hamilton, MT), and exhibitions at Two Rivers Gallery (Big Timber, MT, and Cimarron, N.M.), and the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Annual Auction (Billings, MT).
Bowen says that “My work revolves around the subjects, sights, or places I have loved. After fifty years as a Montana resident, I have grown more in love with our landscape every year.” The area of Maidenrock in southwest Montana has become special to her, a love affair that she shares in a video on her website (see link below). She currently lives in Butte with her husband, Butch Ulsher, and Tiffany, a mostly-Maine Coon cat.