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Artist Biography

 “The first encounter with paintings by Mark Bowles can be a bit like walking into a room that is a little too dark. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust before you can really take in what you are seeing. While they can be enjoyed at a glance, these are not paintings intended for casual viewing. Taking the time to look closely brings its rewards.
 When I see Mark's images, I am struck initially by his bold use of color. It is understood that he is a skilled colorist. Indicating multiple application techniques, the works feature layers of pigments and varying textures. The colors play off each other, often contrasting and complimenting one another within a single painting. As I take in the different color relations, this is when the compositional structure begins to assert itself. Colors, joyful as they are, are not haphazard, but are evidently guided by an underlying construction.
Recent paintings suggest vaguely familiar land masses and agrarian fields of central California, but they are clearly imaginative responses not intended to be read as literal. They balance the familiar with the highly personal. These are not landscapes in a classical sense that ask us to pinpoint a precise location. Instead, we are seeing landscapes of the mind. We are seeing Mark's responses to his lived experience and his shifting reactions brought on by various sites over time. Looking closely at the combination of colors and forms, we are rewarded not by trying to find the specificity of place, but by connecting with the artist's emotions and personal feelings about nature.” - Jerry N. Smith, PhD, Curator of American and Western American Art

“Bowles’ landscapes are individual statements that have emerged with individuality from a rich tradition of California landscape painting. Unlike his friend, Gregory Kondos, Mark Bowles is not a plein-air painter although he finds time in the field crucial to his artistic sensibility. Mark prefers the solitude of the studio to address painting infrastructure and color interplay which eventually find placement in a finished work. Whereas many practicing Northern California landscape painters find richness with riparian settings or city-scapes, Bowles primarily features the broad plains of the Central Valley as his favored subject matter. Often, distinctive landmarks are visible in a setting that is on the verge of abstraction.”  - Scott Shields, Ph. D., Chief Curator, Crocker Art Museum


Artist Statement

I believe art tells a story and every artist is a story teller. This belief takes my work far beyond the obvious; most certainly beyond the visual. Whatever the subject matter, I hope to provoke the viewer into thinking about what they see and feel and becoming more informed as a result. If possible, I want to take them deeper into a subject than they’ve ever been before and prompt an inner change in the way they see the world.

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and for as long as I can remember I have always painted. My passion for interpreting the world around me brought me to the California College of Arts & Crafts where I completed my studies with honors. In addition, I attended the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, an international fine art center, developing a passionate dedication to my chosen career. It is this passion that has allowed my work to grow. As I’ve traveled and adapted to new landscapes and changing vistas, my world view has evolved and expanded as well. Today, some say my paintings are a blend between contemporary and Western art. I’d like to think they defy any label. 

I try not to limit myself in what I paint or how I interpret what I see. Whether working with a still life, the human figure or a landscape, my immediate translation of that experience into texture, form and color expresses how I feel about what I’m seeing. That translation, never predetermined, allows my work to move from direct representation to minimalism to abstraction and therefore, is ever-changing and personally challenging. Each painting inspires the next response and the next interpretation. That is how my work stays fresh.

People ask how I paint. I address the canvas directly, with a huge amount of trust that my intuitive inner artist will guide me. My heart pushes my work to find new ways of expressing what I see and how I feel about it. In effect, it’s the language of my soul. The result, therefore, is not just an intellectual exercise; rather, it’s a reflection of being in the “now” and living in the moment, in my own truth. I try to avoid any preconception of the end result. I simply begin with a certain size canvas, select the preferred materials and let an image grow. Painting makes me feel alive. If I am successful, I can draw the viewer into my space as they become involved in their own personal journey and discovery of the work. That dialogue is the ultimate reward —a way to communicate something new to the viewer, even if just for a brief moment in time. Titles of a painting follow merely as a means to help the viewer find reference.

Painting is my commitment, my passion and my fulfillment. Exploring the powerful emotions behind colors, behind the strength of a good composition, and in the varied qualities and attitudes of a line never fails to intrigue me. I am honored by those who find joy in my paintings and choose to own them. At this point in my career, I can proudly say that my work is collected worldwide and shown internationally.