The one constant in my work is that it changes…I have learned to accept this as the right way for me to be an artist, to explore and welcome the impulses to experiment.
Aaron Bowles is an American contemporary painter. His figurative work has a modernist flavor, and features dreams and mythology, while his abstract landscapes are handled with an expressive touch. He works in a painterly style that features compositionally intensive abstraction with a colorist’s aesthetic. The work is composed in layers, of sometimes unexpected color, with a direct, expressionist stroke, based on emotionally charged scenes that contain light, drama and spirit.
Born in Charlottesville, Aaron is a lifelong Virginian, and went to college to study painting and design, in Richmond, where he lives today. After many years as a digital creative director and freelance illustrator, Aaron began to pursue his dream of becoming a painter.
Aaron studied painting at East Carolina University, and holds an interdisciplinary bachelors degree from Virginia Commonwealth University where he studied communication arts, painting, and English. He continued his art education at the graduate level by studying painting at George Mason University. Aaron’s illustrations have been presented in the pages of Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many others. A former assistant professor of design, he taught art at George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College. Aaron is an enthusiastic teacher and actively participates in activities that allow him to demonstrate art and share his broad knowledge of painting and drawing. He exhibits nationally and is in numerous institutional and private collections.
My goal is to create artwork that is moving, that evokes mystery and wonder. I want the people who live with my work to regard a painting as a touchstone of their soul. We live in a world filled with visual drama in the form of seismic changes, within a broad historical and psychological heritage. I would like the viewers of my art to sense this drama, for the paintings to stir the emotions, or calm the senses. My work is a pursuit of balance between the tangible world that surrounds us and the spiritualism that dwells within each of us. These feelings find expression to remind us of our individual connection to our collective consciousness.
In the Fragile Earth series, I urge viewers to consider the scope of existence, between today and tomorrow, this world and new ones, earth and sea. Inventing these imaginary scenes using myriad techniques such as rag stamping, printmakers’ brayers, or foam mono-printing, I paint expressionist, but thoroughly planned, rhythmic patterns and colorful vistas on hand-crafted 1.5″ wood panels. The paintings are controlled but bold, using light and shadow to move the eye, add mystery, and reveal the element of chance. These paintings are highly textured with rich impasto, scraping, whiplash striations, and plenty of layering, creating both freedom and a challenge to continually invent new color combinations and vistas within this structure.
I come across inspiration in my daily life, reacting to myriad cultural and technical influences, my dreams, the cultural zeitgeist, the environment... and something will strike me as a particularly good idea that evokes some poetry…I react to that and try to capture it. I take a picture of it, or sketch the essentials. Whatever the idea is, it is fleeting. Painting that moment, that idea, will help to reinforce a feeling, translating that impression into a permanent work of art. I strive for drama and interesting conflicts, some expressive statement, that may involve dreams and psychological vibrancy and motion, or serenity and a sense of peace, or wonder and awe…some set of feelings that help explain the world.
At the center of my work are the ideas within my painting. I believe that ideas draped in beauty have an inherent attraction, that the messages can be digested and understood if they are aesthetically aligned with one’s spirit. My highest aim is bringing aesthetic insight, honesty, and delight to the people who live with my work and share my spiritual and intellectual world on a daily basis.
When I think of something or see a scene to paint, I generally take a photo as quickly as possible. Then I make thumbnail and color studies to figure out the placement of figures or scenic elements. Frequently, I will bring the photo into Photoshop to play with color. Once I have the idea or scene worked out in general, I begin the painting of a piece by thinking more carefully about the color and the composition. They need to be in harmony to express the particular feeling I want to capture. When I work with paint, there is a physical interaction unlike other media; a combination of visual and color and the plasticity of the paint itself. I know a piece is done when there is nothing more to say. Each stroke is hopefully correct, in it’s place…that is, it fits with the other aspects of the painting (light and dark, warm and cool, at rest or in motion).
Starting with either canvas or panels, I gesso the surface in three coats, sand it, then tone it all over in acrylic with a complementary color to the main color of the painting, usually a tinted magenta or orange. I consider the color choices carefully and make small color studies. Then I draw directly on the canvas in thin paint, and then proceed to paint in the underlayers in acrylic. While that is drying I will mix the oil or acrylic overpaint colors, mix a lot of paint and just lay the colors down quickly, drawing with the paint brush all the while. It is a daring way to paint- one is always on the edge, preserving the underlayers to allow that sparkle of previous layers to show through, but laying on the paint in a confident, bold manner. It takes concentration and courage to just do it all in a rush, but the results are what I want–colorful, textured, with confident paint handling– and sometimes it simply fails or I go too far. Then it is time to learn from that and start another painting.
Fortunately I have lately discovered that the paintings can take a bit of overworking and that most of the time more paint is better. And I have become interested in using rollers, scraping the paint, or using the knife to make texture, making scraffito marks. The results are a little richer and more engaging.
I hope you enjoy the paintings.