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Each artist has his or her own way of starting a piece of work. Some use still life, some need to go out and see it, and others develop it in their own way.

In early years, my dad would buy canvas and stretch it himself. Later on he found that tiresome and went with the traditional pre-stretched. But his process often stayed the same. He would have his old art desk in the corner of his bedroom with his brushes sitting in turpentine which was an old bread pan worn down by years of oil and turpentine. Smoking his cigar, while playing solitaire and staring at the blank canvas, he would take the paintbrush from the dirty turpentine and stroke it across the top of the painting and let the paint drip down the canvas. Then he might turn the canvas on its side or turn upside down and apply the same method. He would sit and stare until something formed – whether it be a face or eyes or something that would catch his eye and then he’d paint. His palette consisted of a piece of aluminum foil piled on with paint from 30+ yrs past. It almost became a sculpture in itself.

Rarely was a painting ever done in one day. But I wouldn’t say never. He would sit on it for awhile. He would never show anyone until he was done with it. There were times when, after being away from it, he would go in and literally paint over the entire thing…just wipe it out. I’d walk by and ask, “What’s wrong?” He’d say, “Eh…picture wasn’t working out.”

On one occasion, long ago, he hated what he painted so much he took a little knife and sliced up the canvas and said it stunk. He was temperamental that way. He would often show my mother the painting once it was done. She would be very honest which he loved about her. She either loved it or didn’t like it. But nothing would influence his decision. If he liked it, that’s all that mattered.

He wouldn’t paint just on the weekends either. His routine consisted of going to work, having dinner, going in the other room, lighting up his cigar, putting on his classical music and playing cards while painting. Same routine each night. Whether it was on a canvas in his room, or on a sketch pad on vacation, to a hospice brochure in the hospital room; painting was his outlet, his passion, his enjoyment.

His artist’s statement about why he paints couldn’t describe him more:
For me, it’s instinctive and pleasurable. When it’s not anymore, it will always be instinctive.

Photo of Studio

Photo of Studio

Photo of palette

Photo of palette


You don’t make art, you find it. -Pablo Picasso

682_blogWe all have places that inspire us. For some, it may be a park where we can sit on a bench and watch people, children, and dogs pass us by, or others may find solace near water at a lake or beach. Inspiration may be as simple as a room in our house where we feel most comfortable. For Phillip Bowman, one of his main sources of inspiration was Long Island.

Growing up in Long Island, Phillip often spent time on the North Fork in a rustic cabin overlooking a small creek. The cabin was a snapshot from a simpler time: a skeleton key opened the front lock, the kitchen had dishes from various garage sales and a stove with tape over the buttons that no longer worked, and, if you went into the bathroom, you’d see antique chrome hot and cold knobs on the sink. It was a summer and autumn escape for him and his family, a tradition he continued each year with his own wife and children.

As time went on, Phillip and his family moved on to another, similarly modest cabin in Greenport, NY. The view from the back deck of the Greenport cabin looks like a painting—a grassy yard with mature trees that leads to a sandy beach and water. The main living room has wood paneled walls and orange and green carpet. The kitchen is filled with old white cabinets and yellow Formica countertops. The cabin is probably a lot different from a hotel or condo you may stay in when going on vacation, but that is the point. Sometimes, it is the simplest of places that inspire us.

The simplicity of life in Long Island was a main source of inspiration for both Phillip’s art and the artist himself. He felt at home there. He would often sit on the back deck in a rocking chair, smoking his cigar and looking out over the water. He would bring his black case of colored pens and blank paper and sketch the large tree in front of the cottage, the creek that ran along the property, or whatever came to his mind—simply being there prompted creativity.

I35_blogThroughout his life and career, Phillip was always most inspired by the everyday, simple things around him. He could create from an expression on someone’s face, a mood, or a scene.

This time of year, as we reflect on our lives and what we are thankful for, it’s a good time to take a step back and notice the simple things in our life that make us feel inspired.

What inspires you?