Painting From Poetry ~ The Heart Of An Artist

AsherD · January 6, 2004 11:38 am

A candid interview with artist Jonathon Earl Bowser Jonathon Earl Bowser, in an engaging and candid interview, discusses his life, his work, and his unexpected journey into the world of political intrigue.
How and when did you decide to become an artist? J.E.B. - At age 8 an unruly doodle accidentally became a pleasing representational picture; since that "eureka" moment I've always known I was an artist, and the only thing undecided was exactly what kind of artist I might become. It is important to understand, that one does not choose to be an artist. Like being tall or intelligent, it is something one is or is not. I truly believe anyone can learn to draw or paint; what is less common is the desire to draw or paint, the need to spend countless hours in complete solitude exploring the beckoning frontiers of one's interior kingdom. And it does not seem like passion that drives the artist: I do not leap from my bed in the morning and scream, "Today I must paint...or DIE!" When I wake, I breath and I make art; each equally essential and equally mundane. How has "Mythic Naturalism" influenced you personally and how has it influenced your art? J.E.B. - I devised the term "Mythic Naturalism" to describe the fundamental duality of the world as I perceive it, and bring that mysterious interdependent tension to my work: brutal and gentle, Dionysian primal and Apollonian rational, landscape and figure, masculine and feminine. Where do your ideas come from, where do you find inspiration to create these images? And in reference to this, do you ever have periods of time where you are blocked artistically and if so how do you overcome those times? J.E.B. - I'm not sure that anyone knows where inspiration comes from. It usually happens without warning, triggered by something I have seen or read, pressing its way into my consciousness like an expanding bubble. Such moments of "aesthetic arrest" are very exciting, and when I experience one I must begin my research into the image obtained immediately. What I know for certain is that learning as much as I can about my subject stimulates the imagination to new visions. I believe inspiration is a mysterious confluence of three influences: the structural character of the vessel provided to me by my parents' DNA (body and brain), the empirical contents the world is pouring into that vessel in the form of knowledge (mind and experience), and one final little part drawn from that divine magic that moves the cosmos (God). That's how I think of it anyway, and I seem to have far more ideas than I can paint. Which artists do you most admire, or who has most influenced your work and why? J.E.B. - There are many superb artists who impress me with the towering magnitude of their technical ability, but none who are painting the images I want to see. I do indeed wish that I could paint the landscape with the stunning chromatic accuracy of Clyde Aspevig, or the visionary insight of Thomas Moran; and I envy the astonishing realism of William Bouguereau's neoclassical figures, and the impenetrably intricate designs of Alphonse Mucha's flower girls and Slave Epics. But they are not influences: only I can find the poetry of my own experience and perceptions. Among all your works do you have one or two that are your favorites? And if so, why? J.E.B. - "The Awakening"; it was a very complex design which worked out well in the execution, and among my works I think it comes the closest to touching that transcendent mystery that inspires my work. But the real answer to which painting is my favorite is, "the painting I will do next!" Each painting fails the original vision in some detail, and so I always look forward to the next one, hoping to see a little farther, a little clearer. Some of your work, including "The Awakening", was used in a book and without your permission. Would you tell us a little about what happened and why you finally chose not to pursue the issue legally? J.E.B. - Iraqi [ex-]President Saddam Hussein, perhaps with the assistance of a committee of writers, has published a novel, Zabibah and the King. As unbelievable as it may seem, the cover art of Mr. Hussein's new novel is, in fact, "The Awakening", an oil painting I created in 1998, an image which has been published as a limited-edition print, and for which I hold the registered copyright. I certainly did not authorize the Iraqi President, or anyone else, to publish my work in this way. To state the matter simply, this printing of Zabibah and the King (with "The Awakening" on the cover) is a blatant infringement of copyright. Lawyers have told me that unless and until Saddam decides to publish and/or distribute his novel in the U.S. (an unlikely prospect it seems to me) there is no legal action that can be taken in U.S. courts. Even though the image is indeed protected by registered copyright. This is fortunate for Mr. Hussein, because the penalties for infringement are considerable. It is my understanding that copyright law stipulates the fine for copyright infringement shall be calculated at a rate of US$500.00 per infraction, and each and every copy of Zabibah and the King upon which there is an illegally reproduced image of "The Awakening" is considered one infraction. According to the Iraq Press, Zabibah and the King is the best selling book in Iraq's history: over 1,000,000 copies have been distributed. It is just over one year since I learned of this truly strange event that has connected me with one of the most malefic, but nevertheless significant, figures of recent decades. It is difficult to know exactly how to respond to such an unbelievable story, and so I suppose I am perversely flattered and simply appalled. In the wake of the publicity surrounding the story, some people have wondered whether some of that media attention might translate into additional sales. This has not happened. Which came as no surprise to me because, "One of the favorite artists of the world's most bloodthirsty dictator!" did not seem like the kind of ad slogan that would send collectors running for their credit cards. Copyright is a very important principle that is worth defending, but this is, it seems, one of those unforeseeable moments where you just have to shrug and walk away. Perhaps I should feign a righteous indignation, but the real truth of the matter is that I have not suffered from Mr. Hussein's actions (not that I'm aware of anyway); nor have I profited from them. And so what remains is an absurd, ridiculous story about an infamous tyrant who likes the work of a little-known painter of peaceful, mysterious women. Mr. Hussein has, apparently, just published a second novel, The Fortified Castle; I have to admit, I'd really like to know what's on the cover... Are you working on any projects at present and what direction do you see yourself going in the future artistically? J.E.B. - It has occurred to me that the somewhat sensual kind of paintings I create might be viewed differently if they were painted by a significantly older man, and so I expect the current visual emphasis of my work may evolve into other elements over the ensuing decades. But I truly love these images, and have no current plans to do something dramatically different. I have some personal ideas regarding the true and proper destiny towards which our civilization should aspire, and some nagging questions about the mysterious nature of free will. I expect that these concerns will inform my work for the next decade or so, along with some less-ambitious images simply meant to be pretty. Perhaps when I am old and gray, I will retire to a simple life of landscape painting. Have you tried your hand at digital art? J.E.B. - Computers have given me the opportunity to exercise far greater control over the pre-press production process, and I enjoy having the ability to personally ensure that my fine-art reproductions are as faithful to the originals as possible. Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful program, but that is as far as my interest in computer art goes. If I were to start over again as a young artist, I would very likely go into computer graphics. I am as impressed with the computer-generated appearance of "Lord of the Rings" as everyone else, but I have been an oil painter too long now, and I am rather attached to the idea of making beautiful, jewel-like, one-of-a-kind objects. What advice can you give a young Traditional or Computer Graphic artist? J.E.B. - One: It is very difficult to be an artist, so you must paint what you love most in the universe. If you do not love your work, you will not succeed. Two: Don't listen to anything that people tell you about art. Art is about the absolute amazement you feel towards some aspect of the cosmos; it is about the truest and most sacred nature of your living soul, and the "Only" expert on the subject is you. The universe will call to you from some secret place, and you should follow that voice, wherever it leads you. In closing, is there anything you would like to say to your many fans? J.E.B. - Thank you for your kind and generous interest in my work, and I'll do my best in the future to find new visual poems about the strange and amazing beauty of this inexplicable place. For more information about the artist please visit his web site: http://www.jonathonart.com.
Graphic1673.jpg About vshane: "I live in a very small town northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and am the unwitting artist interviewer for Renderosity Magazine. I have a bachelor degree in political science and English (literature), and I'm in the process of completing my masters degree in Health Ethics. I will begin work on my second masters, in multi-media technology, this year. Currently, I'm working on a non-profit website that holds some exciting possibilities. I hope many of you will visit trevorworks.com (named for our dog and which is under construction at the moment -- the site, not our dog!). I have thoroughly enjoyed the artist interviews. I do hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have!"
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Article Comments


Septembre ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 05 January 2004

I simply cannot put into words how thrilled I am to see this interview here! Anyone who has ever been to my personal website can tell that Jonathon Bowser is one of my favorite artists ~ his beautiful and awe-inspiring works grace many of my pages (with due credit and return link, as per his instructions). Which in and of itself is a classic example of this man's character. How many artists of his caliber actually allow; nay, encourage the use of their art on a personal website? Not many, I can tell you, in fact of all the artists whose work moves me, he is as of yet the only one to 'shares' his work in this way. (Actually, it was because of my desire to populate my website with artwork that did not infringe on anyone's legal rights that I began my journey into digital art to begin with!) Not only does Mr. Bowser's art capture and captivate, but everything I have ever seen or read of this talented man indicates that he is, undoubtedly, a gentleman and an all-around class act. Thank you for sharing this delightful interview. There are few things I enjoy more than getting insight into the wisdom of someone whose talent I deeply admire.

Neec ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 06 January 2004

Wonderful interview! Very insightful. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Corinne ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 07 January 2004

Oh I'm also thrilled to see an interview of you here, Jonathon ! When I was just a sketching kid, I used to go on your site and I stayed for hours there, amazed by your talent, by the beautiful women, draperies, the beautiful nature and mysticism... And I also remember how generous you were to let me use your paintings on my website... You're one of the persons that encouraged me to start. There are a few over here also, but you were the first artist I saw that did things so near from my thinkings. One day I thought what you wonderfully put into words : I wanted to paint what I found the most beautiful. And so did I start with digital art :) Thanks for everything and for being here !

Varian ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 08 January 2004

Thank you for this interview, Jonathan - and for your website gallery and for sharing your splendid work with us all. As with many others, I have spent several hours at your website enjoying the eye candy (and drooling a bit over the keyboard). One of the best parts are the photos showing you standing next to the canvas (like the one used to illustrate this page) - the views just seem to add depth and dimension to the works, giving them a real sense of "place." So many thanks for including those along with the images themselves. :)

PilotHigh ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 12 January 2004

Well, Jon, what's it been.... 15 years or so since I saw you last. Boy your art has improved in leaps and bounds since then, along with your reputation. I still have that painting you did for me on my mantle - I'll always treasure it, honest! ;-) Aeriol

vshane ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 14 January 2004

I just wanted to post a quick thank you to Jonathon for taking time to talk with us in this interview. And to those of you who have read the interview, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you! Vicki