An apt tagline for Scott Bowe’s art could be “go with the flow.” The phrase is a pun of sorts in reference to his poured acrylic paintings, but it also describes Scott’s overall artistic style. He doesn’t paint on a set schedule, but when the mood strikes—often after dropping his children at school, or at night, when they’re tucked in bed. “I don’t know what colors I’m going to use when I start,” he says. “It’s very in the moment; I’m mixing colors as I’m making the piece, just based on instinct.”
A former actor, Scott often refers to the blank canvas as a stage at an improv performance. “You don’t know what you’re going to say; you don’t know what color you’re going to put on the canvas,” he says. “Until the other person speaks you don’t know how to react. The way the colors interact with each other—I describe it as a conversation.”
For the past six years, Scott has focused on the acrylic pouring technique, which was discovered in the 1930s by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, a contemporary of Diego Rivera. “It’s a process where the viscosity of the paint is really thin, which allows it to pour and move around,” says Bowe. “It’s very interactive; it’s not an easel and a chair type of project. Acrylics dry very quickly, so time is of the essence.”
While it may sound easy to just pour paint onto a canvas and tilt it to move the colors around, mastery of the technique takes artistic vision and discipline. “I use so many Solo cups,” Bowe says, smiling. “You layer colors in the cup and then you pour them on the canvas and get it to where you want it to be. Or you can put the colors in separate cups and apply them onto the canvas where you see fit.”
It’s a messy process, and one that requires space. Bowe’s studio is in his basement, and like so many artists, music is important to his creative process. “I listen to a lot of old 70s rock and roll, and a lot of reggae, which is very calming to me,” he says. “Also what you would call ‘chill house music.’ I never want to get to a place where I feel anxious. Fortunately, 70s rock and roll doesn’t amp me up to an anxious level.”
In the last 18 months, Scott has focused on refining his pouring method by practicing what he calls “a technique within a technique”—leaving white space on the canvas. “I’ve been experimenting using it in a way where I can create more negative space—but I don’t like the word negative, so I just call it white space,” he says. “I think that it sometimes it speaks louder than filling the whole canvas, and just adds more character, in my opinion.”
The paintings in which Bowe has filled his canvas with color exude kinetic energy. Those with a palette of blues and greens evoke roiling surf; others may make the viewer think of lightning, or a sandstorm. The pieces with more white space have a quieter feel. And although they may be the result of Bowe’s skill, a large part of what he likes about the pouring technique is that he doesn’t have full control. “It keeps my energy up and my focus very engrossed in what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m listening very closely to the painting and responding to what I’m hearing or seeing.” Or, you might say, going with the flow.