Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Hello. I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to, or watching, Radio Maine today. I have with me artist, Scott Bowe. Thanks for coming in today. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Scott, I have to start with this beautiful piece behind us because blue is one of my favorite colors and you have a lot of blue in this piece. What's the name of this piece and describe it for people. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Well, this piece right here, let me preface this by saying I'm a blue guy too. I mean, I love the blues, the whole spectrum. And I enjoy playing with blue. The name of this painting is Balmy. And I'd like to also say before I get into it a little, I always title my paintings after the fact, after they've been done. I never have a preconceived idea of really what I'm going for necessarily.  I can get a little more detailed on that later, but I like to keep the names pretty nebulous for pretty obvious reasons. So you're not suggesting or putting some kind of thought into somebody's mind about what it is. So my paintings and the titles of my paintings are always about a feeling. The words I choose for my titles are about a feeling. So I was finished and I kinda felt, it's always a feeling, it felt just very relaxed and calm, very like Balmy, it's soothing. Right?  It was very soothing to me. However, I could have taken the name to you know, with the word balmy, as being mad and crazy. Like he's acting a little Balmy right now, isn't he? You know, so that's what I was referring to when I chose the titles. I don't like to use one that, oh, that's what it is. So I just started thinking that way. This also, let me get into this, the creation of this, this is called fluid acrylics which are different than your normal tube, acrylic paints, meaning the viscosity of it is a lot thinner. It's a little more watery and pourable. That's why they call them pours. This style of painting actually originated in the thirties by accident. I can't remember his name, a Mexican artist, and he basically invented fluid painting. So it's a matter of taking the whole canvas when it's blank and filling it all with what I call just white space. So you take a polymer, a clear polymer, you add the white to it, and you basically drenched the whole canvas until it is all wet. And then you play with the colors and you just, and again, it's a feeling, it's a feeling of like, feeling right now, what am I going for? It's all very in the moment, acrylics dry very quickly. So it's always like, okay-I need that color, but I don't have that color, I've got to mix that color, I got it, yes!  When I get really into the painting, I start to think of it more as an ocean than like a tropical breezy balmy type of atmosphere.  That's my long-winded answer to your question. 



 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, it is very beautiful. And now that you're saying this, I can see the two different ways of potentially looking at the piece. When people acquire your pieces for their homes, do they ever come back to you and give you a story around the piece that they chose and why? 


 

Scott Bowe:

Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I've had many people come back to me. Well, it's interesting with people that purchase, art buyers that purchase art for the true purpose, to put it in their home and appreciate it. It resonates with them and I've had people call me and really harp on me about why did you name it this? Why is it called that? Cause what I see is this. And I know this isn't directly answering your question, but as an artist, one of the biggest things I enjoy the most is hearing what other people see. So yes, I've had many instances where people have contacted me after purchasing a piece. When you initially asked the question, was it commission pieces where you're collaborating? I think that pretty much sums it up. Yeah. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

That must be an interesting process. If somebody is commissioning a piece from you and your pieces are very abstract and you just described your process as being very in the moment. So how do you bring those two things together where somebody else has a different idea of what is in their mind for what they’re  commissioning from what they've asked you to do.


 

Scott Bowe:

Right, right. I can't replicate this. I can come close, but no, this is a lot about gravity and movement, a lot of different techniques. But, when you're doing a commission piece, for example, I had this one guy from New Jersey and he had just bought this huge house with big cathedral ceilings. He took me through it virtually with his iPad. And he had this big space for a triptych, three in a row. He wanted them 50 by 40, three of them. It gets a little tricky, especially with that dimension.  So I start asking quite a lot of questions when I'm in that kind of situation. Well, first of all, what kind of lighting is it under?  I always change my lighting for commissions to make sure it’s represented in the way they want to see it. But to work with somebody when you're an abstract painter or an expressionist, and to have somebody else tell you what direction to go in, like you were saying or asking, hasn't been a big problem to be quite honest with you. I can understand how you can't do exactly what they want, but that's the beauty of it. You get creative together. It's still abstract and puts more in their color palette and more of their suggestion, but it can be done for sure. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I know that some artists prefer not to do commissions. 


 

Scott Bowe:

You know, that has always sincerely blown my mind. I guess I respect a portion of that philosophy. For me, I think it is one of the best things in the world. I absolutely love the collaboration between a buyer and somebody that's going to have my painting on their wall. It's going to be, because I view painting as being alive, it's living. I know that sounds kind of esoteric, but it's purposefully done. It's got energy. It's resonating and it has an effect. It moves you. Hopefully that's the purpose. Yes, hopefully. And so yeah. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

When talking about this collaboration I'm reminded of the fact that you had a completely different career, which I think still continues to this day as an actor and acting is also very much both individualistic and collaborative. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Yeah. It's ambivert, it's extroverted and introverted at the same time. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So tell me about how the work that you did as an actor has either contrasted with the work that you're doing now as an artist. Or been similar to the work that you do. 


 

Scott Bowe:

I've given it a lot of thought and I've experienced moments where as an actor, well, let me just say that colors represent emotion inherently. I'm speaking like an authority now. Okay. There's an inner palette. I always viewed things that way when I was an actor as well. If I was doing a scene or in a play, or didn't really matter, it was about color. It's like an explosion of color. Colors have emotion. I think we all know this.  But, I think some people just don't really acknowledge how impactful that color can be. That everybody actually does have this inner palette of colors that represent different emotions. So with that said, acting was very similar to painting in the sense that it's about color. 

For me, it's not about memories, memorizing lines. It's about a feeling. So here you go with the feelings, the colors, right. Proceed the feeling. So it's been extremely, extremely helpful. And I'll say this, I'll also say this. This was a big aha moment. When I moved to Los Angeles, I auditioned and got accepted to a school called Groundlings School Improv. I was there for two years. And I've always kind of made a reference to painting, in retrospect now, as an open as a blank canvas. You can just think about it. Okay. Two people on an open stage, blank canvas, no idea what you're going to say, no idea what kind of paint you're going to apply, no idea what the first color is going to be. Which would kind of suggest the next color, like a conversation, so to speak. 

And so it's a very vulnerable place, which I find attractive. And also, I think it's a perfect place for creation. I think that vulnerability of having an open stage, open canvas and having the whole color theory of emotion in your hands sort of resonate, both with acting and with painting. The biggest difference is the solitude. Yes, acting, you sound crazy a lot of times because you're learning your lines and we always used to say, it's just a crazy house. We're just crazy people, you know. The one aspect of the performance for art is to have it displayed and then being able to maybe discuss it or talk about it.  But with acting, of course, it's a presentation. There's a physical presentation. Yeah. Performance. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What you're describing is so interesting to me, because I do think we think of art as being static, but we talked about just a few minutes ago, this idea that not only do you interact with the art, but the person who has the art on their wall interacts with the art on a regular basis. So it's really not static. It might look dimensional on the wall, but it's kind of continually interacting with whatever our emotional state of the moment really is. 


 

Scott Bowe:

A really good way to put it because I think it can change. Absolutely. I mean, I think a lot of people have bought a piece of art, or acquired a piece of art, or made a piece of art, that at one point in time in their life, it meant and felt had its own attributes.  But then as you go through life and time passes by, you have different experiences that may take on a different form of feeling. Or you may see something different. I would follow up with saying that's a lot of the reason why I've been drawn to abstract, particularly abstract expressionism. Because it’s about feeling how it can change. And, you know, I've heard people that have a lot of art in their home that it's kind of like having friends around. When there's nobody else there, like they're truly invested. They're speaking to their friends, you know. They're having a conversation and now it sounds weird, but they are alive. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yeah. I think you're right. And it's interesting because some days when you walk in you're right, you're not paying attention. You know, you get off of work and everything, you're just kind of right in your own self, but other days you can walk in and the sun can hit the wall in a certain way. It can, you know, light up something that you had forgotten was there. And then all of a sudden, your mind is activated again, you're interacting with the art. It's a really, it's an interesting, and as you say, dynamic process. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Absolutely. Yeah. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So tell me about your relationship with the ocean. I mean, I know that you've lived on both coasts, you grew up in Connecticut, you've lived in Maine, you spent a semester at sea. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Yes. So oh, that's an interesting question. My relationship with the ocean is very deep. No pun intended. It's very, like you just said, I grew up in Connecticut, but spent every summer of my life in Freeport, Maine and on the water. Very fortunate. My great-grandfather had purchased a parcel of land on the water way, way back. And it's still in the family today and we had a summer home also on that property. So every summer of my life would revolve around being on the water. No TV, being on the water, clam digging, water-skiing every day, fishing, boating, kayaking, going out to islands exploring the Rocky coastline. It's an ebb and flow tide so it's always changing the scenery.  You never know what the tide is going to bring in. It's also really cool to go scavenging when I’m with my kids. But, when I was growing up it was just ingrained in me. You brought up various aspects of the ocean.  But in my experience, the colors, for example, even in this painting are, are representative.

When I started, like I was saying, I don't know what I'm going to do initially when I get to the blank canvas. People like to think of the ocean as blue or teal. It's not. Right? It looks that way, but when you really get down to it, think of seaweed and think of sea grass and think of the mud that clam diggers go through and the seashells and the sediments in the water. And it takes on a whole new life of its own.  You just start to feel more like the term you used, a relationship with this environment. And, it makes you more aware, in my opinion, of all the different colors that encompass the ocean. 

I went on this program, it was for a hundred days, and it was like you said, called semester at sea. And we literally circumnavigated the globe. And I don't know why this just came to me, but I went alone. There's 400- 450 college students going around the globe on a cruise ship to nine different countries. I didn't know anybody. I just remember standing there and I don't know why I'm saying this, but it's just whatever. We're just looking off the big bow and this kid looks at me and he's like, “man, that's a lot of water.” I'm just like, we're going around the world, there's a lot of water out there. Yeah! And so it was unbelievable. 

If you're going to sea, let's just quickly just say the differences between you know, crossing the Atlantic. We went down first to Venezuela and to Brazil, but then across the Atlantic to Cape town, South Africa. And just seeing birds that live in nowhere, there isn't any land in sight. Going to Malaysia and the water. I've never seen water, like how pristine and green and just almost fictitious. It's almost not real. It's so beautiful.  The same thing with the sand when we went to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. I think it's a hundred times higher than Niagara falls. In Venezuela the sand was all pink, just truly pink sand. And so, yes, I could go on and on of course. But that's a huge part of me. I'm also Pisces, so I'm a fish.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Honestly, I could have guessed that.


 

Scott Bowe:

You could have guessed that? Okay. I love the water and I've spent a lot of time around the water. And now I get the pure enjoyment of having my kids who are twins, nine years old, bringing them out and giving them the same experiences. Not around the world yet, but down in Freeport on the water. And it's just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. There's nothing, it's cathartic to me. There's truly nothing like jumping into salt water. The ocean feels electric. Again, back to feeling. It truly feels that way to me. Yeah. I bring my kids down there. During COVID we stayed, in the beginning, for the first three weeks, down at  my parents' house. We would go down to the shore and I'd say, okay, now we're going to ground ourselves. And we would put our hands in the salt water. Don't talk for 5-10 seconds. Okay. And you just feel amazing. I'm being sincere. I really think that the water is that powerful. That's enough of water


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Just to join in with what you're saying in traditional Chinese medicine.  The water element is associated with the organ system of the kidney and the bladder. And it's considered your kind of inborn qi. This is the energy that we're all born with. And it's the thing that we are supposed to try to preserve to the extent possible over the course of our lives. Right. I mean, we all come from water. We are all made of water. We come from water and eventually, you know, who knows what happens to all of our molecules when we die, but most likely many of them will join back with water. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Very interesting thought. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So, I mean, your relationship with water is perhaps a little bit more tangible than many people's, but it's still pretty important to all of us. Really? 


 

Scott Bowe:

Yeah. I mean, hearing what you just said, it makes perfect sense. I mean, yes, we were involved in water. I mean, we just were floating. We are fish, I guess, to some extent. Yeah. I mean, we all have an affinity for water. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And do you think that, because there's so much of the water element in your work, that people are attracted to it in part for that reason? 


 

Scott Bowe:

Well, let me ask you, do you think that's what it is? Is that what you see? A lot of water in my work? 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I mean, I've known your work for a while. I've known you for awhile. 


 

Scott Bowe:

You are right by the way. But, I want to hear what you see. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, this has always been my response to your work and that it is in part the fluidity of it and the motion. It's a very changeable sort of approach to seeing the world, which for me,  is very much water oriented. But other people may see it differently. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Well, let's just say that the world is primarily water. Yes, I agree with you 100%. Like I said I love blues. I love water. I love like effervescent colors that represent seashells and stuff like that.  Most people do see a lot of water in my work or more topographical, looking at objects in an environment or a mountain scape. I get Subaquatic a lot. You can get as esoteric and metaphysical about it as you want, you know?  There's yes, I would say typography.  People have always said it looks very topographic  and then also Subaquatic or actually an ocean. Yeah. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, but even when I think about typography, isn't topography also a relationship between soil and trees and water. When you're describing your semester at sea, all I could think of were the cliff, the white cliffs of Dover and the granite cliffs of Maine and even that interaction between the landscape and the seascape. So it's just kind of interesting to think about the way that you've experienced the world and how it's been manifest in the art that you've created. 


 

Scott Bowe:

That's an interesting perspective. I agree with that one hundred percent. And I like also to do a lot of what a lot of artists call negative space. I don't like the word negative. And so it's white space, so it kind of gives it that island feel to it. Yeah. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Has your art evolved?


 

Scott Bowe:

Tremendously.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I ask this because I know the answer to this question. Because I remember when you first started back up with your art again and then over time where you've wanted to go and need it to go. But tell me about that. Was there a place where you kind of said, okay, well, I think I'm done with that now and I would like to move on? 


 

Scott Bowe:

Very interesting question. I'm self-taught. I say I'm self-taught, but I was taught by friends out in Los Angeles that were represented. They were real artists and actors. You know, just hanging out late at night in their studios and stuff like that. I always took it as just fun. It was just fun. And never once in my life, ever once, did I say to myself, I'm going to be an artist. I want to be a painter because artists encompasses a lot. Right? So it was more about in retrospect. I learned a lot by working with these friends, you know. I didn't even know what gesso was. I didn't, I truly didn’t. But going back to the evolution. 

Yeah. I started out learning these techniques and using brushes and palette knives and doing some pourings and just different styles. I started out using only a brush. The typical you know, I would sketch. I started out with more surrealism, like crooked buildings and these works, actually I don't even think they've been seen, but this is sort of what I started out as. So it was more surreal than it was abstract. You could still make out the figure, and that's a building, whatever.  But it's evolved in the sense that man, it's really, this is a really hard question because I enjoy doing all of it. In terms of me as an artist, evolving with the craft, when I got into fluid acrylics is when I really started to get extremely passionate about it. 

And I don't really like using this example, but I'm going to because I can't think of anything else. But when I did change from doing other types of work, which has always again been abstract, but not fluid necessarily at all. A lot of gestural type of stuff, but it's kind of what's expected, not expected, but it's what resonated the most with the larger audience of spectators. That's when my art started to sell, let's say that. When I really kind of hit a sweet spot and people took to that. It resonated with them and it was great. I mean, I've developed a following because of it. But, I just say the one thing is it's hard. It's hard to go back. You can't because people are used to it, it's like a sit-com actor. You can't get out of that role. A couple can, you know what I'm saying? But I love doing it. I love doing it. It's a very hard question, Lisa. I've done everything from finding a lobster trap during COVID during our scavenger hunts with my children and painting it all gold, putting a buoy and gold. It was all just a metaphor for the experience we were going through, that nobody's going to save you no matter how much money you have, and I could get way into it. But my point is I've experimented with so many different kinds that sometimes it's not even a sellable piece, it's just a piece that I make like the lobster trap. 

Yes,  it's evolved. It's evolved into different styles, different forms, but then ultimately I came to find one that I really liked and it was untraditional.  I never have my canvas on an easel. It's always on the ground. I always have a bird's eye perspective of my painting.  I am holding the crossbars on the back, you know, it's all about movement. It's about patience. It's about composition, I'd say most important. That goes along with all the styles, of course, but, it's the composition of the piece. That's the best way I could answer that question. That sounds simple, but for me, it's not. I've tried many techniques. This is the one that feels right and resonates the best with people.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, your work is gorgeous. I think you have hit a sweet spot, at least in my humble opinion. And I've enjoyed my conversation with you today. Every time you and I talk, I learn a little bit more about you and it's interesting to see how you've evolved over time as we all do. 


 

Scott Bowe:

Absolutely. And same with you. I enjoyed this talk immensely and thank you to the Portland Art Gallery. And I've learned a lot more about you as well. I really appreciate it. Thank you. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I've been speaking with artist Scott Bowe. You may see his work at the Portland Art Gallery or on the Portland Art Gallery website. Scott is also often at our Portland Art Gallery openings. If you want to meet him, he's a fascinating person, as I think you probably can tell from our conversation today. 

Scott, I appreciate your being with me today. 


 

Scott Bowe:

I appreciate it as well. Thank you so much for inviting me.