Master of the Speedy Stroke
Gordon Fowler wastes no time when it comes to making his mark in watercolor
"Travels" is an apt name for Gordon Fowler's new show at Wally Workman Gallery. This summer he made painting expeditions to Montana, Wyoming, San Miguel, and France. Looking at the work he made on these trips, you can see a relaxed, confident artist imparting warm smiles and beautiful settings to the canvas. Long shadows cascade through Parisian streets, shaded family picnics convene near glowing meadows. A Vietnam veteran, Fowler has not always been this positive. But, he says, "this whole show is more about people and places than landscape. It is about what I feel about what I see, as opposed to what I see."
In addition to "wearing out the museums in Paris," he and gallery owner Wally Workman stayed at gallery assistant Annabelle's huge family house in southern France. Three generations live together in this amazing stone mansion. It's a fairy-tale location, but Gordon handled the romance with a workmanlike sensibility. He had about 20 painting sessions in those two weeks. Madame & Monsieur Bettoli's House is a radiant, masterful watercolor -- the stone home emerges into the sun out of rose beds. Fowler's watercolors have a magical transparency, and the untouched white of the cotton paper is significant to the composition.
Fowler has been doing watercolors for 20 years, and his comfort with the medium is inspirational. Expressionistic, gestural strokes are his signature. "There is a certain dynamic that comes from speed, and I don't mean the drug," he says. "I don't nitpick around with little brushes. The mark you make with a speedy stroke is important -- chancy -- a lot like playing rock & roll music. I think of Joe Ely's lyric: 'I've got a '57 Buick, painted that SOB green with a broom.'" He continues, "You have to nail the gesture, and then you have to use the color and design the best you can from memory, then look over now and then for a detail." Enough brash Texas charisma for you?
Painting from life, out in the elements, Fowler is forceful and direct even when his subjects are sweet. He'll often use a single brush for a painting -- mixing the paint right on the canvas. Admirably low tech, Fowler is known to make "drive-by" oil paintings: Pull the car to the side of the road, paint for 20 minutes, and cruise on. Fowler brags that he can complete a painting with only four colors while using gasoline as thinner and cleaning his brush with Crisco! Fowler's toughness and charm are evident in these new works.
"Travels" is on display through Nov. 8 at Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth. For information, call 472-7428 or visit www.wallyworkmangallery.com.