Master of the Speedy Stroke

Gordon Fowler wastes no time when it comes to making his mark in watercolor

Master of the Speedy Stroke

"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."

Master of the Speedy Stroke

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. end story


"Travels" is on display through Nov. 8 at Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth. For information, call 472-7428 or visit www.wallyworkmangallery.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Gordon Fowler
Vietnam Memories
Vietnam Memories
Ricardo Ainslie’s new documentary The Mark of War airs Sunday

Michael King, Oct. 26, 2018

'Rivers'
'Rivers'
Drop me in the water

Robert Faires, July 8, 2011

More by Rachel Koper
"Piecing It Together" Gives Credit to Austin's First Graffiti Artists
The Mexican American Cultural Center exhibition captures the lore and legends of the local graffiti scene early on

Jan. 24, 2020

Top 9 (Plus Three) Memories & Best Happenings in 2009
Top 9 (Plus Three) Memories & Best Happenings in 2009
2009 was a good year for artists, young and old, getting their props

Jan. 1, 2010

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gordon Fowler, "Travels", Wally Workman, Wally Workman Gallery, Madame & Monsieur Bettoli's House

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle