Phil Castle, The Business Times
Where others see a blank wall, Lee Bowerman envisions something completely different.
Take, for example, the west-facing exterior wall of In the Middle Liquors in Fruita. Bowerman has transformed what was a few months ago a nondescript view of a door and a couple of windows into a vibrant street scene from an old west town. A woman wearing a cowboy hat and jeans ties her horse to a hitching post in front of the saloon. Meanwhile, a stagecoach driver is about to encounter an automobile. With its perspective and play of light and shadows, the scene appears realistic enough a passerby could plausibly take a walk down the dirt street toward the cemetery in the distance.
While his varied work as an artist includes architectural renderings, book illustrations and caricatures, Bowerman loves nothing more than turning blank walls into his inventive murals. “It’s just a big canvas waiting to be painted.”
The canvas on the liquor store was especially big — the biggest, in fact, Bowerman has undertaken at 65 feet long and 18 feet high. But the mural is just the latest of many the Grand Junction artist has completed during his lengthy career, including scenes he’s painted on the inside and outside of businesses and homes in the Grand Valley, Delta and elsewhere.
One of his favorite murals is located in the Redlands area of Grand Junction and depicts the portal of a uranium mine. The scene is all the more realistic with actual mine carts running along a track in front of the mural, creating a diorama of sorts.
Bowerman said he enjoys depicting in his murals historical scenes, mechanisms and people. He often combines all three into one mural — like the one he painted on the Fruita liquor store. “That is really kind of my passion.”
Bowerman traces his interest in art to his youth and what he said has always been an outlet for his imagination. “I think I’ve always been a fantasizer. I don’t think both feet have ever touched the ground.”
Bowerman studied art through a correspondence course while he served in the Army and later attended what’s now Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and Rocky Mountain School of Art in Denver.
Bowerman taught at the Rocky Mountain School of Art and subsequently created signs and advertising.
He eventually returned to the Grand Valley and continues to handle of variety of art projects. He illustrated a children’s book about the digestive tract, has created renderings of everything from inventions to mining operations and draws caricatures for parties.
Bowerman also continues to paint murals in the Grand Valley, Delta and elsewhere. He completed three large murals in Toponah, Nev., depicting the history of that city.
The process starts with a meeting with a prospective client about what to depict on a mural, a rough drawing and then a more detailed rendering made to scale, Bowerman said. He charges $250 for a scale rendering, but counts that fee as part of a down payment if the project proceeds.
Bowerman said he enjoys working outdoors and interacting with people who happen by, usually to compliment him. In contrast, he said working indoors in a studio feels like what he speculates accountants must experience stuck at their desks during the busy tax season.
While Bowerman always starts with a plan, he said his murals often evolve as work progresses — almost as if the artist were bringing the artwork to life.
It’s another part of what he envisions when he sees a blank wall.
For more information about murals and other artwork by Lee Bowerman, call 640-2780 or visit the website located at www.bowermanart.com.