Portland painter specializing in sea life art
PORTLAND – Crossing Corpus Christi at the South Padre Island Drive and Crosstown Expressway interchange, you might be used to seeing columns and walls full of sea life artwork.
Local artist and business owner Dinah Bowman was responsible for the decorated concrete pieces.
A lover of the ocean, she has used fish life, coastal birds, foliage, and seashells in her artwork over a decades-long career.
His gallery owner, Betsy Wagner, said Bowman’s creativity and work ethic were incredible.
“She’ll come with an armful of artwork and tell me she finished it this weekend,” Wagner said. “I don’t understand where she got the time to do it or the idea of doing it.”
Bowman, a former marine biologist, was interested in art from an early age, but didn’t fully embrace it until she earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
In 1969, she visited her parents in Japan, who were stationed there, and saw an exhibition of “gyotaku”, the art of inking a fish and then making a relief print on paper or fabric.
“I thought it was cool and creative to use fish to make art,” Bowman said. “I brought it back and started printing fish for my family and friends.”
After doing freelance illustrations and illustrations on the side, she was approached by the Texas A&M Press to create illustrations for “Fish of the Gulf of Mexico and Adjacent Waters”.
“That’s what launched my career,” Bowman said. “A&M said it was the oldest publication they have ever printed. I owe everything I have today to this book.”
Bowman decided after the book that she would double major at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in Earth biology and art. In 1979, she earned her master’s degree and opened Bowman Design and Framing in Portland.
“I wanted to jump off the cliff and see if I could make it as an artist,” Bowman said. “I realized I could be my own boss, the quality of my work kept going up and I loved it. I knew I had the passion and I knew it was a risk, but I wanted to pursue my dream.”
While working on her master’s degree, she worked part-time at a frame shop in Portland and learned the trade. Eventually the store closed, but she was able to purchase the remaining equipment and open her own business in a former Foreign Wars Veterans Building.
Bowman said she was immediately in business, particularly with “making memories.”
At her studio on Wednesday, Bowman held up a rubbing fish she is currently working on for a young man from Callallen who caught a large rockfish.
“That’s what they are: trophies,” Bowman said. “You look at it and remember the fishing experience. These fish sometimes come waist deep and it will be a memory they will hold forever.”
On March 3, she was featured in Texas monthly showcasing his fish print technique. The online article includes a video demonstrating the gyotaku process.
Bowman’s work includes a five-panel glass piece for a fire department called “Into the Throat of the Dragon”, depicting firefighters slaying the mythical beast. His work was selected by the Smithsonian for inclusion in a nature print exhibit that traveled to natural history museums across the country, Canada and Australia.
Currently, Bowman is hosting his Retrospective Nature Printing 50th Anniversary art exhibit at the Simon Michael Gallery at Coastal Bend Community College in Beeville through April 10.
Bowman’s future plans include running a studio in which various artists live on North Padre Island for a week, then spend six months creating an exhibit from what they experienced there.
“I would love for a musician, composer, dancer, writer or poet to visit the island and make it their muse,” Bowman said. “We could have the exhibit at the Corpus Christi Art Center and show more than two- and three-dimensional art. I get chills just thinking about it.”
Archer design and framing
Address: 312 Fifth Street in Portland
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday
Contact: 361-643-4922, bowmandesignandframing.com
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Contact him at [email protected] or Twitter @johnpoliva. Consider supporting local journalism with a Caller-Times subscription.