Source: Deseret News, 10/13/2009
A few months ago, Deseret Book invited me (amongst many) to attend an author/artist appreciation dinner in Salt Lake City. I had the honor to meet some of the most talented artists and authors within the LDS community and listen to the wise counsel of Elder David A. Bednar. It was a true highlight of 2009 and an evening I shall never forget. One of the people I met was David Bowman, an LDS artist and author. Today’s article is my interview with this wonderfully talented brother.
Q: David, tell us how you got started.
A: Ever since I can remember, I have loved to draw. All through my childhood and teen-age years drawing was one of my favorite things to do in my free time. I think most young kids feel that way about drawing, but then they reach an age where other interests take precedence — and the art falls by the wayside. I guess I never reached that age.
Q: Where did you receive your training and education?
A: I went to BYU and received a bachelor’s degree in illustration. It was the first place I felt like I actually learned how to further my abilities as an artist. Everything up to that point was pretty much self-taught.After graduation, I actually went on to be a full-time seminary teacher for several years. Having worked with the youth as an EFY counselor and in other youth-oriented settings during my college years, I realized that I had two passions: creating art and teaching — especially young people.About four years ago, there came a point in my seminary teaching where I decided to take a break from the classroom and devote myself full-time to my art. But as I think about my motivation to do art, I’ve realized I am (still) a teacher first and an artist second. I love to teach and I use my art as a medium to enhance my teaching. I don’t really create art just for art’s sake, but rather to assist me in teaching something of value to another person.
Q: I love the fact that teaching is so important to you and has influenced your writing and art. So how did the “Who’s Your Hero” series come about?
A: Well, the “Who’s Your Hero: Book of Mormon Stories Applied to Children” came about from me visiting several LDS bookstores and noticing a lack of children’s scripture stories that actually applied the scriptures to the kids (rather than just telling a story). I decided to try to write and illustrate my own books. That was about four years ago. I feel extremely fortunate that Deseret Book liked my concept and offered to publish them. My background in teaching seminary was invaluable in helping me write these books. They are very much a “seminary teacher-ish” approach to teaching the scriptures to kids.For example, Nephi’s story is called “Nephi Never Complains.” I tell the story of Nephi, focusing on his positive “OK!” attitude whenever he was asked to do something hard. And then, at the end of the story, is a “How Can YOU be like Nephi” section where it shows Nephi in modern day settings with kids put in similar situations — like being asked to clean a disastrous looking room — and both Nephi and the kids give the “OK!” thumbs-up that they’ll do it anyway. It helps children recognize that they are being a modern-day Nephi when they obey without arguing or complaining. I love to get e-mails from parents who report that they’re kids are now shouting “OK, Mom!” with their thumbs up when they are asked to do something. To see how the books are working in the home? It’s very rewarding to me.The “Who’s Your Hero” series currently has four books out, each book having three Book of Mormon heroes, respectively, and a special Book of Mormon Christmas book titled “Beyond Bethlehem.” The final book, “Who’s Your Greatest Hero: Jesus Visits the Nephites,” is due out this Christmas.Although I’ve finished my Book of Mormon series, there are certainly more books to come, like a Plan of Happiness children’s book, a Bible series, etc.
Q: David, I know that besides your books, you’re branching out to more artistic endeavors. Tell us more about where you going.
A: In the past two years, I have also branched out into the world of Christ-centered fine art, creating my company Bowman Art. Again, I love to teach through my art. Often it’s simply an emotion I’m trying to convey, a feeling that Christ generates in our hearts. To further demonstrate that, I give my finished pieces one-word titles — such as “Security” or “Innocence” — to show that that is the main emotion being conveyed. I also have descriptions of each piece, written on the back, to help me teach. I focus entirely on the expressions of Christ and the people in the piece, often leaving out detailed backgrounds and other elements that I feel might distract from that expression. People love to see people. That’s what we’re drawn towards — no pun intended.At other times, I try to teach a concept that is more complicated that just an emotion. My most recent piece, “Come,” demonstrates that. I’m fascinated by the story of Peter walking on water. Artists often depict him at the moment where he’s sinking and Christ is reaching down to “save” him. I’m thinking, “The man walked on water — if even for a short time! He did the impossible.” Lets give him some credit and get him while he was up! Because I wanted to capture the expressions of both Christ AND Peter at that amazing moment, I decided to turn it into a montage with the scene of him walking on the water to Christ in the middle, but with close-ups of their expressions on each side: Christ encouraging Peter, hand outstretched, smiling at the faith of his disciple and friend and (on the other side) Peter determined, full of trust, his eyes completely focused on the Savior.Then I take it a step further to teach what I feel this story is teaching each one of us. It’s not just a story about Peter, it’s our story. I drew it so that we see ourselves as Peter and Christ is reaching out to us. In each of our lives, we have times when we are asked to “do the impossible,” so to speak. Bear a burden, weather a trial, overcome an addiction, wage our personal wars. Christ reminds us that ALL things are possible when we keep our eyes and our hearts focused on him and simply obey his one-word invitation … come.
Q: Thank you for explaining the thought and motivation behind it. It helps the audience understand the artist a lot better to see his art from that enhanced perspective. So what do you enjoy illustrating the most?
A: I enjoy doing both the realistic fine art style and the cartoon-ish style equally. As long as I’m able to teach through my art, it doesn’t matter. They are both equally enjoyable and legitimate in my opinion — and you are able to reach different audiences. I don’t classify myself as a fine artist or as a cartoonist — I’m simply a teacher who uses different art mediums to help me teach . Besides, it’s nice to have the variety. If you get weary of doing one style for too long then you just switch to the other for a while.
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
A: I feel very blessed to do what I do. I just love trying to use whatever abilities the Lord might have blessed me with to help people draw closer to him. And I love to create! God is a creator, and since we are all his offspring, I think we have it in each of us to be passionate about creating. Creating anything, whether it’s art, music, inventions or, most importantly, creating better people out of ourselves, through our choices, or others, through our talents (is important).