Southwestern Invitational Traveling Exhibition Moves Along and I Make a Few New Friends

I am honored to be a part of the 2015 Southwestern Invitational and happy to have my painting chosen as a part of the traveling exhibit. The show will be on the road until August 2016, with 2 month or longer stays at each of six gallery/art center venues, starting at the Yuma Art Center and ending at the Phoenix Airport Museum.

The Southwestern Invitational has a long history in Arizona, starting in Yuma in 1966. At that time, Yuma Art Center was housed in the old Yuma Train Depot, a beautiful and historic place to show art. Eventually the annual Invitational was included in the Arizona Commission on the Arts traveling program and toured the state each year after the initial show in Yuma. Until 1993.

Jim & I had a connection with this show back in the day. His work was included in several of the Invitational exhibits. As a result of trips to see the Invitational in the mid-80’s we got to know the then-director of the Art Center, James Nelson. Jim and I ended up photographing and designing a number of posters & invitations for various shows and other events at the Yuma Art Center. We became friends with James & had many delightful trips to Yuma to work, play & stay with him. Our son Jeremiah loved to visit James and his huge collection of Smurfs and other quirky kids toys. And I’ll never forget one of the breakfasts James served—huge pieces of Devil’s Food cake left over from an opening the previous night. Strictly against the Cowlin appropriate for breakfast rules. Jeremiah was in hog heaven. As were we all.

James put his heart into the Yuma Art Center and built a wonderful program of art exhibitions. Sadly, in 1993 a fire destroyed the Art Center along with the large collection of art by Arizona artists purchased by the Center over the years.

And James moved to LA. For a few years he’d stay with us in Phoenix when he came back to visit favorite friends and places in Arizona. Then he moved to Portland. We gradually lost touch with him. James, where are you now?

A number of years later funding was acquired and a beautiful new 6,700 square foot Art Center was built. It is located in historic downtown Yuma and is one of the premier art gallery spaces in Arizona.

David Woodward, Executive Director of the Art Center, decided it was high time to bring back the Southwestern Invitational and the current show is the result of his herculean efforts. He hopes the Invitational will once again become an annual event. So do I!

It opened at the Yuma Art Center where it was on display in April & May. From there it traveled to the West Valley Arts HQ Gallery in Surprise, northwest of Phoenix.

Last Friday we went to see the show on the last day before it moves to Prescott. It was nice that the West Valley Arts HQ had a closing (like an opening but at the end of the show instead of at the beginning). As you’ll see below, it’s a beautiful gallery & there was a nice crowd for the closing.

Big overview 480Overview of the gallery

With sculpturesLooking the other direction

Bonny's ptg from sideVisitors viewing my painting. To the left is a mixed media painting by Prescott artist, Bonnie Stauffer.

Me looking at Bonny's workTrying to figure out how Bonnie creates these 3-dimensional paintings.

Bonnie and I had never met before, but she contacted me before this event and we’d exchanged some emails. I was delighted to meet her in person. And fascinated to see her work in person, too. It’s amazing. You can see more about her on her website.

SWI—Sarah KriehnDeep in discussion with Phoenix artist Sarah Kriehn.

It turns out that Sarah and I have quite a few mutual friends. She is a printmaker from Phoenix & has a beautiful original monoprint in the show. I checked out her website and it’s impressive.

Portrait of meIn front of my painting Light Dance  

All photographs courtesy James Cowlin

Next the show travels to Prescott College Art Gallery at Sam Hill Warehouse where it’ll be up in September & October. Then on to the Tubac Center of the Arts, south of Tucson in November & December. In 2016 the Invitational will spend January & February at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, finally landing at the Phoenix Airport Museum from March through August.

Brand New Paintings, Officially Photographed

My in-house photographer (wonderful husband & photographer James Cowlin) photographed three just-finished paintings over the weekend. If you’re curious to get a feel for how I got from point A to point Z, you can see some of the process on previous blog posts.

Here goes:

Acrylic Painting on Panel, 36x48

Rock-Water-Wood     Acrylic Painting on Panel     36″x 48″     $3800


acrylic Painting on Panel, 20x20

Cross-current     Acrylic Painting on Panel     20″ x 20″     $880


acrylic Painting on Panel, 16x16

Waterway Sunset       Acrylic Painting on Panel   16″ x 16″       $560

Where Oh Where Did the Driftwood Go? Paintings in Progress…

People tell me they like to see photos of paintings in progress. Showing my laborious & often dubious process can be kind of, well, embarrassing. Getting from point A (the start) to point Z (the finish) isn’t a straight line, as you’ll see below. If you’re curious you can dial back to the last blog post to see a few of these paintings shown at the very beginning.

Reeds 1

Reeds 2Progress? They look almost identical, but I have done some work on this painting. (Size 16″ x 16″)


dock yellow 1

Dock yellow 2Often they get worse before they get better…   (Size 12″ x 12″)


Dock blue 1

Dock blue 2You get a prize if you can see what I’ve accomplished in this one. It’s there, honest.  (Size 12″ x 12″)


Reflection horiz groovesI forgot to take an earlier photo in progress, except for the one you can see if you go to the previous blog post. (Size 16″ x 16″)


Driftwood 1Here’s the real drama. This driftwood has gotten smaller, larger, rougher smoother. Previous blog post shows some of the struggle.

Driftwood 2Got mad and sanded the driftwood down.

Driftwood 3When in doubt sand it out. Driftwood is gone, gone, gone. Please don’t tell me you liked it better with the driftwood! (Size 20″ x 20″)


OakI think I’m getting close to finishing this one. Unless I have some bright idea to get into sanding mode and remove an oak root or something…  (Size 36″ x 48″)

Summertime, Apricots, and Painting Up a Storm

It’s finally beginning to feel like summer in Oracle. So far there have only been a few days when I felt it was warm enough to switch to shorts. I’m waiting for a stretch of hot days and then I’ll declare my own official Start of Summertime. I’m not teaching any classes this summer & am devoting my time to painting, preparing for a show at the Blue Dome Gallery in Silver City, opening in September.

Meanwhile, I also have apricots on the brain. Apparently our tree thinks it’s summer. The fruit ripened all at one time. I’ve been baking (apricot kuchen, apricot muffins, apricot upside down cake, etc.) & giving away apricots to friends.

Apricots always remind me of my childhood in California. My family lived in a new subdivision that had been an “Italian plum” orchard. That’s a fancy name for the plums from which prunes are made. They weren’t great to eat, kind of mealy and tasteless. We had 13 Italian plum trees in our yard which translated to what seemed to me to be millions of little plums. This was not lucky for me, as picking up the fallen fruits was one of my chores. If not done in a timely manner they got squishy & full of slugs. Ugh. Across the street and beyond was a former apricot orchard. Lucky them. Lucky me, too. I could go up and down that side of the street and eat apricots until they were coming out of my ears. Warm from the sun and as sweet as anything.

One of my early art-making memories was badgering my mother into driving to an apricot orchard I had seen so that I could create a oil pastel drawing of the trees in bloom. I insisted that we park at the top of a hill looking down onto the orchard. Way too ambitious for a 10 year old and I still remember the struggle to capture what I saw. My Mom sat patiently in the car while I made this attempt. I’m guessing I got pretty cranky trying to figure out how to make the orchard look the way I saw it.

This post is really about a bunch of paintings, three of which I started yesterday, one a few days before, two have been in progress for weeks and finally the last one which may or may not be finished. This makes a total of 6 or possibly 7 paintings in the works. By the way, it’s still a struggle to reach my vision. But I love the challenge.


Ptg 1 480One day old, 16″ x 16″.


Ptg 2 480Another newborn #2, 12″ x 12″.


Ptg 3 480New start #3, 12″ x 12″


Ptg 4 480I’ve been working on this one, #4, for a few days. It’s 16″ x 16″.


Ptg 5 480#5, in progress for weeks. Note the white blob on the piece of driftwood in the forefront. I got mad at what was happening and slathered the problem area with Golden Crackle Paste yesterday. Today I need to paint it and make it blend in with the rest (hopefully). 20″ x 20″


Ptg 6 480This is a big fellow, #6, 36″ x 44″. Been working on it for many weeks (possibly months, I’ve lost track).


Ptg 7 480Technically this one, #7 is done. I’ve signed it, which is usually a sign that a painting has been completed. But I keep fooling around with it. Maybe now I’ve got it. Just not sure…

Where Oh Where Has Barbara Been?

It’s finally summer and I’m looking forward to a nice long stretch of time to focus on my artwork.

May was a busy month what with teaching various painting workshops and preparing for a show.

I was also traveling for 2 weeks. Here’s why—Jim has developed a new side-business over the last few years and naturally, I’m involved. We lead tours around the Southwest. These bus tours range from 4 to 9 days, with 45-50 people and no, we don’t do the driving! Two weeks in May were devoted planning for upcoming tours this October & in April 2016. We were in Northern Arizona, Utah & New Mexico checking out hotels, restaurants & interesting things to do with a bus-load of people.

Oh, by the way, I was also painting off and on in May. Below are 3 paintings-in-progress.

Lg water with treeThis one is pretty large—36″ x 48″. Got a long way to go on it.


16x16 dead tree branch16″x16″, in about the same stage of completion—far from finished.


12 x 1212″ x 12″, driving me crazy.

Sometimes small paintings take as long to complete as larger paintings. This one has been quite a struggle. I got mad a couple of days ago and attacked it with my electric sander hoping something promising was lurking beneath a few layers of paint. This is what’s left. Not sure where to go from here…


Results Are In: Oracle Artist Studio Tour a Success

Somehow everything got done. The clutter of my studio was moved into (and filled up) the adjacent garage. Please check out the previous blog post if you’d like see what I was contending with. Once the studio was cleared out, Jim went out & bought me a first class mop complete with a scrub brush. I attacked the dirty floor until it was clean(ish).

Then came the decisions about what to put where. You’d think this would be easier each year, but it isn’t. This time we decided to hang some of our work mixed together on the large wall. Then tables were dragged around and set in a variety of configurations until it looked like everything had a place and the flow in the space was good.

Finally the puzzle pieces came together just in the nick of time. That left me with the baking and guacamole making. I baked  batches of cookies and brownies on Friday night and then got up early on Saturday to make guacamole and more cookies before the tour started at 10 am.

Our first visitors arrived at 9:30 am, 1/2 hour early. It’s lucky that we were ready because there was a steady stream of visitors all day. Sunday was just as busy. The weather was perfect and our guests were delightful.

Here are a few photos of the studio before the tour started:

view 1


view 2


view 3

And the visitors arrived:

view 6

Note my handsome husband, Jim, in blue jean & checked shirt, below.

view 5

And if you’re wondering about the purple duct tape on the floor? No it isn’t a design statement. It’s my attempt to cover the cracks in the concrete and maybe a secret hope that the duct tape will keep the cracks from getting any worse…

Oracle Artist Studio Tour Looming on the Horizon

It’s been a busy time for me over the last several months between back-to-back solo shows, a 5-day guided tour led by Jim & I with 45 people on a big coach bus to eastern New Mexico, picking up my solo show from the Yuma Fine Art Center tomorrow (a 4-hour drive each way), an opening at the Yuma Fine Art Center for the Southwestern Invitational next Friday evening (another 4-hour drive each way) and oh, by-the-way, the Oracle Artist Studio Tour on Saturday & Sunday April 11 & 12th. Plus workshops and presentations thrown in for variety.

Do I sound a little hysterical? Well, yes, maybe a little. But most of all I’m happy and grateful for these opportunities—when you’re a self-employed artist, busy is good so long as there’s still time to make art.

My studio is in a state of woeful disrepair. I got part way through unpacking stuff from a presentation I made last Friday in the Phoenix area but the rest is still heaped up on a table.

Messy studio 2

New panels waiting to be prepped for painting and other random stuff piled up on these tables, below.

Messy studio 1 480

Painting area. Also a mess.

Messy studio 3

And here’s an overview of the whole messy operation.

Messy Studio 4

Hopefully at some point this week there will be a miraculous intervention and on Saturday the studio will be mess free, clean and set up with Jim’s photographs & my paintings on display for the hordes of visitors to admire.

Photos of this event to follow.

And here is the invitation. If you click on it, it will open the official Oracle Artist Studio Tour website with more information:


Opening at the Yuma Arts Center

Yuma Openting #1

Painting Water opened in Yuma at the Yuma Fine Art Center last Friday evening, March 6th, in the West Gallery of the Art Center. There are 5 galleries altogether in the Center, and on this evening there were 3 galleries having openings. Above is an installation shot of the West wall.

Yuma Openting #3

Installation shot of the East wall, with one of the refreshment tables all set for food to arrive and the piano awaiting the pianist. This was a nice surprise, I didn’t expect live music!

Yuma Openting #4

The South wall.

Yuma Openting #5

I’m standing between Duet: Water & Boulders, 36″ x 48″, acrylic on panel and Water Jazz, 58″ x 80″, acrylic on canvas.

Yuma Openting #2

North wall, with a woman viewing the paintings on the East wall.

Yuma Openting #8

Pianist and a few visitors. The opening has started.

Yuma Openting #7

Talking to people about my paintings.

This is a spectacular place. Painting Water will be up through April 3rd. The Art Center is open from Tuesday-Saturday.

Painting Water Exhibit Opens Despite the Super Bowl

Two inches of rain fell during the 2 days before the opening of my show at Rancho Linda Vista Gallery in Oracle. In fact, we transported the paintings from my studio to the gallery in the driving rain. Luckily, Sunday February 1 dawned sunny and beautiful for the opening of Painting Water.

A  crowd showed up despite it being Super Bowl Sunday. The gallery was full of people coming and going from 1 pm until precisely 4:25 pm. Suddenly, it was empty. Super Bowl started at 4:30. However, by 4:35, intrepid non-Super Bowlers continued to come by to see the show. Therefore, I vote Painting Water, 63, Super Bowl, 0.

Best of all my sons Jeremiah and Mathew surprised me by coming to the opening. No small effort on their part. Jeremiah drove all the way from Northern New Mexico (10 hours), picking up Mathew in Phoenix and driving an additional 2 hours to Oracle. It was one of the best surprises I’ve ever had.

My sister, Nancy, flew in from Northern California to see the show the following week. Not a surprise, but special none-the-less. I’m lucky to have such a supportive family.

Here are a few photos from the opening:

_MG_0215Installation, North wall.

_MG_0233Andy Rush giving me his opinion of the show, view of East wall of the gallery.


_MG_0242Jim Walsh & other visitors.

_MG_0251View of a section of the West wall, with friends Nyla Butler, Judy Walsh and Maureen Murphy.

Thanks to Jim for the great photos and for cooking delicious dinners for weeks while I painted madly in my studio.


Barbara Kemp Cowlin vs The Super Bowl: Painting Water Opens February 1

A solo show of my paintings is coming up soon (in 10 days but who’s counting), on Sunday February 1, at the Rancho Linda Vista Gallery in Oracle. For the past two years I’ve been focused on creating all new paintings for this show. Weeks ago, I had the postcards invitations to the show printed and was just getting ready to mail them out when guess what—I overheard someone talking about Super Bowl Sunday. Coming up on Sunday, February 1. Imagine my horror when I realized I had inadvertently scheduled my opening for that very day. Too late to change the date.

In deference to the Super Bowl, I decided to start the opening earlier, at one o’clock. That way the Super Bowl won’t loose any viewers—they can see my show early and head home in plenty of time to take in the game. And in addition, I’ll be providing plenty of chips & dips and libations, so visitors to the exhibit can do their eating at my show and not have to worry about food distracting them from the game.

And for the rest of you, if you’re feeling left out, come to my opening and join in on conversations about art and other fascinating non-game related topics. And you, too, can have your chips and dips.

Rancho Linda Vista exhibit announcement