Upwards Inspiration In Zion Park

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Artwork, Blog, Travel
Upwards Inspiration In Zion Park

Blinding white void can be daunting. As someone who is always looking for opportunities to explore the edges of life, the edges of creativity, the edges of inspiration and dive into the center of that void, I find comfort in the “uncomfortable” and in the unknown. This void is the surrender that leaves expansive room for inspiration to flourish.

Even though I was born with a very natural creative ability (that I harness and practice with everyday) there are moments where fear of what to paint next enters the mind stream. I find fear to be a natural tool that when understood and harnessed can bring a level of focus in your life. Seeing your fears, but not letting them control the outcome allows one to become more acutely aware and full from the ensuing creative fuel. I find it to be a rich exploration of faith and allowing.

Explore the extremes to understand the center.

My parents have always been my biggest fans (aside from the Gombeski’s) and when I worked a deal to commission a large painting in their home, questions arose. Questions like how big, what are you going to paint with, what are you GOING TO PAINT?

When filling a 10 x 12′ space on the biggest wall of your house with artwork, you want to know what you’re in for. In this case, because of our obvious long-standing relationship, I wanted to forgo the formalities and let intuition totally take control of this piece. My mother (check out her amazing artwork here), being an accomplished artist and strongly opinionated designer herself, wanted some planning. My Dad, on the other hand, only had a couple of stipulations before he turned my creativity loose. It was fun exploring the energies to then strike a balance with how the artwork was going to present.

Five days in Zion.

Part of the deal we struck included five days the week prior to the painting spent in Zion National Park with my sister and family. This amazing natural work of art in the south of Utah is a must see, and it inspired all of us in many ways. In every direction huge red sandstone mountains raise to the heavens above in wildly grand stature. Soaring peaks draw your mind upwards as more towering peaks behind take you even further on this upward journey.

Amazingly detailed faces and spirits seem to callout from the rock edges. The image below stopped me in my tracks hiking back down from Angel’s Landing. The Indian man was clearly there watching over the valley, set in stone. Native spirits sang songs in the drafty winds high in the canyon. Soaring birds and winding trails painted beautiful lines through the sandstone as my legs burned coming down from 5,000′ peaks.

zion park indian rock face

Can you see the Chief looking over his land?

Time to paint the void.

Fast forward five days after our time in Zion, I am now confronted with six 4′ x 5′ blank white canvas and still undecided as to what imagery will fill the space. After procuring 30 cans of mtn94, Montana cans and a grip of tips – I’m ready to get the paint flowin!

It’s a simple plan, really. Multiply a dimension by 1.618 and you get a basic left/right, top/bottom grid providing nature’s perfect balance to play in – the golden ratio. Aerosols are by far my go to medium for big expression. They allow painting with the whole body instantly from an impulsive spark of creativity. Simply put, raw creative expression. After laying out that golden ratio grid I start with some blues and yellows to let the void start to fill itself in.

painting the white void - mjb

Several hundred dollars in new canvas, time to get it covered!

Yes, Up, ZION!

Suddenly, I am the electric diode between divine spiritual energy and the lower vibrational 3rd dimension we call Earth. Steeped like a bag of human tea in the deeply rooted valley of Zion, images start to flow and I allow my hands to be guided and slowly form takes shape. I literally couldn’t help but to think of mountains, rivers and rocks going UP! I am thinking and feeling UP, but our layout composition was horizontal. Hmm. Problem. I continue to paint and have a few flowing lines that come in from the right side. Skip ahead an hour or so and my Mom comes home…takes a look…and says “…it looks like those lines are light beams coming from the sky, I LOVE IT. How about we change the composition and have them going UP.” Allowing = perfection and grace.

From that decision the painting had a forward momentum. The inspiration from Zion was about to start revealing itself–through my hands, out of the spray can and onto the canvas. Yes. What we had not know from before, and what we couldn’t have planned had suddenly revealed itself. The lesson, trust in the void. Trust in the unknown. Let it come, don’t force.

Artwork is dead until you paint an eye on it.

The one my request my dad had, “I want a painting you have to keep looking at to find new things.” The idea of painting mountains, sky and water was the perfect format for allowing hidden faces and objects to be revealed in the details. Natural rock forms are full of faces, not unlike trees and water. A wise artist once told me, “it’s not art until it has an eye in it.” I thought about that and its true, an image of an eye brings life to a piece of artwork. It can feel asleep but as soon you add an eye it “wakes up!”

After blocking in the large areas in the composition, we hung the art on the wall and put up some scaffolding for applying details with acrylic and brushes. Using a few images taken from Zion, I let the brush move and show me where and what to paint. Having only seven days to complete this large scale work was no easy task, but after getting into the rhythm it came together pretty quickly.

Happy clients with new painting

Happy clients with new enormous painting.

This work of art came with many more stories and nuggets I’d love to share, but I’m almost out of ink. Check back for more soon!

Some highlights from the seven day smack-down.

mtn94 colors on canvas

Original horizontal composition of piece. The green coming in from the right became our top sky.

ami bowen with artwork

Little Ami next to a big piece! Before we get too far I brought them in to get a sense of the composition. This is the first chance I was able to see it straight on.

six canvas panel painting underway

Six (4′ x 5′) canvas panels became quite the challenge to move around and line up the imagery.

artist mike bowen "mjb" on plank

Dad custom built a plank so I could line up canvas’ and spray with them together.

artist mike bowen spray painting

Gotta have at least one pose with the mask.

mtn94, montana gold, mtn hardcore

Use only the best, mtn94, mtn Hardcore and Montana cans.

artist mike bowen painting in garage

Finally figured out I could stack at least two canvas’ high to get a better perspective.

artist mike bowen in front of large painting

Feeling pretty good about the progress so far.

artist mike bowen with stencil and aerosol

A very simple shape cut as a stencil can act as quick way to achieve sharp lines and curves and build up effects.

detail of lower left water panels

Detail of lower left water panels

Linda Bowen helping spray edges

Mom helping out with some silver edges!

mike bowen and don bowen surfing scaffolding

The scaffolding wheels sat on wood which sat on carpet making it very unstable—Surf’s up!

don bowen hanging artwork

Dad hanging the top two pieces. Nice!

artist mike bowen painting

I am 6’4″ tall, its a ways down! I am used to quickly standing back to get a bigger perspective on a piece, not so easy to do here.

detail view of waters edge

Detail of lower left panel, spray paint and silver acrylics.


In the zone with beautiful natural mountain light coming in from the windows.

zion park native rock face

Detail view of Zion Chief rock face.

artist mike bowen painting on wall

View of painting in progress.

artist mike bowen painting

Detail view of lower right panels.

artist mike bowen "mjb"

Sweet surrender is a beautiful thing.

artist michael bowen mjb signature


  • Thank you to my mother and father for trusting and providing the means to create such a piece.
  • Thanks to Zion National Park for being so old and natural. If you have the means and love of travel this place is a must. A lot of wisdom lives there for those who listen.
  • Check out Golden Mean Calipers for inspiration and innovative tools!
  • Couldn’t do much without the great companies that make creative tools available: Trekell | mtn94 | Montana | Utrecht

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