Photo: Sam Milianta
Colt Bowden’s versatile artwork—whether it be a hand-painted sign, letterpress print or jigsaw linocut sculpture—has the ability to transport viewers into another world. Bowden is the designer of this month’s cover and he creates what has proven to be part of a vibrant, forgotten subculture that infiltrates and eradicates the monotony of everyday life and dissolves any aspect of mechanical reproduction. Starting off by doodling as a child and then moving onto sign painting three years ago, Bowden’s first piece of public work was interior/exterior design and signage for Sammy’s Café in Provo. Bowden’s assertion that he “makes things by hand,” is a humble under-statement of his craft.
Originally from Magna, Utah, Bowden spent part of his childhood in Maryland and moved to Brea, California after high school to pursue skateboarding and his art. After returning from his LDS mission to Hawaii in 2007, Bowden worked on the celebrated children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba! and later moved back to Salt Lake City with his wife Abi in order to finish his schooling at BYU.
The nature of Bowden’s art is time consuming and may thus seem like an anachronism in today’s digitally fueled world. It is that very reason he chooses media that makes one slow down, embrace gradual methods of construction and command an attention to the integrity of skillfully crafted detail. “I own and operate a 1930s Vandercook letterpress, with which I make linocuts, wood type and hand drawn imagery. I also do a lot of folk art—train and hobo related subject matter mostly, bearded faces painted on old skateboards, 2x4s and sides of boxcars.” Bowden says his art has a “Great Depression—1920s to early 1940s look, back when doing things by hand was at its peak.” In a world that is now over-saturated with mechanical reproduction, Bowden gracefully resorts back to the old ways. “I read a lot of old sign painter books from the early 1900s. My great grandfather was a printer, linotype operator and type professor,” says Bowden. “I suppose it runs in the family.”
At Craft Lake City, Bowden will be selling his distinctive style of hand-painted signs, sewn paper doll art, music boxes, letterpress prints and handmade bow ties. Check out his recent works at voilapress.com.