As one of the nationally-celebrated Bosque Seven artists, George Boutwell art showcased in an exhibit at the Bosque Arts Center’s Atrium Gallery in January
CLIFTON – Not narrowing himself to one genre or subject matter of art, some fans may be surprised to discover nationally-renowned artist George Boutwell does not limit the scope of his work to Texas. But the inspiration for the self-taught artist does lie in basically all things Texas – longhorns, bluebonnets, windmills, vintage cars and trucks, turkeys and cardinals. And with a love for the 1950s, the time he grew up in, Boutwell wants to capture that time before it completely vanishes.
The Bosque Arts Center highlighted a selection of his celebrated work in the Atrium Gallery throughout January. During a reception Jan. 18, Boutwell – dressed in his signature Texas shirt –welcomed fans of his work, readily explaining the story behind each and every painting. Besides often humorous names for his paintings, Boutwell often presents a unique touch to much of his art with a small copper plaque explaining how the scene inspired the artist.
“Ideas for paintings can happen in unusual ways,” Boutwell wrote about his popular piece “Texas Reflection.” “As I was leaving the grocery store after a storm, I noticed a puddle that resembled the shape of Texas, and my mind went into “creative mode,” and this painting is the result.”
This Longhorn Steer Spooky lived out at the Boutwell’s ranch. They used to run cattle, but the herd has been pared down to one old momma cow and a bull calf, and the ranch is now used primarily used for wildlife management.
Another successful piece included in the gallery, “High Society” features a bare tree with a wake of buzzards.
“Buzzards are very social creatures and from my observations, seem to really enjoy their lives,” Boutwell said, of the often-maligned birds. “They are extremely graceful creatures in flight and God has given them many gifts, including a very long, disease-free life. They are the only birds with a sense of smell and have a very important role in the balance of nature.”
About the painting “Horse Thieves,” Boutwell said “I was with Jack Horne at his ranch near Coleman, Texas, and we stopped to talk with a friend of his. I thought two pickups stopped with drivers talking would make a good painting, so I got out to take pictures when several horses ran up and tore into the feed sacks in the truck, stealing the feed that was intended for Jack's Cattle.”
Boutwell explained that informational plaques came out of self-defense. It proved to be a way to let people know that he legitimately and intimately knows his subjects and subject matter, and was not just creating a fictional painting. At the reception, Anna Urbanovsky – fan since 1973 – has a “Boutwell” wall in her home near Cedron Creek Park, filled with the artist’s prints and a few originals.
Thanks to his primary color palette – red, blue, yellow and white and black, his paintings are always bright and vibrant. He creates the secondary colors by mixing two primary colors together. “I do not own a tube of green,” said Boutwell, even though he uses a lot of green in his paintings. When you mix blue with yellow, you can create any shade of green. “Inspiration will not come if you try to force it. But when the lightning bolt hits, you better be ready to jump on it and ride.”
With hobbies and interests including historic preservation, old cars, fossil hunting, wildlife observation, and Longhorn cattle, there is a lot that inspires the artist. But should inspiration remain silent, the painter keeps practicing and honing his skills by making smaller paintings, some with the great contrast of delicate butterflies with prickly cacti. And he keeps experimenting with different textures and materials.
Born in Hartford, CT but moving to San Antonio in the late forties with his father when he was four after his mother died. Growing up poor, Boutwell was unable to afford art lessons and poor grades limited him furthering his education, so he utilized the public library and read every art book available. At one point, he practiced his art by doing 100 sketches every day for one year.
Professionally, Boutwell worked in a number of art related jobs including technical illustrator and art director for Texas Highways Magazine, printing companies and advertising agencies. Able to finally take art lessons through a correspondence course in fine art, he transitioned to full-time fine artist in 1973 after he had just been laid off in a company reorganization. He says it was the best thing that could happen to him.
Boutwell has been showing and selling his work now for 55 years. Besides going to art shows, collectible markets like Canton First Monday Trade Days and Fredericksburg Trade Days, he applies the marketing knowledge and experience gained when employed to market his work. With his 80 years, Boutwell claims to be winding down a little bit, narrowing the shows down to locations to within a 150-mile radius, instead of traveling nationally.
Over the years, he has built up an email contact list of over 16,000 people and sends out a regular newsletter keeping fans of his work informed of new pieces and this year’s calendar. Since 1983, Boutwell has challenged his customers to come up with a name for a new piece of art, and it gets harder and harder each year due to the number of suggested titles. For a 2022 painting of two trees reflected in a stock pond, a spot on Highview where Boutwell often stops on his morning walk to sit quietly and observe the wildlife that frequents the stock tank, he received over 1,000 suggestions. Thomas McCan of Scurry came up with the winning “Quiet Time,” earning him a framed, artist proof print.
And thanks to his experience in printing, Boutwell keeps the printing of his giclees and other prints in house. This also allows him to offer prints on artist canvas in larger sizes – as large as 40 inches high and 14 feet wide.
Boutwell’s autobiographical, hardcover book “Texas in My Windshield” offers an overview of his life and work, filled with interesting and inspiring anecdotes of being on the road to art shows and exploring Texas. And it shows the artist’s variety of subject matter.
Boutwell and his wife Martha moved to Clifton from Austin in 1989 after buying their 1904 Victorian home Highview in 1987 – the home regularly featured in Boutwell’s artwork. When they moved to Bosque County, Boutwell started producing his extremely popular themed calendars with subjects ranging from general landscapes, skies and sunrises, fire stations, BBQ joints, country roads, cafes and gas stations to the 2023 edition featuring cardinals.
Now recognized as one of the Bosque Seven – a nationally-celebrated group of artists, Boutwell was named Official Texas State Artist for 2006. An exhibit at Bosque Museum in Clifton highlight the art and lives of the Bosque Seven. Visit http://www.gboutwell.com to view Boutwell’s work and for a schedule of places he is presenting his art.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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