Joe Bowler was born in Forest Hills, New York, in 1928 with the natural ability to draw. At the age of 17 he started his life long career as an artist. He went to work at Cooper Studios as an apprentice, and his ﬁrst illustration was sold to and published in Cosmopolitan when he was 19. Working at Cooper’s, he had the opportunity to learn the craft from some of the ﬁnest illustrator/artists in the profession.
Joe had the good fortune to meet and then marry, Marilyn C. Crang in 1950. They met in the summer of 1948 while Marilyn was studying at Parsons School of Design. Marilyn was not only Joe’s wife and the mother of thier two daughters, Jolyn Louise and Bevan Brynne, she was an integral part of his business.
In 1958, Joe was hospitalized with polio, which left him almost completely paralyzed. Brought home after a month, he began the hard work of recuperation with the help of an outstanding physical therapist with whom he worked with for the next 7 years. Within 3 months he completed an illustration for the Saturday Evening Post and continued his success as an illustrator through the sixties.
Seeking a warmer climate, Joe and Marilyn moved to Hilton Head Island in 1972. This proved to be the ideal location in which to make the transition from illustration to portraiture. Joe had made the conscious choice to paint in a traditional manner and consequently he sought inspiration and expansion of his knowledge as a painter by studying the great masters, including: John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla and Anders Zorn.
With the move to Hilton Head, Marilyn became Joe’s representative in portraiture. This included contacting clients, writing PR, protecting his painting time and setting up and executing portrait shoots. She was also his fairest and most trusted critic. Marilyn died in March of 2008 and is missed beyond words.
“Obtaining a likeness is no great problem for me. Creating a beautiful painting to which anyone can respond, even if they don’t know the subject, this is the challenge. I am inspired by the great painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Constantly, I return to my library to look at the suburb work of the European, Russian and American artists.”
Joe continues to paint, and even after almost 70 years as a working artist, he still strives for improvement.
1952 to the Society of Illustrators
1967 Named “Artist of the Year” by the Artist’ Guild of New York
1992 Illustrators Hall of Fame
2014 Honored by The Portrait Society of America