Bruce Bowersock, Towson-born artist, dies
The Towson-born artist Bruce Bowersock, who couldn’t stop drawing whatever he saw at the moment he saw it, died July 20 at his home in Ona, W.Va. He was 79.
Mr. Bowersock died from myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder of the bone marrow, said his wife, Lillianne Bowersock.
Born in Towson on July 16, 1938, he was the son of the architect Warren Bowersock and the homemaker, hatmaker and poet Edna Coles.
“His family always told me that by the time Bruce was five years old, he was sitting next to his father while he worked at his art table,” Lillianne Bowersock said.
“As his dad was drawing architectural plans, Bruce was drawing animals or houses. He had an unusual ability to see through objects, and to know what they looked like on the back from the time he was really young.”
Young Bruce graduated from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1958. He later said that his training as an engineer was invaluable because it provided the structure and analytical skills necessary to draw accurately and in detail.
During his six years in the Maryland Air National Guard in the 1960s, Mr. Bowersock developed a love of flying that stayed with him all his life. He also learned that discipline paradoxically could be freeing, a discovery that he applied to his artwork.
Though he attended several colleges —the University of Maryland, College Park, Florida’s Ringling College of Art & Design and the Maryland Institute, College of Art — Mr. Bowersock graduated from none, dropping out instead to support himself as a graphic and commercial artist.
For a brief year in the mid-1960s, he worked for The Baltimore Sun, sketching the ads by hand that would run in the next day’s paper.
“He was a concept designer,” Lillianne Bowersock said.
“He could produce a drawing so fast. You’d tell him, ‘Make me something that looks like so and so,’ as you’re talking to him, he was drawing it. He could do it all — landscapes, abstracts, figure painting, the way the Inner Harbor looked on a sunny afternoon.
“There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t draw,” she said. “If we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for the food, he’d draw the syrup bottle.”
Around 1970, Mr. Bowersock decided to put his career on hold while he pursued his art, living austerely and taking commercial jobs just often enough to pay the bills. Mr. Bowersock rented a studio above Fells Point’s Dead End Saloon, where he explored his fascination with the colonial port neighborhood dating back to the 17th century, painting the tall ships, the Arabbers selling produce from their horse-drawn wagons, a waterfront Independence Day celebration.
“He just kind of dropped out of society and decided to be free and wander and dream,” Lillianne Bowersock said.
But in 1993, his mother’s health began to fail, and Mr. Bowersock moved back to Towson to take care of her. He founded a gallery, Windsock Dreams, taught art and painted.
Over the years, he’d become close friends with the Baltimore watercolor painter Margaret Greene Jones — and eventually with her niece, Lillianne Davis. After Edna Bowersock died in 2000, her son moved to West Virginia so he could spend more time with Ms. Davis.
The couple married in 2001.
“It was a great love story,” she said.
In West Virginia, the couple opened the Watercolor Dreams Gallery in 2010. Though it closed in late 2016 after Mr. Bowersock fell ill, his work still can be viewed on the gallery website: watercolordreamsart.com.
A member of the Bethesda United Methodist Church in Ona, Mr. Bowersock was an inveterate reader, animal lover, aviator, and collector of books and cats.
Four days before he died, Mr. Bowersock completed his final drawing. It was a sketch of his octogenarian sister’s muscled calf.
“I was just looking at what pretty legs you have,” Mr. Bowersock told his sister, “especially for an 81-year-old.”
As she told that story, Lillianne Bowersock started to laugh.
“He used to say that a painting should take the viewer to a place he can’t go on any ordinary day,” she said. “The world he left behind is noticeably a little less colorful and stimulating because he’s no longer in it.”
A burial will take place at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, 200 E. Padonia Rd. in Timonium. Afterwards, a celebration of Mr. Bowersock’s life will be held in the Club House at the Village of Cross Keys, 5100 Falls Rd. in Baltimore.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bowersock is survived by two sisters, Barbara Lewis of Baltimore and Cindy Miller of Frederick; two step-sons, T.R. Massey of Worthington, Ohio, and Tyler Massey of Malvern, United Kingdom; a stepdaughter, Claire Massey of Milton, W.Va., and several nieces and nephews.