Monument resident Joseph Bohler is a perfect example of a road to success that includes amazing talent, perseverance, and a love of creating beautiful pieces of art.
Little did the farm boy from a tiny town in Montana know he’d grow to become a nationally recognized artist.
“I’ve had the chance to travel the world with settings in Venice, Rome, Tuscany, Portugal, Morocco and other points of inspiration as subject matter, to join an artists’ tour of the Grand Canyon, spending two weeks floating down the Colorado and painting canyon scenes, and have been able to learn from many great artists and to teach at artists’ workshops around the country. Not bad for a kid from Augusta, Mont., who decided he liked to draw!” Bohler told Tribune columnist Charlie Searle in May.
Born in 1940 on a ranch in Augusta, Mont., Bohler developed an early interest in drawing and sketching.
“I didn’t appreciate my growing up in Montana,” he said. But his cattle-ranch roots influenced his love of nature; as well as his ability to capture the nuances of simple ranch life and Native American culture. His early work included everything from images of an old Chevy, a dead deer in the family garage, and family members who he would entice to pose for him. Eventually, he took a correspondence art course after seeing an advertisement in a magazine.
After a two-year stint in the Army and a marriage to his soulmate, Alaina, Bohler and his bride moved to Kansas City, Mo., where he had been offered a job as a designer with prestigious Hallmark Cards Inc. His talent and creativity blossomed and he was quite successful in his career there. He took classes at the Kansas City Art Institute, eventually teaching there himself.
Bohler realized that a lifetime of creating greeting cards and calendars for Hallmark was not for him; and after 10 years, the Bohlers felt the pull to head back west toward their roots. They got as far as Monument, buying a house there in 1977. The rest is history as they are now living in their third house in the area: this one complete with a large, natural light-filled studio.
The influence of living in Colorado can be seen in much of Bohler’s work, with the inclusion of scenic landscapes, old mining towns, and illustrations of Hispanic and Native American culture. As an example Bohler states: “I took a Crow (Native American) girl to the prom. She was beautiful!” He is accomplished in painting vignettes and portraits focused on the beauty of Native Americans, their lifestyle, clothing, and everyday scenes.
Bohler prefers creating his paintings on location (plein-air), and he can partially paint an idea in as little as 90 minutes, typically in watercolor, pastel and oil. For inspiration, he might tape sounds, take a few photos, or just use his memory as he completes a piece.
“I try to get the smell into a painting-to get the extra ingredient in there,” he said.
It is not uncommon for him to use family members — including his grandchildren — as models. A portrait of one of his granddaughters features her wearing her favorite crocheted blue hat and sucking on a popsicle that Bohler gave her as a bribe for posing.
Bohler has always been interested in teaching and has held workshops not only locally and nationally, but also internationally. He definitely has a knack for mentoring and inspiring students.
“I’ve had a few students over the years who blew me away with their talent! I let them know they are talented and point out the good things they are doing. I want them to be inspired and to keep painting,” Bohler said.
Bohler has had a connection with The Broadmoor hotel, where he has displayed his work at Broadmoor Galleries, and sold prints and greeting cards in the gift shops. Many years ago, a dinner for 30 was held in his honor in Oklahoma City. Because his hosts had a connection with The Broadmoor, staff from the hotel traveled to Oklahoma to prepare and serve the multi-course meal complete with Broadmoor china, silverware, and glassware. Bohler and his wife describe it as an amazing and memorable personal tribute.
The list of awards Bohler has won is extensive. One of his favorites was the Donald Teague Memorial Gold medal that he won in 2013 for works of art on paper. “Awards are the frosting on my cake,” Bohler explains.
In June 1991, he was elected by his peers to membership in the National Academy of Western Art and won the Silver Medal for Watercolor in its 1992 show.
His reputation led him to be commissioned by the late actor John Ritter and his brother, Tom, to paint a portrait of cowboy actor and country singer Tex Ritter. The painting was unveiled in March 1994 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, during the Western Heritage Awards, according to the museum’s website.
“That was a fun assignment,” Bohler told the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune in March. “Research was a big thing, but the music side of it was as much fun as the art side. I didn’t have any reference in color, so I had to call John and find out what his father’s favorite color was and his eye color was.”
Bohler’s creative talents spill over into other areas, including his expertise playing the piano. Bohler compares the similarities of playing a song and painting a picture. Both contain the contrast of light and dark, mood, setting, variety, composition, quiet and busy areas; and involvement with the senses as music caters to the ears, and art to the eyes.
He has also written poetry, and a song for his wife, Alaina. “My wife is one of my best critics,” he said. They have six children, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Bohler is teaching three-day water-media workshops and one-day life-drawing classes this summer and fall. Learn more by calling 481-4251 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.