Sleepy San Francisco Squirrel

Sleepy San Francisco Squirrel

Summary: An illustration based on a recent trip to my old stomping grounds, San Francisco.

The illustration MFA program that I am enrolled in is great and has us traveling around the country for different contact periods throughout the year. We meet three times a year, spring and fall, and we always go to Hartford Univeristy in Connecticut in the summer time. In the spring of 2015, the program came out to San Francisco.

One of the assignments for the program is that we have to create a “reaction piece” based on our experiences at each contact period. This is what I created for San Francisco.

Brian Bowes San Francisco Dreaming


Having lived in San Francisco for about a decade, I had a lot of history with the town and not all of it pretty. So, I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the past. The idea of reflecting would become, as my friend and cohort David Hohn likes to say, my “key-word.”

I struggled a lot to find an image that felt like a good solution. My early attempts felt too “on the nose for me.”

I definitely spent too much time thinking about what I would do, and how deep and meaningful it would all be. I can tell you right now, that did not work out one tiny bit.

In the end I scrapped all my initial ideas, went back to square one and began again. Still with the idea of reflections in mind, I began to sketch and see the connection to daydreaming. I also decided that I’d like to do another anthropomorphic animal.

The story I landed on is about this squirrel nodding off in the warmth of a setting sun, which seemed a likely time for reflection. All the elements in the painting have meeting for me, for instance the cherry blossom petals are drifting down to show that it’s spring time. Inside we can see that our little buddy has been busily drawing at his spool-desk with his postcard of San Francisco and Muir Woods on the wall to help inspire him. The Muir Woods poster is actually based on Michael Schwab’s poster. It is included because during the contact period three of my friends and I took a drive across the bridge to go to see the towering redwoods; that was really a wonderful moment!

Technically, I also challenged myself by first painting this as far as I could in watercolor, then coming back in with colored pencils to clarify and add details. What a joy! I really liked being able to do things like touch up those blues and purples in the shadows of the squirrel and really define edges. This is something that I will certainly explore further.

Hope you like the new piece, as ever I respond well to enthusiasm so feel free to leave a comment, share this or any posts, or chat me up on twitter; @StudioBowesArt

Thank you!


2 Responses to Sleepy San Francisco Squirrel

  1. San Francisco and squirrels… two of my favorite things!! Love everything about this piece… beautiful!!

  2. Thank you Leah!

    The visit to SF was full of experiences and it was a challenge to fit many of them into one piece.

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