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Fairplay artist says he can paint just about anything

September 02, 2008|By JANET HEIM

FAIRPLAY -- In a well-manicured neighborhood off Sharpsburg Pike, in an attractive yet unassuming home, lies the creative center of Charles Bowman Custom Painting.

The garage-turned-workshop in Charles Bowman's Tilghmanton Estates residence is home to paintbrushes, work tables and design books, with several works in progress taking center stage.

Bowman, 44, works out of his garage except for projects that require on-site work. Bowman said he can paint just about anything, and his portfolio backs up that claim.

"I've painted it all," Bowman said of his 10-year career as a painter, including a silo in Leesburg, Va.

From the Black Stallion truck at the Monster Jam at Hagerstown Speedway this summer to fire equipment to murals and faux finishes for home/business decor and restaurants, Bowman can make an idea come to life. Some of the artwork he's painted on vehicles have won their owners awards, his wife Sarah said.

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"I've seen my stuff on ESPN and the Speed Channel. I see stuff go down the track in seven seconds," said Bowman, referring to vehicles he's painted.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have created a demand for memorial art, such as the design of the New York City skyline along the side and on the hood of a 1945 Seagrave firetruck on which Bowman is working.

Another current project is a variety of murals - from Baltimore Orioles to beach volleyball - reflecting the homeowners' interests for a basement "man cave," even on closet doors.

Bowman said he's long been interested in art. He went to an arts magnet high school in Harrisburg, Pa., where the teachers noticed his talent and understanding of composition and color.

"They're the ones that pretty much honed me," Bowman said.

It took time for Bowman to realize his art should be more than a hobby. He worked in screenprinting for 13 years before striking out on his own 10 years ago, while living in the Rockville, Md., area. Most of his initial work came from a children's store and involved painting children's murals in private homes.

Bowman and his wife moved to their Fairplay home six years ago and have three daughters, ages 12, 8 and 18 months. His daughter from a previous marriage is the mother of his only grandchild, a boy.

To be successful in this field, Bowman said he has had to be flexible and willing to work with what an area demands. The move to Washington County meant more vehicle decor.

"It can work out. You just have to find a niche for it. I do a lot of cars, bikes and helmets. You can't just stay focused on one thing," he said.

Bowman said all of his business comes through word of mouth.

He said the initial meeting with a client helps him get a sense of what they're looking for, and he picks up a "vibe" of what's going on in the house.

"The skill itself has honed in over the years. As I continued, it just got better and better," Bowman said. "My thing is to get a rise out of people."

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