Lowcountry artists inspired by beautiful surroundings

Hilton Head Island and Bluffton form a glorious little nook along the Eastern seaboard, inspiring artists in many mediums.

Here's a look at four such working artists who live and create just around the corner from one another.

Robert Rommel’s “Osprey and Flounder,” Recently Tied for Winner in the Expert Category, of the Tri-Club photography contest in late May 2014, at Hidden Cypress in Sun City, Hilton Head

Research biologist/wildlife photographer Robert Rommel takes advantage of his surroundings to amplify the range of his own camera art, as well as to give him a unique perspective when teaching photography workshops.

His current project, conducted at Fish Haul Creek Park at Port Royal Plantation beach, is focused on the mating ritual of the sand fiddler crab. The silent, patient wildlife photographer, lying stretched out prone, for hours on the sand, knows that what he is waiting for is going to be worth it. 

And the resulting photos don’t disappoint as the he catches the male sand fiddler crab doing quite a dance with one claw waving madly about, trying for the attention of a mate. 

Rommell's work recently won a Wildlife in Focus Contest and a portfolio of his work can be found on his website, www.robertrommel.com. Information on his  photography workshops can also be found on the website.

In the Gallery of Shoppes overlooking Greenwood Avenue just before the Sea Pines gate, Brucie Holler’s more recent “starling murmurations” can be found. 

Vibrant acrylics on paper abstracts decorate the walls, floors and tables of her studio, compelling the gaze over and over as her brush strokes mimic the reverberations of a flock of starlings that hauntingly sweep the skies. 

YouTube videos set to music (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRNqhi2ka9k), illustrate this wildlife phenomenon, and Holler’s abstract interpretations are breathtaking.

“As a non-representational painter, I am interested in exploring the source of inspiration,” writes Holler.

She wonders how people experience the natural world, life, beauty, music, language, “and translate that into authentic, personal transcendent art.”

Prior to the mixed media murmurations studies, she created a wondrous, mixed media panel consisting of 30 eight-by-eight inch squares, which can be bought as individual squares, or as a whole.

Concurrent with this work is much of Holler’s abstract art, which distinguishes itself by the use of multi-layered aqua-teal colors and charcoal strokes. 

Her work is mainly informed by two constant sources: language and the natural world.  Language, as expressed through poetry, as well as the natural energy created by wind, gravity, and stillness, inspires her lines.

A South Carolina native, Holler pursued graduate work at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore after receiving a bachelor's degree in painting from Florida State University. 

She has pursued her artistic vision through teaching art and working administratively, while constantly honing her own craft studying with other internationally known artists, including Richard Smith and Truman Lowe.  Her work has been shown in galleries in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Colorado.

Holler's work can also be viewed online at www.brucieholler.com.

Non-portrait Painting From 2008 called “Whistler’s Daughter” at 20” x 25” (has been sold)JOE BOWLER
Joe Bowler, an award-winning and world-renowned commissioned portrait artist, has lived locally in surprisingly well-preserved privacy in Sea Pines since 1972.  This eminent, prolific artist's credentials extend from 1952, when he was elected to the Society of Illustrators, all the way to 1992, when he was inducted into the Illustrators Hall of Fame. 

In between, Bowler established himself as an internationally acclaimed illustrator/portrait artist, whose commissioned work has kept patrons queued up for 10 or more years at a time.

Having been confined to a wheelchair since contracting polio in 1958, Bowler nonetheless committed himself to his art; indeed, grew and evolved, with each passing decade from the business world of nationally recognized illustrations to commissioned portraiture on Hilton Head. 

Referring fondly to his years working as errand boy, palette and brush cleaner at Cooper Studio in the early years, his first break came when Saturday Evening Post artist/illustrator Coby Whitmore took a sample portrait the 19-year-old Bowler had been working on and sold it for him to Cosmopolitan magazine for $1,000.  Bowler made $35 a week at that time. 

In 1967, the Artists' Guild of New York named Bowler its Artist of the Year, and by this time, magazines were commissioning him to do portraits of well-known people, including a McCall’s article portraying eight presidential candidates’ wives - works that landed the covers of such well-known publications as the August 1971 issue of Ladies' Home Journal portrait of Rose Kennedy, and a Saturday Evening Post cover of Julie and David Eisenhower.  

Encouraged, and managed by his late wife, Marilyn, Bower drew inspiration from her tireless support, inherent understanding of the working artist and 58 strong years of marriage. 
Joe Bowler’s works can be viewed online at www.joebowler.com, www.morriswhiteside.com, or in person at the Morris-Whiteside Gallery at The Red Piano, 220 Cordillo Parkway, Hilton Head Island.

For more infomation regarding portraits or other works can call Jolyn Bowler at 843-671-2702 or email bowlerportraits@gmail.com.

Recent Work by Nancy Mitchell, “Gullah’s Ark”NANCY MITCHELL
For the same reason Hilton Head Island stands alone as an incredible testament to the art that is inherent in nature, renowned muralist, wildlife painter, and now- sculptor Nancy Mitchell has carved out an artistic niche for herself over the past 30 years.

Mitchell's profound respect for native flora and fauna is always evident in her work.  Not only does she draw inspiration from local land/seascapes, she belongs to the Lowcountry Plein Air Society, an organization devoted to nature and painting outdoors.  

Mitchell lives her art, and her art lives within her.  Her work evolves through natural textures and hues, and she is unafraid of learning new tricks. 

As a commissioned muralist through the years, she gives of herself through her art donations to animal relief charities and other nonprofit organizations. 

A true renaissance woman in the new millennium, Mitchell’s artistic output is matched only by her glowing smile and sincere desire to return to the earth its natural resources in any way possible.

“Making a living as an artist has only been possible because of diversity. Murals and faux finishes are still an important part of my repertoire as is commission work for clients and designers,” she said.

Her love of animals, especially rescued pets, and the local marsh tackies indigenous to coastal Carolina, has led her to animal drawings, mixed-media works and animal sculptures more recently. 

Much of what she has learned has been adding to a 15-year brainstorm that has culminated in her current work-in-progress, Life is a Carnival, which will include large, highly textured, sculpture pieces of mixed media, silhouettes and dynamic shadows, a project inspired largely by the Shriners’ Savannah Carnival.

Mitchell's work can be seen at The Red Piano Too Art Gallery, 870 Sea Island Parkway, St. Helena. For more information, call 843-838-2241, vist www.redpianotoo.com or email redpianotoo@islc.net. Her work can also be seen at the Filling Station Gallery, 69 Calhoun St., Bluffton. For more information, call 843-263-4796.