Artist Spotlight: Mary Ella Bowles


The Spanish Village Art Center is located in Balboa Park in San Diego. Since 1937, it’s been a place where dedicated artists unite. Today, the village is home to 37 artist studios, which means 300 local artists!

Studio 6 is where Mary Ella Bowles spends her days as an artist. The more I spoke with her during my day of exploration in San Diego, the more I was intrigued. She was the only artist in Studio 6 when I stopped by, and I think I hit the jackpot.


How long has she been an artist? “Since forever.” Her first piece at two years old was a human figure with colorful circles… when she completed it, her mother tells her Mary Ella described it as someone “dancing in the rain”.

She creates photography, mixed media, acrylic painting, and linocut printmaking. Hopping around to different mediums keeps it interesting for her, and I agree! Current obsession? Gourds.


“I can last for one week without creating, but then I start go get ancy. I know I need to get back to it. The world would be a better place if more people expressed themselves through art. I don’t see a therapist… art is my therapy.”

She was just getting cracking on a gourd when I stopped by. Well, maybe carving is the better word. Leaving the growing part to the experts, she gets the gourds at a local gourd farm. She uses hand tools to carve, and sometimes a drimmel if needed but she really prefers the hand tools. She uses dye for coloring and uses a heat gun to make the dye permanent.



“Gourds know what they want to be. If you try to make it into something you want, it will not work in my experience. You end up washing it, starting again, and then it falls into place. The gourd also takes away the terror of a blank canvas. You are starting with something that is already there… it becomes this dialogue.”





“People walk in and say they wish they could make art. I tell them art is a learnable skill, and with time and practice you can create something.”

You can visit her website at The studios at the Spanish Village are open every day during the week, and artists welcome visitors! Mary Ella shares the studio with artists Paula Collins, Elizabeth Woolrych, and Michelle Gonzalez.


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