Last summer, Mitchell Bowen was in a situation that might feel familiar to many people who have gone to college: he was headed into his senior year with no idea about what he was going to do after. …
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While Mitchell Bowen's Golden posters and postcards should be in stores in Golden shortly, Goldenites can follow him on Instagram at @bowen_travelposters
Last summer, Mitchell Bowen was in a situation that might feel familiar to many people who have gone to college: he was headed into his senior year with no idea about what he was going to do after.
He would come up with his answer in a seemingly unlikely place for a Golden native studying art at a small school in the Midwest — Pagosa Springs in southwest Colorado.
That's where Bowen, who said he has never been a fan of typical mass-produced souvenirs, was hoping to find a postcard that would capture Pagosa Springs in a distinctive artistic style that makes use of modernist typography and a limited palette of colors he would later learn originated with the Works Progress Administration's iconic national parks posters from the 1930s.
“It kind of has that retro feel and I really appreciate the simplicity of the color and the balance of it,” he said. “They are really simplistic and beautifully made.”
Unfortunately, Bowen had no luck finding a postcard, or anything else, in that style.
“I was just beside myself because I was thinking `if they had a postcard or something like this it would sell so well because Pagosa Springs is such a touristy area,'” he said. “And then I was like `hey, I could do that.'”
So, Bowen began trying to make his own posters, although he now says his first many attempts “were all just horrible.”
But despite that initial discouragement, Bowen became only more committed to creating the kind of prints he suspected others would like as much as him when he was assigned to create a “publishable illustration.”
He spent the next eight weeks creating a set of designs reflecting Winona Lake, the beautiful lakeside town in Indiana where he is a student at Grace College. This time, Bowen was excited about the designs, and so was everyone he showed them to.
When the school gave each student in the class $100 to get the illustrations printed, he decided he would go into the stores in Winona Lake and see if he could get anyone to sell posters and postcards he had printed them onto.
Although many shop owners expressed interest, the owners of a store called Letterwood Paper Co. wanted to jump on the idea immediately and bought most of his posters as well as several of the postcards. But they wouldn't keep them in stock for long.
“I flew home to Golden that week and then they texted me on Sunday saying “come in Monday we've almost sold everything,” he said. “That was just like very exciting and confirming.
Amber Walker, the co-owner of Leatherwood, said the prints came something of a sensation in town, with several residents coming in to buy a series to frame and display.
"The local community along with the local college student population loved hearing about the student making these great Winona Lake prints and taking the risk to start a small business so they were excited to offer support," Walker said.
In the time since, Bowen has kept Letterwood Paper Co. supplied with postcards and posters while expanding sales to three other stores. But he's also turned his attention to creating designs for other communities, starting with his hometown.
He's so far made eight Golden posters and says he is shooting for about a dozen, with designs to include North and South Table Mountain, downtown and Clear Creek as well as some that will depict Golden-centric activities like hiking and hang gliding.
He is working on getting those designs into stores around town and hopes to continue to expand to other cities that are popular with tourists and make a career out of traveling around to do so following his graduation in May.
“I'm pretty excited about that and just kind of going around camping in national forests or whatever and then going into the small towns in the area and stuff to do this,” he said. “That's my hope.”
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