Molly Bounds: Unleashing Strength in Silence

The Power of Quiet

Interview by Gwynned Vitello // Portrait by Erin Bounds

In a barroom bet, Ernest Hemingway once famously wrote a short story in six words, “For Sale Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” This compact tale captured the essence of a genre, highlighting the interplay of economy, form, and creativity. Molly Bounds, an artist who specializes in painting and printmaking, harnesses a similar talent, creating captivating short stories through her art. Rather than riotous colors, her pieces envelop the viewer, evoking distinct moods and times of day. Infused with an air of mystery, her works often feature subtle nuances like an ear or a strand of hair, leaving the audience with a familiar yet enigmatic feeling. Recently, Bounds relocated from Denver to Los Angeles, where she even managed to attend clown school before settling into her new home.

An Unexpected Journey into Clowning

Bound’s foray into clowning may initially come as a surprise. Although she is new to the world of clowning, her background in improv, which she pursued both during and after college, has proven to be an invaluable outlet. Interestingly, her interest in clowning stems from a past experience where she bombed during an artist’s talk, triggering deep-seated fears around performance. These workshops have helped her chip away at her insecurities and rediscover her voice. Through clowning, she has learned to trust her intuition, becoming more confident in her artistic choices, no matter how daring they may be.

An Artist with Many Titles

When asked how she prefers to be referred to as an artist, illustrator, or printmaker, Bounds explains that she primarily paints during the day but strongly identifies with the process and ethics of printmaking. As someone who is highly ADHD, she constantly feels the need to switch artistic mediums after completing each piece. Bounds thrives on the freedom to explore new print processes, as they provide a burst of energy and adrenaline, warding off the feeling of being confined to one particular medium.

The Importance of Community in Art

In relocating from Denver to Los Angeles, Bounds discovered the true value of the art community that had guided her throughout her artistic journey. It was only when she found herself in a new city without that sense of community that she realized how integral it had been to her artistic purpose. The smaller art scene in Denver magnified the significance of every artistic endeavor and the collective responsibility felt by the DIY community in supporting each other. The closure of DIY spaces and events took a profound toll on the community, highlighting the deep-rooted connections and the sense of duty shared by its members.

The Allure of Printmaking

Bounds finds an enticing element in printmaking—the ability to relinquish control in a way that is not easily accessible in her painting process. She relishes the rare moments when she surprises herself, letting go and allowing her instincts to guide her artistic choices. Printmaking allows her entire body to channel its energy into a purpose, with each limb fulfilling a separate duty, all swift yet careful. In this state, muscle memory takes over, and she enters a blissful state of artistic creation.

The Symbiotic Relationship of Collaboration and Solitude

Bounds acknowledges the importance of both collaborative work and solitary moments in her artistic process. She thrives on brainstorming sessions with like-minded individuals in the morning, bouncing ideas off one another. These sessions often lead to productive and inspired days in the studio. However, once the actual process of creating begins, she finds it necessary to be alone to fully immerse herself in her work.

A Childhood Filled with Artistic Influence

Art has been an integral part of Bounds’ life since childhood. With parents who met whilst working at a graphic design firm, she was immersed in a world of visual creativity from a young age. Her parents’ involvement in graphic design and the newspaper industry exposed Bounds to various artistic influences, such as Seymour Chwast’s illustrations and Edward Gorey’s work. This upbringing laid the foundation for her passion for art and shaped her unique artistic perspective.

Exploring Different Narrative Forms

Although Bounds has always had a love for comics, she initially struggled to find her own narrative voice within the medium. The decision-making process involved in creating comics felt daunting, often leading to indecision and a battle between capturing a single moment or conveying a sequence of motion. These challenges ultimately led her to explore painting as a means of artistic expression.

An Art School Journey

Bounds attended the art program at Metro State College of Denver, where she found her creative community and fell in love with the print studio. While she eagerly engaged in critiques, art theory, and class discussions, she sometimes struggled with passive learning and navigating time management. Despite these challenges, her passionate teachers and supportive classmates made her college experience enjoyable and formative.

The Captivating Mood of Bounds’ Paintings

The mood of Bounds’ paintings is a significant point of fascination. Through her distinctive palette and the postures of her subjects, she invites viewers to immerse themselves in the artwork and create their own story. Bounds intentionally avoids imposing a specific scenario on the audience, instead focusing on evoking a feeling and allowing for personal interpretation.

The Power of Subdued Colors

Bounds finds power in subtle, subdued colors. She appreciates the ability of quietness to command attention. She deliberately emphasizes a single color to serve as the focal point in her paintings, adding potency and significance to the overall composition. Her preference for muted palettes was shaped by her exposure to a vast array of leftover inks in the print shop, where she discovered the beauty of understated color combinations.

The Significance of Hair in Bounds’ Art

From an early age, Bounds was captivated by the art of drawing hair. She vividly recalls creating a book that allowed her to construct her ideal self by mixing and matching different facial features, hairstyles, and other elements. Hair holds a special place in her artistic process, serving as a visual dessert — something she saves for painting. She meticulously focuses on loose strands and flyaways, using them to create movement and imbue her still images with a sense of kinetic energy.

Painting Women and Capturing Ambivalence

While Bounds is often asked about her preference for painting women, she points out that her subjects are frequently androgynous. The choice to predominantly paint women simply stems from the fact that she relates more closely to their experiences. Although she intends to paint more men in the future, the intimacy involved in capturing someone’s picture often leads her to choose subjects with whom she shares a sense of comfort. However, she seeks to expand her horizons and believes that painting different genders can offer unique and enriching artistic experiences.


Molly Bounds’ artistic journey has been one marked by exploration, growth, and a deep connection to both her subjects and the creative community. Through her captivating artwork, she invites viewers to delve into the stories and emotions she conveys, evoking introspection and a sense of familiarity. Her mastery of printmaking and painting techniques allows her to create pieces that balance control and spontaneity, capturing moments of ambivalence and offering glimpses into both the mundane and the extraordinary.


Q1: How long has Molly Bounds been involved in clowning?

A1: Molly Bounds is relatively new to the world of clowning. However, her background in improv has made it a natural outlet for her artistic expression.

Q2: How does Molly Bounds approach her artistic process?

A2: Bounds finds a delicate balance between collaborative work and solitary moments. She enjoys starting her day with brainstorming sessions to exchange ideas with others but prefers to be alone during the actual creative process.

Q3: What influences Molly Bounds’ choice of subjects in her paintings?

A3: Bounds is drawn to subjects with whom she shares a sense of comfort and intimacy. While she frequently paints women, she also seeks to explore painting men and capture a broader range of experiences.

Q4: What role does color play in Molly Bounds’ artwork?

A4: Bounds appreciates the power of subdued colors and often highlights a single color to create a focal point in her paintings. She finds beauty in the subtlety and potency that quietness can bring to a piece.

Q5: How does printmaking differ from painting for Molly Bounds?

A5: Printmaking allows Bounds to embrace a level of relinquished control that is not as accessible in her painting process. She enjoys the physicality and fluidity of printmaking, as well as the unique energy it brings to her art.