Sunday, October 21, 2007

Art Space Talk: Dean McDowell

Dean McDowell was born, lives and works in County Down. Graduating with honors in graphic design, he worked within the graphics industry for several years before moving into the field of fine art. McDowell’s almost surreal portraits of people draws influence from expressionism. Using color, line and space he plays with the mood of each painting, creating an atmosphere of emotion typified by bold expression of color and light. Influenced by everything from the Renaissance to the current underground art movement in the States, he incorporates a dark yet mischievous insight into our emotions.

An Autumn Shimmer by Dean McDowell

Brian Sherwin: Dean, tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? Can you tell us about those early years?

Dean McDowell: At the susceptible age of 14 I was given some very bad advice by my schools career advisor, basically he told me, ‘Son, there is no future in art’. At that point I felt like I’d been kicked in the groin by the system, art was always the one thing I seemingly excelled at. After that advice I started gearing my education towards graphic design, studying what I needed to get into college and subsequently achieving a degree in graphics. All through that time I kept art in the background, I would take courses here and there, sit in on art lectures, any spare time was devoted to art in one way or another.

BS: Dean, can you go into further detail about your early artistic influences and experiences. Also, when did you decide to pursue art?

DM: Growing up in a village in Northern Ireland my early artistic influences were few and far between, in fact they came every Friday. My father worked in a large town and every week I would plague him to bring me the latest US comics. Needless to say, I was totally mesmerized by the artwork, I would draw each panel copying the styles of these American comic artists who I knew so little about. It was really from those initial comics my early style was formed.
Constantly Within by Dean McDowell

BS: With that said, how would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

DM: Comics opened my eyes to so many different art forms and I really started to look beyond the artwork and more at the artists. I would be trying to develop my own artistic style, yet be studying everyone from Da Vinci to Giger.

BS: Dean, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? Can you tell us about the progression of one of your paintings?

DM: My work is very intuitive, I have no set plan when I begin a painting, just a vague idea of the mood and tone I want to achieve. I’ll prep either a board or canvas, scribble a very rough impression of that idea and start building it from there. A painting could take a week, month or even a year, it’s all about being in that creative frame of mind.
Something Alluding to Secrecy by Dean McDowell

BS: Dean, how does current world events influence your art?

DM: Although current world events may have an influence on my art, the situation within my own country has influenced me a lot more. Growing up in Northern Ireland in the dark days of the ‘troubles’, it was hard not to be affected by events. Both sides of the divide went through so much pain and suffering, it seemed to be an endless cycle of hate. I guess most people who live here were affected one way or another and I really feel that sorrow is now embedded within my psyche.

BS: Dean, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

DM: To see the differing reactions people take from an image or painting is quite an amazing thing, one silent image can say so much. I’m fascinated by that range of diverse reaction, even more so by people’s inner emotions. We seem to mask our true thoughts, rarely letting our facial armor slip. It’s amazing what we keep hidden inside.
BS: Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

DM: I dabble in most mediums but my preference is for acrylics. I find them so versatile and have even adapted my style because of them. Working acrylics a lot like oils, I can really build a painting, layering, distorting. Yet when mood and needs change you can almost use them as watercolours on that same painting.
Truth Behind the Smile by Dean McDowell

BS: Dean, what is your studio like? Do you follow any form of routine?

DM: ‘Organized Chaos’ is a much overused term but I can’t think of a better description of my studio. Because I work on numerous paintings at once, things get pretty chaotic, having a routine in that situation is well nigh impossible. The one thing I do religiously each day I go into the studio, before anything else, is put on music. I don’t even know what to begin to explain how important it is.

BS: Speaking of your studio, what are you working on at this time?

DM: I am currently working on two groups of paintings with working titles ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Dark Thoughts’. Both sets are very dark, moody and larger than my current work. Besides that I’ve been working with a couple of bands, which is really exciting. The guys have given me a lot of artistic freedom so there is some pretty interesting stuff coming from that. I’ve also got a side project I’ve been working on with a friend from the States, its animation based artwork so really different to my normal stuff, but I’m really enjoying it.

BS: Do you have an upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

DM: I’ve just finished my last solo exhibition for 07 but I have a UK spring/summer show coming up in 08. Apart from that I’m in talks about a US show, but as yet nothing has been set in stone. Because I don’t print my works it limits me to only a couple of shows per year but keep checking my website, myartspace or myspace for details of the shows.

Misery Loves Company by Dean McDowell

BS: In regards to your website, myartspace, and myspace-- the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how has the internet empowered artists?

DM: The internet has become an integral part of my day and I feel it’s such an important tool for rural based artists. Although I now live in a city, Northern Ireland is such a small country with a limited art market, it’s very important for me to highlight my art online. And of course, it also gives me the freedom to view the emerging and named underground US scene. With so many fantastic artists coming through, as well as the established names, I have my own personal viewing gallery at my fingertips. As much as I’d love to see lots of these artists work in the flesh, I just couldn’t afford the weekly plane trips.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

DM: What does any artist really want to accomplish? Art is a very personal thing for me, I probably destroy as much art as I produce and you know I’d be happy with just one piece I liked. Don’t think that’s ever going to happen...

You can learn more about Dean McDowell by visiting the following page-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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