“ When you experience or see things no child should, it really does manifest itself in the psyche. I certainly wouldn’t say it helped form who I have become but it does put a lot of crap into perspective …”
Dean McDowell is an exceptional newbrow artist who has shown works with Eclectix in the past. His acrylic portraits have a wonderfully deep base of fleshy, thick textures and layered strokes, some hint of mummy-like wrappings. The images evoke emotion, red-eyed from crying, some bruised and bloodied by life or it’s vampires, some lipstick smeared and hinting of violent encounters. They may have been victims, hardened by abuse; becoming cold and indifferent as a form of self-defense and survival. In spite of it all, beautiful and sensual colors bleed through, and a strong and silent resolve matures.
Can you tell us where you were born and a little history about your childhood?
I was born in Gransha, a small town land near the Mourne mountains, Northern Ireland. The best word I can use to describe my childhood is mischief, I was pretty wild from an early age and growing up in a rural setting made adventures a standard occurrence. Being so isolated lead me to art early in my life, I loved nothing more than to sit and sketch something like a piece of rusted barbed wire hanging from a post.
Is there an event or experience that helped form who you are today?
Simply living in Northern Ireland, growing up through the ‘troubles’ has given me a skewed perspective on life. When you experience or see things no child should, it really does manifest itself in the psyche. I certainly wouldn’t say it helped form who I have become but it does put a lot of crap into perspective, it gives me a grounding I will never lose. When people first discover my artwork they find the imagery can be dark but in all truthfulness, the work I have on show through either galleries or online, although personal, is by no means a dark window into my soul, it is merely my perspective on the emotions of others.
What was first piece of art that you remember creating? The media?
You know I wish I could remember but thinking back I was always doodling, mostly in pencil or charcoal. Actually my first really fond memory is getting an early taste for American comics, trying to copy the style or creating my own.
A particular favourite?
So many but when I really got serious about comics in the 80′s I always followed the work of Mike Mignola, from the pre Hellboy era right to present. I still check out the latest Mignola offerings, his style is so unique and beautifully bold. I simply remember being blown away by the artistic style of that era; this of course was before the UK fought back with the now legendary 2000AD series. So yeah, my early creations were heavily influenced by the comic genre.
What generally inspires you to create a piece?
Life, it’s that simply. It inspires, depresses, anger’s me on a daily basis. Whether I’m simply watching people go about their daily routines or listening/watching the worlds ‘lifecasts’ though the media, you cannot help but to be inspired. Actually, I find most new paintings will constantly evolve as the inspiration pulls me in many differing directions. In fact, I am certain no one painting I have finished has ended how I imagined it would at the beginning.
If there was an artist, dead or alive, that you could spend 24 hours with; who would it be and what would you do?
God, that’s such a hard question to answer, there are so many wonderful artists past and present I would love to share thoughts with. One artist I studied in college was John William Waterhouse, I have always loved both his subject matter and artistic technique. The first time I came across his works I was simply in awe, that hasn’t changed. Of those living in this modern age of art, I would say Mark Ryden, perhaps a very common choice but nonetheless his artwork has that otherworldly feel but screams out with a cultural voice. I’m sure he would be a very interesting man to spend some time around.
What materials, specific brand of paint/glue/pencil do you prefer to use? A favorite? And why?
Nothing specific, anything that’s at hand is good although I must admit, the technique I have developed means I go through an extraordinary amount of paint brushes. If anyone has come across an extremely hard-wearing brush please let me know.
Is there a technique, procedure or tip that you have discovered, you could pass onto other artists?
With my acrylic works I tend to use multiple layers to build texture and focus on low relief colours, once I am nearing completion of a work I will often water down the acrylics and use them as watercolours, this helps finishing tones and blends. Trail and error is the best method of finding a technique that is often unique to ones work.
Your works have killer thick and contrary under-textures, would you share how you build these and with what?
When I first start a canvas I will do a preliminary sketch of what’s in my mind for a finished work, I shall then block in very basic bold colors that can be worked over and give that textured layered look. Generally all paintings are started with really heavy acrylic but as it progresses the paint gets watered and lighter until you get a near watercolor finish.
What is your favorite word? Last song you chose to listen to?
Favorite word – Cruthine – (An asteroid in orbit around the Sun)
The last song I listened to, or am currently listening to as I write is “Black Bullet” by Die So Fluid.
If you could pick one piece of art to own, out of the world’s museums, personal collections and galleries, what would it be?
Not being picky although I do have my favorites, any works of art by Waterhouse. The works of Waterhouse have been a constant in my life, studying or simply admiring them I can’t help but to forever be awed by the man’s work.
Of all your works, what is your own personal favorite?
Actually I don’t have a favorite, every work I produce I feel I could have improved upon it. In all honestly I am my own worst critic, at times I’m not sure how I produce anything. Frustration is a good word to sum up my time spent in the studio, I constantly battle my inner doubts.
What is the last piece you completed? What triggered the imagery in it?
The last work completed was a painting for the “Twilight Journeys” show at the Alternative Cafe, the work is called ‘Disconnected’. (above) It’s a 30x30cm painting on box canvas and the imagery is very much an emotive piece relating to grim emotions and how even being totally disconnected from everything around you, we as individuals cannot escape life’s ever presence.
You recently became a father, right? How has that impacted your art? Any tips for new parents trying to keep up with their art?
That is correct and what a wonderful if frightening time that was and of course is. It impacted my art to the extent that I have basically had to take an 18 month break from all things art, unrealistically I thought I’d be away from things for 3 maybe four months, how naive I was. The only tip I can give is to not have any shows lined up for at least a 12 month period, IF you don’t have the works already finished and of course, enjoy every minute…..
What was the last event/movie/art/anything, which really moved you emotionally?
I still haven’t gotten over the birth of my daughter, god I was so unprepared. More recently and on a stranger note, I have been studying the emotional instability of children’s authors. So many talented people wasting so much of their lives through insecurity and self doubt but when they did manage to gather enough emotional togetherness to achieve their goals the results were astounding.
Any last words or commentary – good or bad you would like to share or get off your chest? A favorite quote?
Just a simply thank you for those who have taken an interest in my words and works, hearing comments or feedback good or bad is always meaningful and very much appreciated.
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(This entry was originally posted on 10/19/10 )abused art, artist interview, dean mcdowell, dean mcdowell art, dean mcdowell artist, dean mcdowell interview, eclectix etc., eclectix interview, portraiture
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