We had the good fortune of connecting with MJ Dowling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MJ, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
From an early age I was influenced by my mother’s artistic talents and my father’s passion for construction. My mother always enjoyed acrylic and watercolor painting and my father, an electrician by trade, really liked to build things. Given their influence, I was drawn to the study of Art and Architecture and pursued a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh. While at CMU, I also minored in Art and thoroughly enjoyed taking numerous classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Please tell us more about your art. What sets you apart from others?
My abstract aerial coastal paintings explore the relationship between the built and natural environments. In my art I contrast the structure of the built environment with the fluidity of natural spaces through the use of color, topography, waypoints, patterns and shapes. By merging these elements through a unique pallet knife technique, my paintings depict a new approach to capturing the “spirit” of a place.
I have always been drawn to abstract palette knife paintings. I like the 3-dimentional quality of painting with a knife and the ability to apply broad strokes to the canvas. I also use a process of “building up” my paintings through the layering of paint. Over the past 2 years I’ve migrated from oil to acrylic paint and am experimenting with a more abstract approach with the new medium. I find my painting is much looser and I’m applying edgier techniques to my artwork.
What are you most proud of or excited about?
I’m really excited to create art which is inspired by our natural environment, specifically highlighting the contrast between water and land. I live in a maritime community and experience the allure and the power of the ocean daily. Its beauty and intrinsic value cannot be understated. My art seeks to highlight the need for a balanced design approach which protects our oceans and natural waterways through sustainable development.
How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
My journey to becoming an artist was definitely not straightforward. When I graduated college, I was commissioned as an US Air Force Officer and served 20 years as a Registered Architect. During this time, I lived in and visited numerous countries world-wide developing a passion for both environmental and urban design. Following my military service, I worked as an architect in private practice for seven years when I finally started painting again in earnest. When I moved to Florida in 2015, I knew I wanted to paint fulltime. Serving in the military was definitely not the traditional path for an architect or artist, and it definitely had its challenges, but it provided me with so many unique experiences that I know my art is more focused and passionate because of my service.
What are the lessons you have learned along the way?
First, be patient and open to change. My art is constantly evolving as I am applying a loose or abstract approach to expressing geographic locations. Everything I’ve learned in life has influenced what I create today, but to be truly innovative or creative going forward, I know I have to be open to new ideas and take risks with my art. I really connect with what Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.”
Second, never stop learning. I recently took up the guitar, and even what I’m learning about music is having an influence on my art. I’ve been experimenting with some new mediums and painting techniques and as a result I think I’m becoming more expressive in my art.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
It’s never too late to follow your passion. I truly enjoy creating unique expressions through my paintings and sharing them among the artisan community and with art enthusiasts. My three decades of art and architecture, combined with my passion for the environment, are at the core of my abstract aerial coastal paintings. I hope my art fosters a greater awareness of the environmental issues impacting South Florida and helps to stimulate a deeper discussion and understanding of the issues.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite places in South Florida are uniquely different. First, I would trek to Wynwood for a stroll through the many streets of urban graffiti art, visit the acclaimed Wynwood Walls, and then take in some of the independent art galleries. We would also have to visit Walt Grace’s Vintage Cars & Guitars, especially if my husband is in tow. It’s best not to drink a mojito before visiting though or you might walk away with a Gibson Les Paul or Martin acoustic guitar, or even a vintage convertible. Of course, we would have to celebrate our purchase by spending an evening in Little Havana sipping on cocktails and listening to exceptional Cuban music. Then we would take the new convertible and guitars on a road trip to the Keys. Ultimately, we would road trip back up to Stuart for a day out on the water and an evening of live music at Terra Fermata.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would definitely like to thank the artists that make up the Martin Artisan Guild. Over the past 3 years I have continually been inspired by their creativity and high level of professionalism and enthusiasm for the arts. Since joining the Guild, I have truly enjoyed the passion and camaraderie shared amongst all the members.