Mark McDowell: Bridging Art and Design

Mark McDowell Lifestyle ShotMark McDowell is an artist and designer who thrives on the classic, is obsessed by nature and is seduced by the beauty in the details. Mark’s Japanese heritage influences his design in taking a mindful approach to his aesthetic, transcending convention and the ordinary. Now, enhancing his impressive collections of exclusive furniture and lighting designs for John-Richard, Mark is returning to his love of painting.

Although Mark was formally trained at KCAI and the Columbus School of Art & Design, he is primarily self-taught and tells stories of how he started his sculpting “career” at the age of three, sculpting wild animals such as bears out of mud. He remembers as a child sitting in a field at his farm and painting the local landscape, never mindlessly ‘drawing, there was intent in everything he did. Expect if you’re talking to Mark and ask him to explore or elaborate on any given subject he will often respond with, “here, let me draw it for you”.

(Left) Mark McDowell at work in the John-Richard Studio in Greenwood, MS (Right) Breakpoint Pass

We asked Mark to speak about what inspires him when painting and the contrast between designing product and creating art.

How does creating art differ from designing product? A spark of inspiration starts it all. Product is three dimensional and utilitarian, art is two dimensional and for visual enjoyment. You must consider spatial relations when designing furniture and lighting and its primary function. Art is all about creating a composition within a particular format and its primary function is to please the eye. Art develops itself and is creating itself in the moment. Designing product is a process, it’s creative but strategic as well. It also takes teamwork and study. Painting is just me in that moment.

Did you paint before and how have you evolved as an artist? I have always painted and was an artist before becoming a product designer. Illustration and painting are my true loves when it comes to art. It was and is the foundation of everything I do. I am old school and still do everything manually. We are all a reflection and product of our times, as the world changes, we change.

What inspires you when you paint? It is like an interactive dance, zoning out and going with the flow. Applying paint, removing paint, working up close, working far away, mark making, the combination of color and scale, and the actual application are all inspiring to me. Not ever allowing the art to become too precious that it cannot morph and change. Being brave and trusting your instincts. The dynamic of the process inspires me. That I know that people are getting enjoyment and appreciation from my art is inspiring.

Some of Mark’s exceptional new art works have also been featured on his furniture designs. The painting ‘Solstice’, an abstract interpretation of a summer storm bathed in shades of the sea, also graces the door fronts of the Solstice Sideboard. The set of  Wall Panels with a unique collage of cirus gold mirror are also seen on the Cumulus Cabinet.

Cumulus Cabinet and Cumulus Wall Panels
Solstice Sideboard and Solstice

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