By Heike Hellmann-Brown
Artist Bob Dowling grew up on the barrier beaches of Long Island, N.Y., and his connection to the ocean is evident in the seascapes that he paints. “My family had a beach house next to the water, and this is where I spent my entire youth,” he says. “Later I lived in the Caribbean for a while, so it’s no wonder that I am very comfortable with this subject matter.”
With a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, Dowling worked in environmental science before moving into graphic arts — a career move that eventually led him to relocate to Canton in 1997 and later rediscover his passion for oil painting. “I have painted since high school and even studied with pop art pioneer Robert Munford along the way. It was only after I retired that I realized this is what I really want to do,” he explains.
In spite of the land-locked location of north Georgia, Dowling returned to his roots and focused on what he enjoys most: capturing the mesmerizing views of the seashore and the winged creations that share it. “My paintings are an expression of the beauty and freedom of the ocean that I have experienced in a lifetime around the sea.”
During his annual vacations at the family’s beach house on Long Island and additional trips to the Caribbean, Dowling takes photographs as inspirations for his paintings. “My favorite time of day is the early morning. In my photography, I focus on how the light plays off the water and the shadows it creates. Later, I compile these images and sketch out my paintings.”
Dowling paints in oils, layering it in rather impressionistic brushstrokes while still achieving a dynamic image. His intention is focused on capturing the movement and feel of the scene, rather than the details. “Water gives me the freedom to paint loosely, and it’s also very forgiving,” he explains, “while capturing its motion and the light reflections is a challenge I enjoy!” He uses a unique palette of subtle colors paired with transparent accents to add dimension and mood to his scenes. “Once the basic shapes for my composition are laid down, painting ocean waters often takes on a life of its own. The paint, colors and light create the shapes while I just guide them into forming the whole scene. I have found using transparent layers applied with other areas of thicker paint gives a closer expression of the water and land collision that happens at the shoreline, which is often the background theme of my paintings.”
Dowling’s next goal is to take his creative process outdoors and paint plein-air, merging what he enjoys the most: painting and being on the ocean’s shore.
Bob Dowling’s work is displayed during the Roswell Fine Arts Alliance’s “Signs of Spring” show until June 18 and in the Roswell Library until June 29.