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Rising Stars: Meet MJ Dowling

Today we’d like to introduce you to MJ Dowling. 

Hi MJ, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I started painting when I was very young. My mother was an artist and enjoyed working in various mediums to include watercolor, acrylic and oils. She encouraged me to sketch and paint as much as possible and to take art classes while in high school. When I graduated, I pursued an Architecture degree at Carnegie Mellon University with a minor in Art. I loved the program because it allowed me to explore both art and architecture in depth. While my main focus was building design, I also took studio classes in sketching, painting, sculpture, and even furniture making. During my third year, I spent three months studying in France and was exposed to numerous examples of expressive design that still influence my art today. I was drawn to naturally sculptural designs such as Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut and also to buildings which were highly expressive in their use of color such as the Centre Georges Pompidou. I realized that Art and Architecture were naturally collaborative and that Art can actually be the catalyst for successful Architecture. 

After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Architecture, I was commissioned as an Officer in the US Air Force and began a twenty-year journey serving my country. As a Registered Architect, I had the opportunity to work on hundreds of design and construction projects worldwide. The design projects I enjoyed most were those where I was able to significantly improve the quality of people’s lives while also preserving the environment. I retired as a Colonel from the military in 2007 and then worked as an Architect in private practice for seven years before moving to Florida in 2015. It was at this point that I reconnected with my early passion for painting and began to create my unique blend of art and architecture in earnest. 

After settling in Florida, I became a member of Martin Arts and the Martin Artisan’s Guild which allowed me to meet many of the highly talented artists in my community. I volunteer on the Guild’s Program Committee which is a great way to share ideas about different art techniques and marketing opportunities. I participate annually in the Guild’s Open Studio Tour which is held every March and highlights the individual working studios of over 30 artists. 

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think my journey to becoming an artist has had some unique detours. Serving 20 years in the military is not a traditional path for either an architect or an 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. In addition to 8 different assignments in the US, I spent over 6 years living abroad and experiencing very diverse cultures in countries like Honduras, Oman, and South Korea. Despite the constant military training and challenging military operational tempo, I was able to experience unique cultures and artwork throughout Eastern and Central Europe, East and Southwest Asia, and Central America. Overall, I think my Air Force experiences have made me more introspective and thoughtful in the type of art I create.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
In order to capture the “spirit” of a place, I use architecture as a springboard to explore the relationship between the built and natural environments. I contrast the structure of the built environment with the fluidity of natural spaces through the use of color, topography, waypoints, patterns and shapes. 

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. Some of my recent work uses layered mixed media to explore the historical roots of a location. I’ve also created some paintings that are meant to be rotated or viewed from multiple directions. Just like your experience of walking through a city can vary by the path you’ve chosen; I want my artwork to be transitory and reveal new insights with the turn of a corner. 

I recently established my art business as a Florida Non-Profit, 501(c)(3) in order to contribute all of my profits to various charitable causes. To learn more please visit 

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
I think the industry will continue to evolve due to the increased use of technology in both the marketing and sale of art. I’m amazed at the changes I’ve witnessed in just the past 5 years with advances in Virtual Reality, Crypto Art, and NFTs. I think the shift towards virtual art exhibits that we experienced during the pandemic will continue to increase and that’s a good thing. While I don’t think virtual exhibits will ever be an equal substitute for “in place” viewing, they will allow for a larger global audience to be exposed to new artwork and can run in tandem with “live” gallery exhibits. I really like that I can experience art from exhibits or art festivals like Burning Man from the comfort of my home. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
MJ Dowling

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