Artist tells students, ‘Be willing to go’ with experimental styles


Shomari James

The student Art Association hosts a videoconference meeting with local painter Mike Dowley.

Jenna Lagoey, Reporter

An abstract painter told AACC students Thursday that experimenting with colors, textures, canvases and styles over his career resulted in a body of work that isn’t “always … really connected together.”

In a videoconference discussion with students, Mike Dowley, a professor of painting and drawing at Northern Virginia Community College, said he doesn’t “always want .. to go in those weird directions.”

But, he told the audience, “Be willing to go if you can.”

Dowley, who has also taught painting and drawing at Georgetown University, has shown his work in galleries across the East Coast. 

During the student Art Association-hosted event, Dowley discussed his evolution as an artist, from his time as a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design to his current work. 

He said his influences–the artists he called “my first loves in painting”– were Edward Hopper, Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Yet Dowley said he is not committed to a singular style of work.

“I think at the end of the day, the artwork sort of speaks for itself,” Dowley said. “As you all know, when making art you can’t always put your finger on what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. … I don’t pick and choose subjects or settings. They pick and choose me.”

Students who attended the event said Dowley’s portfolio is diverse.

“He went through all kinds of … different movements, with his more abstract works and … landscapes and all the different mediums,” Eleanor Woodbury, a first-year art student, said.

Second-year animation student Shomari James said he found Dowley’s portrait work engaging.

“Some of the artwork he did was kind of interesting … like abstract paintings of himself,” James said.

The event was available for in-person students, who met on campus to join the videoconference call, and for students at home via Zoom.  

Woodbury commented on the mixed nature of the event.

“I would rather have met the artist in person,” Woodbury said. “But I think it was done fairly well for the situation.”