About

Photo credit: Miles Davies. 

Hi. My name is Joe. 

I paint because I want to re-create the beauty I see around us all, and put you in that same place. A watercolour painting can transport you to another world. It can convey emotion and beauty almost beyond imagination. 

 

 Books

 

My main thing is painting. However, to help people develop their own watercolour, I have written about ten books, translated into around a dozen languages. 

Some who started with my books have become well known artists. Far from being competitors, these people have become colleagues. We often exhibit together at international shows.

I have learned from them so it has turned full circle. Three of these artists are Anna (Anushka) Ivanova*, Kate Sava* and Massimiliano Locco*. 

*See end of this page.

New book out soon: 50 Landscapes. Publisher - David and Charles. Publication date: April 2023. Language: English. Available: In the shops - UK, USA, Canada. 

 

Biography

I painted my first landscape in watercolour at the age of six, out of doors on Shere Heath, Southern England. This is a beautiful landscape of woodland, heath and fields, with river valleys set among hill country. Early memories are of painting and drawing in this landscape. My father taught me the craft of watercolour from the age of five. He had been a professional seaman and took our family sailing each year. I inherited his passion for marine painting. 

I was inspired by the sight and sound of long freight trains hauled by steam locomotives on the nearby railway which climbed through the Surrey Hills - a volcanic sight and sound. As a teenager I joined the railway heritage movement restoring and operating steam locos. I drew them in situ from the age of 13 boosting my abilities at that time. This gave me an advanced understanding of perspective at an earlier age than would have otherwise been possible. I was further advanced by a brilliant school teacher, Hugh Ecob, and another called Dennis McCarthy, who simply believed in me - I was very fortunate. I started selling accurate plein air railway drawings to enthusiasts and engineers.

I moved to an industrial region for college. I sketched dockyards, shipping, and heavy industry, loving every moment. Drawing and painting was a constant feature, gradually becoming a livelihood. I was fortunate in that my work often sold. 

Later, I had another boost from a gallery who took me on full time and guided me, while providing an income. They taught me how to compose a landscape painting. I did a lot of plein air painting, at first not always successful, with many months of practice. I learned how to visualise a landscape, seek a composition and achieve a sense of place. The gallery had been selling my railway paintings, and again I was very fortunate - they perceived an ability. After a while, they gave me two choices - work for them, or don't bring any more paintings, so I went for it. 

I have written books and magazine articles and presented Television both in and out of TV studios for many years, for market leading video and Television. I have exhibited at national and international exhibitions in Asia, Russia, China, Europe and the UK, including at London West End Galleries and Hotels and various Royal Societies.

My painting travels have included China, Russia, the Middle East, and Thailand, always at the invitation of culture department, corporate and art interests in the host countries. 

I have painted in traditional oil on linen in Britain for export exclusively to private clients. Publicly, I am known for watercolour.

As global economic fortunes change, I have found markets for my paintings in growing economies, such as the Gulf States, Pakistan and China.

Joe Dowden February 15, 2023

 

World Watercolour Arts Biennale in Thailand, 2016.  Left to right: Chaiyee Lam - Malaysia, Besnik Xhmaili - Kosovo, Jansen Chow - Malaysia, Joe Dowden Ireland and UK, La Fe - Thailand, Amit Kapoor - India, Nana Lohvitee - Thailand, Unnamed painter,  Ali Abbas Syed - Pakistan, Sareh Mohebeian - Iran, Unnamed painter, Fatima Ali next to painting.   

 

Why watercolour?

Watercolour is exceedingly vibrant. For anything to do with light it reigns supreme. Chinese artists mastered its properties 800 years ago, and made lightfast pigments which have retained their brightness to this day. 

This amazing vibrancy exceeds what is possible from all other mediums. It possesses a luminosity resulting from the way light reacts with the pigments. They behave quite differently from other paints. Instead of reflecting light just at the surface, they are lit from within. Light travels through the pigment reflecting from the paper beneath, and lights the colour from behind. From here springs its great luminosity - watercolour is like stained glass - without the glass. 

Watercolour paints are transparent. They are also very powerful, with tremendous pigment densities, especially the high quality professional paints I use, many being pure single pigment colours. 

Watercolours are permanent. Their pigments are lightfast. They can withstand decades of exposure to direct sunlight without fading. Watercolour is a durable investment.    

To paint great watercolour, it is necessary to allow water to flow, and understand its properties. This is why so many people fail to master it. It can be likened to sailing a yacht rather than driving a motor vessel. The master of a yacht is subject to the elements. More skill is required than when just driving the vessel. Superlative painting has to be practiced from the start, there is no room for error, mistakes cannot be covered over, and yet the approach has to be relaxed and confident. This is why a skilled watercolour painter can often switch to any medium with ease, but it can be hard for a practitioner of another medium such as oil to switch to watercolour. It is a most refined medium, and an ancient one.    

 

PAPER

"My paper is not made from trees".

I use heavy weight, high quality paper made by craftsmen and women from carefully sourced sustainable ingredients...and not from trees. The paper is made using highly specialised processes, unlike those used for everyday papers around us. For many years, my paper was only manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry, with its exacting standards and exceedingly high costs. The head of sales for the paper company whose products I used, once told me the tolerances for their papers were finer than those demanded in aircraft manufacture. Their clients were pharmaceutical companies and the life science industry. Some of these paper were conceived by scientists to filter specific fractions of DNA. These scientific papers were the base for the paper I used. I use the finest watercolour paper it is possible to obtain. These papers are exceedingly long lived. Some have a design life of a thousand years. I never want to apply a painting to paper which is anything less than a safe, durable vehicle. A painting embarks on a journey - it is a time machine. Its function is to carry a painting into the future. Its makers must have a track record of producing papers with longevity. 

The image below - seen elsewhere on joedowen.com - illustrates the extraordinary properties of light and colour found only in watercolour.  

NEXT SECTION - MORE DETAILS

You are welcome to read the next section - but there is more detail here. this is for publishers, companies, media etc. You might prefer to give this a miss - I'm all about images, not words. 

This is information for media, galleries, publishers, manufacturers, editors, curators, exhibition organisers, trade fairs and prospective business partners. 

I have presented videos, live streams and TV programs for over 20 years. I have demonstrated to audiences - painting complete landscapes and seascapes while explaining and entertaining, for over 30 years. I have been plein-air painting and drawing since 1964. I have written and illustrated many books about watercolour, starting in 1999, and these are in most major languages with Chinese on the way. I broadcast on ZOOM

Languages of my books: Japanese, Turkish, Polish, Russian, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, French,  English. Coming soon: Painting Water in Watercolour: Chinese.

Television

I studied television production at the department Art and Design of Teesside Polytechnic (Cleveland University), UK, under Hans Linder.  

I presented the first of many videos and live streams with a market leading company in the year 2000, under Nottingham based documentary producer Jake Shaw, and film industry Director of Photography Nathan Sheppard. I was fortunate to start off with people who gave me an industry standard training for which I am grateful. They helped me convert my public speaking skills to TV presentation ones. I also learned to inspire confidence in the team on set, so I was able to film with the BBC soon afterwards. I have presented dozens of videos, zoom sessions, live streams, and TV broadcasts, most recently live streamed sessions from International Watercolour Masters at the UK National Sports Centre.  

Magazines

I have written and illustrated for Pratique des Arts, Gallery and Artist, The Art of Watercolour, Monocle, Painting World, Artists & Illustrators, coming soon, The Artist and Leisure Painter Magazines - UK, and others - also encyclopedias and part works including those accompanying the Channel 4 UK TV series Watercolour Challenge. I have worked for Eagle Moss, Quarto, d'Agostini, and others. 

Painting Demonstrator 

I demonstrate watercolour painting globally to artists, public and private audiences. I have demonstrated painting as an invited demonstrator at UK art organisations for about 30 years, and worked in venues such as the International Watercolour Masters - IWM, Kensington Olympia, The National Exhibition Centre (NEC UK), the Design Institute - Islington and other places. I have demonstrated at International Exhibitions held in Thailand, Russia, Italy, China and other countries. I have also demonstrated and taught in schools.   

I have a regular long running course I run in Zupa Dubrovaska, Croatia, and have made many connections there.    

 

Above: Painting in Guiyang, Guangzhou Province.    

 

Exhibiting demonstration paintings 

I exhibit some of my demonstration paintings internationally. Cities where these have been shown include Seoul, Sofia, Klaipeda, Moscow, Hua Hin, Bangkok, St Petersburg, Karachi, Hong Kong, New Delhi, London, Fabriano and cities in China. 

I have exhibited or sold demonstration paintings in the UK at national exhibitions including at the Royal Watercolour Society, Royal Society of Marine Artists and The Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, and in other exhibitions in the Mall Galleries, as well as other London venues.   

Public speaking

I give seminars, motivational talks for teams, talks to audiences, and presentations. I can deliver an after dinner speech while painting. I have attended public speaking classes, and trained others to speak in public. 

Travel

My painting travels result from invitations from government or corporations to paint, exhibit or seek out regional material for commissioned paintings. Travels include China, Russia, Thailand & the Middle East. 

 

Above: Wadi Mistal, Al Gubra Bowl, Oman.      

Residential courses

I started by running courses in Croatia for a few years before I introduced my courses to the UK. I have also run courses in Spain, Italy, and Russia. I have been doing this for over 20 years. 

Above: Moscow.   

Below: The next generation! 

 

Life changing brushes by Rosemary. 

While reviewing products for the art press in 1999, I came across Rosemary and Co brushes, (then known as ABS). They were at least equal to the best brushes, available then and now, and the least expensive. I can think of no parallel in other fields. 

This is achieved by superb craftsmanship and business practice - Rosemary procures the materials herself, makes the brushes, and trains brush makers. There was no sales team, marketing or advertising - just word of mouth - and it spread fast. Soon the whole of Britain was using them. Now she is global, with many friendships among the world's greatest painters.

The Northern Fells

The very high quality brushes I use are expensive - weight for weight the fibre is more valuable than gold. Rosemary brushes rivalled the best quality, at a fraction of the cost. I've used her brushes ever since. I write this because Rosemary and Co are part of my story, and have helped my work succeed*. 

*I don't work for Rosemary, or any manufacturer. I recommend according to my own bias and no one else's!"

 

Using a Rosemary Number 12, series 22 brush in Thailand.

Image credit above: Anna Ivanova. Location: Samarsand Fishing Village, Apattiya, Chon Buri, Thailand

 Joe Francis Dowden. December 2022.

Above: Derwent Water. England 2008.

EXHIBITED AT THE FOLLOWING

Bangkok. World Watermedia Exposition. Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Centre, Bangkok, Thailand 2014 (WWET) Invited Artist.

 St Petersburg. Masters of Watercolor, Grand Hall of the Masters of the                Artists, 2014.

 Fabriano in Arte 2015. Demonstrator and exhibitor.  England Group Leader.   

 Seoul. World Watercolor Triennale, Korea. Invited Artist. 2014.

 London. Mall Galleries. Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour. 2013.

 New Delhi. India Biennial 2015. Invited Artist.  

 Moscow. Russian Watercolor Society 1st International Biennial, Kremlin,           Museum of Architecture, 2016. Invited Artist.

 Fabriano in Aquarelle 2016. Exhibitor, demonstrator. England  Group Leader.   

 Hua Hin. 24 Global Masters Thailand. 24 Selected Painters. UK Painter September 2016. 

 Bangkok. World Watercolor Exhibition. 15 Masters. September 2016. UK exhibitor, delegate and plein air painter.

 Thessaloniki. Watercolor International III, Greece 2016. Selected Painter.

 Karachi. Seven Masters. Art Citi. October 2016. Selected Painter.

 Hong Kong. 1st International Watercolor Exhibition 2016. Featured Artist.

 China. The Lake Blue Heaven. Invited Participant. 2017.

 India. National Watercolor Society of India. Exhibition. 2017. Featured Artist.

 Pakistan Masters Exhibition. 2017. Selected Painter in 7 masters show - Karachi.

 China. Ming Gallery of Art. Suzhou. October 13 - 18 2017. Invited master and participant. 2017.

 China. IWS International Watercolor Museum. Shanghai Hong Museum. Invited Artist. October 2017.

 St Petersburg. Figurative Exhibition. Invited Master. December 2017.

 China. Colorful Guizhou. Guiyang. China National Railway. April 2018.Invited Artist.

 St Petersburg. Masters of Watercolor. January 2018. Invited Artist

 Karachi. Pakistan. Pearls of Peace. 2018. Excellence Award* Invited Artist.

 Fabriano in Arte 2018.

 Penang. International Watercolor Exhibition. Malaysia. 2018. Invited Artist

 Bangkok. 1st World Master Watercolor Exhibition. High Prototype 2018. Semi Gallery Ajarn Silpa, Bhirasri, Thailand. Invited Artist.  

     Moscow.  1st International Watercolor Exhibition. "World of High Watercolor".  November 2019.  Invited artist.
     Hyderabad. International Watercolour Exhibition in Pakistan. March 2020.
     St Petersburg. 2020. Exhibition of International Artists with Joe Dowden's work exhibited by collector in association with book launch.    
     Guiyang. China. June 2020. Guiyang Polytechnic. Exhibited works from International and Chinese Painters.      
    "Go With the Flow". 2020. First international Watercolour event on Zoom through every time zone around the world - a global first - over 24 Hours non stop. One of a hundred artists to take part. Host Szczepan Urbanowicz.  

UK. International Watercolour Masters 2021 deferred 2022. Lilleshall Hall, England. Competition judge. Also judging other international competitions.  

Moscow. World of High Watercolour. WHW. October 2021

Pakistan. Pearls of Peace. October 2021.

Bulgaria. Invitational International Exhibition. Bulgaria. October 2022  

Japan International Watercolour Institute - Selected Masters digital show. October 2022

London. Kensington February 17-19, 2023. New departure - My first display at an art fair open to the public - and a chance for 15,000 people to see my work. The most cosmopolitan audience to whom I have ever exhibited.       

Coming soon. 

Portugal May 5th - 8th, 2023

IWM 2024. INTERNATIONAL WATERCOLOUR MASTERS, UK National Sports Centre. Invited Master.

COMPETITION JUDGE. I have judged international exhibitions and competitions, and sat on selection panels for exhibition entry. 

 

Exhibited at the following venues and exhibitions. 

IRELAND

 Roland Miller

  BELFAST

   John Magee. South Ormeau Road.  

LONDON 

Mall Galleries 

   Singer & Friedlander/Sunday Times Exhibition.

   The Laing Exhibition. 

   The Royal Society of Marine Artists

   The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour  

         

Bankside Gallery, London.

   The Royal Watercolour Society. 

Sotheby's. Chichester. 

Open landscape competition. "The Chichester Open" - 1998.  

West End Hotels, London.

   The Park Lane Hotel

   1993 The World of Drawings & Watercolours. (International Exhibition)    

   The Dorchester Hotel

     1992 The World of Drawings & Watercolours. (International Exhibition)  

 Polak of Piccadilly. 

                 London's oldest (at that time) Art Dealer. King Street premises opposite Christies, also representing my work at external exhibitions.     

 Barings/ING

   The Discerning Eye Exhibition - Employee selected painter. 

       

United Kingdom

Various Royal Societies. 

Multiple solo shows from 1987 - 2018. 

UK Masters touring exhibition 

Birmingham, Stratford on Avon, Worcester, Warwick and historic cities.   

    Sotheby's
        Chichester Open Competition and Exhibition.      

TAVISTOCK

 Elford Fine Art. Tavistock. 

   Representing Joe Dowden in the West of England at premises in Tavistock Historic Centre.

   Various sponsored exhibitions in East and West Devon.  

WINDSOR

   Ron Wheeler.   

    Long standing agent, art dealer, and patron of the arts, representing in London through art galleries on or near the Thames at Kew and the Riverside Gallery at Barnes.   

ONE MAN SHOWS

One man shows held at various venues over a period of 33 years.  

VARIOUS GALLERIES.

  I have sold through many galleries in the UK over an extended period.     

       Elford Fine Art   

       Riverside - Barnes

       The Bankside Gallery - London

       Polak - Piccadilly, London. 

       Royall

  Stacy Marks

  Forest

  Florentine

  Lion and Lamb

  Godalming Galleries  

   In addition to one man shows, my work is exhibited at private and      corporate venues, and permanent collections. I am grateful to sponsors including Burns and Webber, and Montfort International for invaluable assistance.     

 

 PERMANENT COLLECTIONS. 

 Gulf States. EU. UK. Russian Union. Thailand. China. North America. 

 Government Collections, Royal Palaces and Government Ministry Buildings. 

 Corporate and Public Collections.     

Fabriano in Aquarelle 

Fabriano in Watercolour, Italy.

Left to right: Kiril and Sergey Temerev - Mariupol and St Petersburg, Igli Arapi - Martina Franca, Joe Dowden - UK, Atanur Dogan - Toronto - President of the International Watercolour Society. Behind right - Igor Sava - Rome, Sergiy Lysiy - Klaipeada. Valeriy Makavoy - Latvia. Un-named artist, Kate Sava - Rome. Un-named artist. 

International painters - with few exceptions we know each and have travelled and exhibited together. 

This is an annual international exhibition throughout the historic area of the city of Fabriano where it all started - the birthplace of European paper manufacture. This amazing show is run by Anna Massinissa, who is globally respected among watercolour painters for running this event. Host cities vary.  

Anna Ivanova, Kate Sava, Massimiliano Locco.

Anna (Anushka) Ivanova is a peerless figurative painter who specialises in ballet, painting from life. She painted "Cinque Ballet", a young vibrant Moscow troupe, and she now also paints the Moscow State Ballet.

Kate Sava, (Ekaterina Zuizina) is a master portrait and floral painter but can paint just about anything, leaving her architectural profession to rapidly become a global name. 

Massimiliano Locco from Rome won the Pinter Rapido plein air contest, London 2014. He started out with my book "Water in Watercolour" and has gone on to become a plein-air painter in the highest purist traditions of aesthetic beauty. He works fast with great brevity and sets the pace for many painters globally.  

Influences

Richard Bolton is an illustrator who became a watercolour painter. His drawing is exquisite, his colour is beautiful, I developed using several books he wrote.  He continues to paint and lives in New Zealand. 

Richard Thorn is a landscape painter whose diversity and interpretation of landscapes helped me realise that accepted wisdom on limitations of watercolour were wrong. He inspired and gave the confidence to try anything. There is evidence of his thinking in much work today. I rate him among the finest watercolour painters around.

W L Wylie was for me the pre-eminent marine watercolour painter of all time. A mariner himself, he lived in Portsmouth by the exit from Portsmouth harbour. He lived around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was able to paint every kind of sea state and weather. It is said a seaman could tell the location of a sea painting by the condition of the sea. You often knew with Wylie the time of day, the season and the weather. I love his watercolours best, but his etchings reveal his drawing skill. There was nothing he couldn't paint and he produced many oil paintings. He is a good reference for his era, because despite his ability to master mood and atmosphere in watercolour, he did not devalue his works with sentimentality or romanticism. His paintings speak with integrity. 

 

Last words, with thanks, go to fellow watercolour painter and North American Master, John Salminen, Duluth, Minnesota.

"My first response to Joe Dowden’s work was to marvel at his command of the subject and his brilliant mastery of the medium, but this was only part of the total experience. Joe’s paintings go beyond mere representation. The light quality, the evocative mood and the sense of time and place are Joe’s gifts to the viewer. Enjoy the trip"  

 
John Salminen. July 2019
A Little about John Salminen.
One of the pleasures of being a Watercolour painter is that one comes in contact with masters - master craftsmen, masters of the arts, masters in a sense understood in the Orient of old - when in the presence of them and their work, there is simply no doubt. John Salminen is one of whose work floats among the towering city blocks of North America, whose streets have become his motif. He is a tall quiet man from Duluth, Minnesota, and his paintings are often tall - paintings which capture the soul of these vast spaces in a way portrayed by great film makers - albeit achieved without the arsenal of creative tools available to Luc Besson or Ridley Scott. There are no short cuts. This is painstaking work. His vision is considered carefully, thoughtfully constructed, with many lightly controlled touches. Sometimes he seems to paint the air silver. A labyrinth of almost invisible shapes builds a city scape whose substance is space, whose edges are sparingly defined. You find yourself drifting into his work - down those streets. Its a really quite mysterious effect. This silver look could sometimes be perceived in the work of the late great Nita Engle - another artist from the cold shores of the great lakes of North America, with similar explosive talent combined with powerful restraint. His visual insights though, are unique to him. That's how I feel about John Salminen.  
                                                                         Joe Dowden. January 22nd, 2024 

 

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