About Ross McDowell

Color, Salt & Sawdust

Artwork by Ross McDowell

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Ross McDowell

My Story

I was born on the small island of Martha’s Vineyard. I lived a mile down a dirt road in a rural town called Chilmark with amazing, organic stonewalls, sprawling sheep farms and a picturesque fishing village. That’s where I was raised, a wild island child: fishing, swimming, surfing and living life to its fullest! At 18, I moved to the island of Oahu in search of perfect waves and a change from the harsh northeast winter. After slacking off at Hawaii Pacific University for the year, I headed to San Diego, California to pursue a career in art and I have been here ever since.

I come from a family of artists. My father is a coppersmith and jeweler, and my grandparents were painters, sculptors and folk artists. I strive to be original and to follow my heart when creating a project. Over the years I have developed a style that I feel is truly unique to me and I am very proud of that.

I hope you enjoy my work!

Where can you find my work?

I have my art in two galleries in the US at the moment. One on the east coast and one on the west.

The Copperworks of Martha's Vineyard - Martha's Vineyard, MA - click here for location

Bliss 101 - Encinitas, CA - click here for location

My Process

My process is a little different from piece to piece, but here is the general idea of how the final product comes to life

-The Wood
I use as many reclaimed materials as I can. Most of the wood I use is reclaimed Indonesian teak. It is collected from old boats, barns and other structures throughout Indonesia that have been scheduled for demolition. Some of it is hundreds of years old and it all has lots of character and soul. The teak gets shipped to San Diego to be used as flooring in high-end homes, but some of it does not make the cut. That's where I come in and give the rejected wood new purpose. I guess you could say it's twice reclaimed if you wanted to get crazy. The teak is 100% certified recycled by the most rigorous, credible forest certification system, the FSC.

-Hand Scraping
A lot of the wood I get needs to be hand scraped to give it more texture and character. It is a long, hard process that takes a toll on my body but it yields an amazing result. When I am done working on a piece I am familiar with every knot, nook and cranny.

-The Puzzle
Many of my pieces are put together in what almost looks like a puzzle. The boards are different sizes and lengths and the grain of the wood is running in every direction. It is not an easy task getting that to work right. Once I have the puzzle laid out I have to router out a grove on the edge of every board so that they can be fit together. I glue a small piece of wood in every grove and that's what holds the final piece together.

-The Colors
Creating the colors is a whole process of its own, that involves multiple layers of paint and lots of sanding. The whole time planning ahead for the final piece.

-The Drawing / Stencil
I start with a pencil sketch that I transform into a detailed pen drawing. I then cut away the drawing with an razor knife creating a stencil. I can then transfer the image to the wooden background that I have prepared. I use the stencil only once, so there is only one original.

-The Final Touches
The stencil is not the complete image I want to achieve. I hand paint shadows and fine details trying to do as little as possible to take away from the beauty of the wood. I want the wood to be part of the painting as much as possible. When I finally have it where I want it, I coat the whole thing with teak oil. This makes the final piece pop and helps to preserve the wood.