This Saturday night, master satirist painter Dave MacDowell will be opening a new show at the Thinkspace Gallery. Collectively entitled Lowbrow Love Letter, the new body of work tackles some stereotypes of the so-called lowbrow subgenre with a lot of “big eye girls, monsters, and depressed naked girls” all the while utilizing his brilliant wit and eye for celebrity and pop culture.

Take a look after the jump at some questions and answers as we sit down for a chat about the upcoming show and much more…

Arrested Motion (AM): How did you come to be involved in the art scene? You told me previously that Jeff McMillan sent you a big box of paint and that is what ignited the fires, but what involvement did you have prior to this?

David MacDowell (DM): I could always draw, but never seriously painted until 2007. Everything happened within months once the work got out. Juxtapoz reader art and then a week later signed on with Thinkspace, with only 5 paintings into the game. Thankfully they saw something in me, so I figured I had better step up and learn what the hell I was actually doing.

AM: And you are entirely self taught. What methods did you use to educate yourself in the art of making a good painting? You seem to have a wonderful, and quite individual, grasp on color theory…

DM: Downloading color wheels from the Internet, and struggling with the illusion that I was doing it right. As a career decision from the start, I decided to always use a small script brush to make the work super detailed, and to keep the themes varied and entertaining. Technically, All Of Them Witches was the first painting that I had the guts to teach myself warm and cold grays – which is probably “art school101” stuff, but to me it was a major event! Two years later, that piece was hung between a Robert Williams and David Stupakis at a charity event. Who knew that the piece was a study? I’m the luckiest boy in the world.

AM: Some of the great lowbrow painters such as Robt Williams and Todd Schorr must be a huge inspiration to you. Where else do your significant inspirations lie?

DM: I need to tell stories and express what I feel. I always figured that if everything was painted really well, you could say whatever you wanted. I think hidden behind a lot of my candy colored pieces are revolutionary slants leaning toward the misfits and underdogs. Subtle jabs at Classism, racism, greed and commodified sexuality. It’s all in there, but never in your face.

AM: Of course you’ve riffed Williams’ work in pieces such as Appetite for Veruca. What is it that makes an image MacDowellable to you?

DM: I was scared shitless to tackle that Williams piece because it’s executed just so damn good, and it deserved way better than what I could give it. Great work is intimidating, if you can’t do it, so its best to confront those technical challenges early on. I used to be a wimp about the color blue, atmospheric effects like fog and rain, and illogical lines of movement always seemed so hard. Once you can paint everything that can be seen, you can bend the rules and start to welcome all of those lessons with open arms.

AM: Is there anything or anyone that you would consider a step too far as subject matter for your satirical take on popular culture?

DM: My life and art is pretty PG-13. Its pop rock. So I usually just leave the hardcore stuff up to the adults. I probably wont paint anything that I wouldn’t show to my Momma.

AM: Parody and tribute shows seem to be popular these days, particularly within the LA art scene and I think there is often poor quality work produced for these shows. You, however, seem to be right at home in this sort of environment and shine as one of the finest purveyors of cultural satirical art. Your pieces always raise a smile, and I think it’s actually very hard for anyone to dislike your work. What’s the largest amount of pop culture references you’ve managed to cram into a single painting?

DM: I’m so insecure that if the main idea isn’t selling, I’ll keep adding more eye candy. As long as the composition is strong, I’ll keep pouring more alcohol into the punch bowl. Lesson learned, that often without proper planning, we often wind up with a shitfaced painting that should have quit before it began.

AM: We met at your Sins of Atticus Finch exhibition back in 2009, and there was a guy that came into the show who said he worked with Jack Nicholson, and that he’d tell Jack about the show. I’d be interested to know if any of the celebrity figures featured in your work have been in touch with you about the paintings? I’d just love to hear that Samuel Jackson has that Jackson 5 painting hanging in his house!

DM: Just simply by the way things happen in life, I’ve been in touch and discussed possible art tribute shows with the individuals and families of these people. As long as everything is done with fun and integrity, I’m down.

AM: I bet if I threw you a couple of pop culture references your way, you could you come up with a theme for a painting. Can you pluck a couple of topics from your mind now and think how you could put them together?

DM: For the complicated paintings, I usually think about 100 ways to approach, but only settle for the one that works to make the coolest puzzle. I have some future pieces that I’ve been working out like a math problem in my head for months now. Working the visions in your mind into a tangible reality on canvas is what it’s all about.

AM: You had a dalliance with Banksy and also the planned Banksy Unveiling show in the UK not too long back. How did that come about and what happened?

DM: Banksy wrote and said he was a fan of my stuff years ago on Myspace {Remember Myspace anyone?}. My friend in London curated a show with the pitch of revealing the guy. Of course they never did, it was all cheeky fun. Banksy and those guys are all tight anyway, so their Broken Britain madness continues.

AM: You’re based in Virginia. Is there much of a local art scene out that way? Do you in any way feel isolated from the larger artistic communities such as LA, NY, SF or London? Does it actually help if there are fewer distractions?

DM: Mainly boat and lighthouse painters here, so every artist that I know ships elsewhere. It’s best that I stay here for now. When I go to LA, its always heady serious business stuff, and the peer-pressure party is always beckoning. When I need to be king of the heavy metal vomit parties, I know where to go.

AM: You work in acrylic, and compose your paintings in a way I’ve not seen anyone else work. The way you sketch out the tonal composition in pencil is intriguing, and almost like you make your own paint by numbers template. How did you arrive at this method of working?

DM: I sketch directly onto the canvas, and keep washing the excess lead off with water. Usually washing everything cleaner in stages in a hot running shower. Once I feel I’ve achieved the lines that I want to keep, I go over them in permanent Sharpie. I got sick of loosing my lines under layers of paint, so this method makes everything cleaner and more precise.

AM: While we spent a day being escorted around LA by Andrew Hosner on a marathon art tour, I recall you saying that after seeing a lot of the work we took in that you’d like to start experimenting with oils. Have you gone down that route behind the scenes?

DM: With this tight schedule, I don’t have the luxury of drying times. I wish that I did because oils kick the best ass. With layering and glazing techniques, I get the same oil look and feel with the acrylics, and people wouldn’t even know the difference if it wasn’t on the label.

AM: Lowbrow Love Letter is the title of your upcoming exhibition with Thinkspace Do you embrace the term ‘lowbrow’? I’ve found that a lot of artists dislike the term ‘lowbrow’ nowadays…

DM: I have no idea what the hot term for the movement is at the moment. I’m sure calling it something more high flatulent than “Lowbrow” makes it an easier sales pitch to uninformed clients. Probably the only reason they even labeled it is to validate its marketability.

AM: Thematically, what’s the tone for the exhibition?

DM: The tone is to spotlight my versatility with painting techniques and themes. I tackled the “lowbrow” subgenres with a lot of big eye girls, monsters and depressed naked girls. The show looks to have a cool breezy simple and direct vibe. No instruction manual necessary!

AM: I just love that Abide image from the new show. The Big Lebowski is my favourite film. It’s just so well acted and directed. Where did the Jaws theme / combination originate?

DM: Cool, me too! I just did a massive 30 x 40 inch impasto of “The Dude” for my show. With a gallon of acrylics and modeling paste, it looks like a Leroy Neman piece, all loose and full of energy. I figure if you can paint sloppy “good”, then you’re good to go!

AM: You’ve been part of over 100 group shows since your last solo in March 2009, so with a schedule like that, I presume you must have a ton of other projects lined up. Care to share any with us?

DM: Group shows, curating, commissions, and a few 2-Person shows round out 2011. 2012 is my year for legit solo’s and expanding my work further into the entertainment industry. This thing has always been bigger than I am, so I’m just holding the leash following where it wants to go.

AM: Thanks David, we wish you all the best with the show.

DM: Thank you and also Hung-Hei! You guy’s showed my work unconditional love right from the beginning , and anything “unconditional” is really rare these days. Thanks a million Sven. Hope to see you soon.

Discuss this show here.
Discuss Dave MacDowell here.