Artist of the Month - Anthony Lewis-Dowell, Bramhall
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 October 2013
Anthony Lewis-Dowell from Bramhall is one of a posse of popular northern artists. He’s also a two-wheeled adventurer and member of a biker ‘gang’ with a difference
That brand name Marmite is a byword for ‘love it or loathe it’. But artist Anthony Lewis-Dowell’s painting of a jar of the brown stuff invokes no such mixed feelings.
‘I could have sold that one ten times over,’ says Anthony. ‘We are surrounded by commercialism and it means something to people.’
Another of his oil paintings captures an equally iconic blue can emblazoned with the legend ‘Beanz’. And then there is his study of elderly bewilderment, showing an old woman standing in a crowded coffee shop - the title, ‘Lost in Starbucks’.
It’s hardly surprising that branding should creep into Anthony’s work. He has spent his working life in advertising. At 47, he has been painting again in earnest for only five years, taking up where he left off when the world of work first beckoned. Many of his works capture urban scenes in Manchester with bold use of colour, putting him in good company among a current wave of northern artists, perhaps the most famous of whom is Liam Spencer
‘When I first saw his work ten years ago, I was blown away by his use of colour and form,’ says Anthony. ‘I would be lying if I said Liam Spencer had not influenced me. But the interest in urban scenes was already there.’
After keeping a studio at the arty enclave of Vernon Mill in Stockport, Anthony now paints at home in his flat in Bramhall. His solo show at G Fine Art in Macclesfield in June was a near sell-out, and his works can be found in several galleries locally, including Colourfield in Poynton and Collect Art, Lymm.
Whatever your stereotypical idea of an artist might be, Anthony doesn’t fit it. A shaggy outdoorsman with a leather jacket and biker jewellery, he is prone to flee the studio in favour of motorcycle adventures to the western Sahara or, just recently, an expedition with other bikers over the Pyrenees, island-hopping to Sardinia and Corsica before returning via Italy, with a ride through that bikers’ Mecca the Stelvio Pass.
He has suffered a couple of bike accidents in the last three years, sustaining a broken collarbone in the first and a broken wrist in the second. But the risks of motorcycling are outweighed by the thrills.
‘I never feel more free than when I’m on an adventure, getting somewhere new,’ he says.
Brought up in New Mills, the son of a Welsh stage actress Rhona Lewis and an electrical engineer Sydney, it was from his dad that Anthony developed an early love of motorcycles.
Diagnosed as dyslexic when around seven, he was sent to the private Normanton School, Buxton, and recalls how his love of art was fostered by a teacher who showed him a book of the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and the Post-Impressionists.
But he studied graphics and advertising, working for several agencies in the north west before heading for London to work for TMW on the King’s Road, Chelsea, dealing with the clients such as British Airways and Nissan.
‘I managed to burn myself out pretty much with partying,’ he admits. ‘I’ve never worked so hard or earned so much or spent so much or partied so hard as in London. It was great, and I did some magnificent work, won some great awards, but it all takes its toll.’
Anthony returned to Manchester as creative director of a large agency, but, realising that what he really enjoyed was the hands-on creative side of the business, he gave up management and turned freelance. His time in London brought another realisation about his life.
‘I partied hard for a long time and eventually it caught up with me. I did have a dependency on alcohol and other drugs, but mainly alcohol,’ he says. ‘I’ve not drunk for 11 years. I had a big black empty hole inside of me that I was trying to fill with alcohol, and it wasn’t working any more. It turned from my best friend to my worst enemy.’
He rides with the CSMCC – Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club, and smiles as he recalls a motorcycle wedding at a cafe in Yorkshire, where the wedding party all wore leathers and the bride’s arrival was greeted with the guests ‘revving the bejasus out of their bikes’.
‘It was very down-to-earth and fun. They’re sober, clean and happy people, but it doesn’t mean they’re not rough diamonds, and lovely with it,’ says Anthony. ‘I love that side of it.’
More about Anthony Lewis-Dowell’s art at antzmanchester.wix.com/art