Surfer and artist Ross McDowell creates amazing art with reclaimed teak
Indoteak Design: Where are you from?
Ross McDowell: I’m from Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast or Massachusetts. I grew up in the rural town of Chilmark, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It has a small fishing harbor where I spent most of my childhood. It was unbelievably rich with history and was an all-around soulful fishing town. That island and that harbor in particular forged my bond with the sea and had an undeniable effect on the person I am today.
How did you make your passion for art into your career?
My whole life I have been surrounded by art. My Father is a copper-smith and jeweler by trade. My grandparents were painters, sculptures and folk artists. Growing up I was always drawing something or in my dads shop, building all kinds of things out of wood and working with his copper. As I got older I told myself I was going earn a living doing something I loved and to me that was art.
How did you discover Indoteak Design and our reclaimed wood for your canvasas?
I became friends with Frank Ragen (Owner of Indoteak) when he was building his home in La Jolla. From day one he was extremely kind to me and I instantly felt like he was family. I had just started using wood as my canvas right around the same time Indoteak Design was being created. At that point, I was just starting out as a professional artist and had very limited funds to support my passion.
I approached Frank, asking if I could buy some scrap wood for cheep to use for my artwork. He responded by giving me a free pickup truck load of wood with a big genuine smile. I could tell he saw my passion and was excited to see what I would create. I was blown away by the generosity and also motivated because I felt like he believed in me.
Why do you like the reclaimed teak as a canvas?
Once I was introduced to reclaimed teak, I instantly fell in love with it. The story behind it, the way it looks when I scrape it, sand it, and cut it. The fact that it has figured itself out over the decades: It doesn’t warp, crack, or swell. Its just true. I love the way it looks when you oil it, hell… I even like the the way it smells.
Where do you draw influence from in regards to your art and your style?
My biggest inspiration is nature. I love how nature is so random, but also perfect. I try to use natural mediums like wood as my canvas because it is easier to get the effect right when you are actually trying to transcribe nature. Even when I don’t use wood, I tend to use techniques that mimic natures perfect randomness. I am also definitely inspired by other artists that I admire. It’s really amazing how many wildly talented people there are out there and now with social media and the internet, it’s so easy to connect with them.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Mostly self expression. When I’m creating something, whether it’s a painting or a wooden bench, I get this amazing feeling that is hard to describe. I have also always loved how artwork goes off on its own life adventure after the artist sells it. When I’m creating a piece I like to think about where it will end up, who will see it and where will it hang?
I love thinking about all the impressions it will make on people and the many conversations and inspirations it will have on the viewer. Some people will love it and others might even hate it. Someone might steal it at some point or it might get traded when someone falls on hard times! I mean its fun just imagining all the possibilities, you know?
How does your art and love of surfing cross over?
Surfing is as much my passion as my art. It is where I feel completely free and connected with nature. Both serve as a form of meditation and are deeply intertwined. I really can’t imagine living without either and have built my life around both.
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