Douglas Chowns - Bushey Artist

"Our Village", Attenborough's fields, Haydon Dell, the Churchyard graves of Dr. Monro, Thomas Hearne and Henry Edridge ARA and remains of Herkomer's castle "Lululaund" were the wartime playgrounds of Douglas Chowns. Studios still existed in friends' gardens or were abandoned dilapidated shells open to the sky. Lucie Kemp-Welch was painting in a black straw hat and smelt of turpentine and lavender water. Mary Bromet and her work were much in conversation. The Bohemians - the Artists - had created the aura and myth into which Douglas was born in Bushey in 1937. A.E Matthews a familiar figure about the village as were Canadians Frank and Cyril Church who later talked film and Bushey Studios when in his teens in Art School in Watford. From and early age he was fascinated by illustrations in his mother's Orange Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang and illustrated by Henry Justice Ford from whom he learned to understand drawing in line.

The Royal Caledonian Schools marched to church on a Sunday morning behind the pipeband. The boys in scarlet and the girls in green hunting stewart holding hands. "Got any gum chum" was the local kids catchphrase with American G.I.s, and the glow of a burning London hung in the sky above Bushey Heath. Cow parsley, long summer days, "Doodle bugs" and dog fights, black tarred railings around the forbidden pond at Merry Hill House except in winter, sliding on the ice on a New Zealand apple crate, all come together in this artist resident of McKenzie Bay. Whangarci Heads.

After art school, RAF Fighter Command and an international career in advertising and film with residence in Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean, jetsetting since mid-sixties made the South Pacific attractive for his wife Meg and two children and life in New Zealand since 1972 a reality.

Douglas works exclusively from his family property where his beachside studio atalier gallery and home are situated in its own bay under volcanic Mt. Manaia. One man shows both national and international have been regular features for over 22 years. Presently the art is focused to embody his life and interests, his Celtic origins, (he Roman occupation, the lack of humanity, the ongoing and appalling atrocities in modern Bosnia, Africa, and South and Central America, the horror for some, of village or boardroom, the environment, the mental torture people endure daily. Trained by a student of Augustus John in "Life Drawing", the "Gut" paintings are figurative and painterly. They feature "The Enduring of Suffering" and arc based upon the Roman marble of "The Dying Gaul" and "Lindow Bog Man" the Druid "Lovernias".

Douglas is also an accomplished watercolourist painting land and seascapes that often facilitate his lifestyle. He was the University of Otago commissioned painter, and Patron of the Northland Polytechnic Geoff Wilson Art Gallery)' where he was senior tutor and initiator of the art school which now lists over 150 full time students. As co-founder of the New Zealand Gaidhealtachd annual Celtic Summer School, his childhood legacy in the shadow of the Royal Caledonian Schools, piping, dancing and drumming with Pipe Major Charles Turnbull around and about Bushey and Watford, the West Herts Scottish Society and the London Scottish Regiment, the Thistle Club dances in Oxhey church halls, have all surfaced in McKenzie Bay, a New Zealand centre where Scots, Irish, Welsh and Cornish meet on a regular annual festival. Touring New Zealand Universities and Polytechnics with London An Historian and Author Edward Lucie-Smith, an old friend and colleague, resulted in a new body of work comprising this "Enduring of Suffering" series. Vincent Van Gogh said of Herkomer in 1882 "For me one of the highest and noblest expressions in art is always that of the English, for instance Millais. Herkomer and Frank Hall. What I mean in regard to the difference between the old masters and the modern ones is - perhaps {he modern ones are the deeper thinkers ... ... to make drawings that touch some people, to express not sentimental melancholy, but serious sorrow"
-  Douglas also wishes to, “Reach so far that people will say of my work: he feels deeply, he feels tenderly notwithstanding my so-called roughness, perhaps even because of this. "

Meg Mairhead McDiarmid Chowns
January 1994
Whangarei R.D. 4
New Zealand.

Douglas Chowns (by Edward Lucie-Smith)

After an adventurous life, which has taken him from Britain, where he was born, to Spain, Portugal, Latin America and the Caribbean, Douglas Chowns now lives and works in the idyllic setting of McKenzie Bay, near Whangarei, on the North Island of New Zealand.

His work, in oil and watercolour, is full of the recollected emotions of these years, and of the others which he has spent amid the still largely unspoilt natural beauty of New Zealand/ It is as much subjective as it is representational - an embodiment of strong feelings about the world and about his own situation in it. Everything he has experienced plays a part - pride in his Celtic heritage, time spent growing up in Bushey near London (then still an artists’ colony), the natural beauty of New Zealand and the violence of contemporary world events. Nothing is done to formula; everything comes from the heart.

Edward Lucie-Smith
London, February 1994

Douglas Chowns - Fine Artist

*** Born in the Victorian Artists colony village of Bushey in Hertfordshire Douglas at an early age visited the war time studio of Lucie Kemp-Welch and Marguerite Frobisher where he was introduced to the smells and tradition of oil painting. Later at Art School he developed drawing from the nude and the extensive use of the sketchbook. Observed drawing and figurative life size works are his love. RAF Fighter Command and Advertising account for some years of formative life experience. Themes from the heart feature current world issues often linked to his Celtic upbringing and interests as “Bodach” of the New Zealand Gaidhealtachd Celtic Summer School. Artist Videographer and Tutor he has worked for more than 45 years in multi media as Master Artist, Creative Director or as a Producer in Film. His art today communicates via sound and vision, marks on paper, digital electronics, watercolour or oils -

After an international lifestyle Douglas was able at age 35 to quit the jet setting income to settle his family in New Zealand where they have been resident for twenty seven years in McKenzie Bay in the Whangarei Heads. First exhibiting in 1974, a year later in New Zealand House London which was followed by years of both local and overseas one man shows. His Art is retained in Museums private collections and homes world wide.
A self employed Fine Artist his art has supported his lifestyle. A pioneer in Serigraphy and fabric printing both in Spain and later New Zealand he has passed on his skills via tutoring since early 1979. Approached to be the Northland Craft Co-ordinator for then Community College with a brief to research and set up formal Craft training at tertiary level - he proposed the present Polytechnic School of Art, to which he was the initiator and senior tutor. Later in 1989 he organised students on a study tour of France and Spain - a first for students and a NZ school. After some years he was able to reduced his teaching hours and commitments which allowed his own art to replace tutoring. On Art Council request he organised a six week lecture tour with his friend Art Writer, Poet and Critic Edward Lucie-Smith in 1993 to tour all the New Zealand Universities and Polytechnics, and to also introduce each faculty to the QE2 Te Wai Wai visitor.

Today he paints to please himself seldom exhibiting or tutoring unless special reasons are involved. His works are permanently on show and normally only available from his own beach side Atelier gallery, open seven days a week at “Appin “ McKenzie Bay, Whangarei Heads where a wide range of oils and watercolours may be viewed.

He prefers to paint figurative life size studies but equally returns time after time to the mountain behind his home Mt Manaia which he has experienced daily for a quarter century in all seasons and weather conditions. Douglas paints what he sees, landscapes on location or figurative work from the model. Canvas size usually some metres in size although of late he is working smaller. Started in watercolour by a Gran daughter of Varley at eight Douglas’s Bushey origins, Dr Munro’s vision for watercolourists and the Social Realism influence of Herkomer together with past locals Henry and Holman Hunt, Edridge, Hearne, Emily Carr or Frances Hodgkins preparing her show 35 years before his birth in the same acres all come together in his Art.

A contemporary of Eric Lee-Johnson, Allan and Zela Charlton, Clive Williams, Digby Graham, Yvonne Rust and Fassett Burnett, Douglas is proud to have been part of that original “formally trained” Northland artist scene that has since become notable***