Images in close quarters

"They worked side by side for 35 years, but never collaborated. Now Images of Bainbridge Island marks the debut of Gerald and Rosemarie Dowell as a fine arts team. I made a decision early on to stay away from Gerald's medium and he did the same with me, Rosemarie says. Gerald adds, It's a 'turf' thing. The Dowells may complete each other's sentences, but each retains a distinct artistic identity. In Images of Bainbridge Island, the sensibilities are complementary, as Rosemarie renders close detail of landscape with pen and ink, while Gerald uses the luminosity of watercolor to capture broad vistas. The Dowells paint and draw Eagle Harbor, Battle Point and other familiar island scenes, working from nature or from photographs. Rosemarie's short poems add a third creative element. Relationship of text to image varies. Rosemarie is often inspired by nature while she jogs, in which case a poem might be written on the spot, or a finished painting might inspire poetry later.The book is particularly interesting when both Dowells draw and paint the same scene, and the viewer sees the material through two different lenses. The distinctions underscore how subject is always filtered by sensibility, even in so-called realistic art. The Dowells have kept each other good company in small spaces, making art in the galley of their live-aboard boat, sharing a single table in the 700-square-foot home where they raised two boys. The spare bedroom studio in their Winslow apartment seems roomy by comparison. Artists generally refrain from commenting on other artists' works-in-progress. They know that tactless words can mean an abandoned painting. In the close quarters the Dowells share, some mutual influence is perhaps inevitable. The Dowells do talk about their art - although criticism isn't always gracefully received. First we snarl, then it's all right, Rosemarie says. She began to use commercial drawing pens, but Gerald nudged her back to the traditional crow quill for its delicate, nuanced line. And Gerald's tight painting style has loosened at Rosemarie's suggestion.The couple met in Southern California, where both worked for the same interior design firm. Both have pursued dual careers in commercial and fine art. They moved to Bainbridge Island in 1978 - Rosemarie taught art privately and for the last 17 years was the art specialist and buyer for Paper Products in Winslow. She also creates greeting cards for islanders, using drawings of their homes. They eventually retired to focus on producing Images of Bainbridge. The book, now available at local outlets, has been well-received, and has already had a second printing. The Dowells have shown in galleries in San Francisco, Seattle, British Columbia and Los Angeles. They know, they say, that their art would sell in L.A. for four times the price they can command in Seattle, but they are content to live in the Pacific Northwest on an island they both love. The landscape painter, by fixing one slice of time on canvas, ironically makes us aware how unique and fleeting that moment is.And as Bainbridge Island changes, Images of Bainbridge Island becomes a poignant testament to what is lovely, what is passing. "

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