A Work of Heart
Donna Dowless loves what she does for a living and it shows.
The proclamation—City of Orlando seal and all—is dated Oct. 3, 2007. “Whereas Donna Dowless uses her love, wisdom, generosity, energy and art to inspire us,” it says, “I, Buddy Dyer, Mayor of the City of Orlando, hereby do proclaim Donna Dowless ‘The Ambassador of Love.’”
Thus making official what many inside the Orlando arts community already knew: Dowless lives the loving nature of her paintings daily in her affection for, and devotion to, spreading love across The City Beautiful.
Dowless spent three decades as an executive in the entertainment industry before semi-retiring so she could devote more time to her art. She’s known internationally as “the heart artist”—many of her paintings feature big red hearts, puckered lips, the word “love” or some combination.
“My subject matter was always about the heart, about love, always inspired by the connectivity to the soul, also to the interactivity of people. I choose love rather than hate. Everybody can identify with the power of the heart in the way that they choose. For me it is the vibrancy of love and caring and sharing and giving and receiving life and love.”
Dowless’ artwork is cheerful but never giddy. Perhaps her central talent is her choice of colors, which can attract and engage long before you’re conscious of the content. Layers of color washes, acrylics, oil pastels, India ink and translucent glazes give her paintings tone and texture. With no formal training in art, it comes naturally, she says. “My mother was an artist, so I was around art all my life.”
The artist and her husband share a two-story lakefront home near downtown Orlando, and her studio is a window-filled room at the rear. Even as a business executive, “I intentionally made time for my art, because there were times when each one of us was not treated so nicely along the way. It’s a conscious effort that comes to me to choose nice, to choose caring, to choose love.”
Her art hangs in homes and studios around the world, and locally in the Amway Center Art Collection and the Grand Bohemian Gallery in downtown’s Grand Bohemian Hotel, among other venues. Her website is heartartist.com.
“I’m in love with love,” says the Ambassador of Love. And with that philosophy, it’s never unrequited.