Shorts are a work of art
Four visits in, Eric Dowdle decided to tackle Bermuda shorts. The artist travels from country to city to town, meeting people and painting their culture as he sees it.
His findings are then neatly wrapped up: in the art he sells as puzzles and in Painting The Town, his travel series on the BYUtv channel.
His visit here last September ended in an unexpected partnership after he interviewed Rebecca Singleton for his show.
A Bermuda scene he painted is featured on the latest swimwear collection by the local designer's company, TABS.
“When I think of Bermuda, first it's its beautiful green and blue waters, next is Bermuda shorts,” said Mr Dowdle, who got his start as a folk artist more than 20 years ago.
“To go to Bermuda and tell its story and not address the shorts would have been odd. The style is so unique — to see people on the island walking around in a half suit and shorts — and then for Rebecca to explore and explain it and then own it was perfect for an audience around the world.”
Mr Dowdle quit college a year in so he could “go make something happen”.
In his early twenties, he started painting and, in the period since, has built his business, Dowdle Folk Art, with a collection of more than 200 paintings.
He travelled the world on his own for 15 years before the opportunity for a television show came his way five years ago.
His travels have taken him from his home in Utah to various parts of the US and farther afield — to Kenya, China the South Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean and here.
Ms Singleton saw their collaboration as an opportunity “to grow the Bermuda message internationally”.
“Working with Eric and his team has been such a fun experience for us. They are as excited about the swim shorts as we are and wish to feature us on their website. The puzzles are offered in major stores across the US, so being endorsed by such a large brand is great experience for not only TABS but Bermuda as well.”
Mr Dowdle also interviewed Ed Christopher, the Hamilton Town Crier, and Kristin White, the St George's tour guide and bookshop owner, while here.
“In filming the TV show Painting The Town, I give them the directive to find people who are engaging, who have a love for [where they live],” the artist said.
“My job is to paint that story that plays out. I like to be put with people in local businesses who like the [place] enough to be a representative of it.
“We try to do as much on island to find a complete story. We're introducing characters to the world and hopefully, at the end, people will say, ‘That's where we're going on our next holiday!'”
The culture and the people are what make Bermuda “so unique”, Mr Dowdle added.
“We get a lot of tropical paradises but others feel the same. Bermuda feels very unique — the way they dress, how it all started, the mentality of the people. People go there and go back; they may not go back to other places.
“I've been there four times now and will find something new, something that interests me every time.
“It's a small place but every time I go, I will find a new favourite. In the end, I want people to go to Bermuda, see it and hopefully discover some sort of tie between their experience and my experience.”
Meanwhile, Ms Singleton is offering a discount on TABS swimwear to customers who come into the store at 12 Reid Street and are able to identify people and landmarks in Mr Dowdle's painting.
She is also inviting local artists to submit original work to hello@tabsbermuda for a chance to be featured on her swim shorts next year.
• For more information, visit tabsbermuda.com; dowdlefolkart.com
The American folk artist advises fans of his television show, Painting The Town, that the following are worth a visit:
• Bermuda Glass Bottom Boat Tours
• Crystal Caves
• Hartley’s Undersea Walk Helmet Diving
• St George’s and the Bermuda Heritage Museum
• TABS on Reid Street
Meanwhile, he calls Horseshoe Bay Beach Bermuda’s “best kept secret” and promises the fish sandwiches at Art Mel’s Spicey Dicey and Barritt’s Ginger Beer, which he describes as “root beer with a Bermudian twist”, won’t disappoint.