Artist’s Debut Exhibition Launches in Tokyo
By Adrian Lysenko
Michah Dowbak, aka Mad Dog Jones, has brought his art from Instagram to the global art scene. The Thunder Bay-born artist and musician has recently launched his first exhibition AFTERL-IFE WORLD in Tokyo. Inspired by Asian culture as well as the wilderness he grew up around, Dowbak’s work features bright colours depicting urban landscapes with a surreal twist.
“It’s all about timelines that existed in the past, in the future, or a parallel reality of something that could have happened,” he says.
Although Michah’s work features nods to anime and cyberpunk, he credits his father, Damon Dowbak, a visual and stained glass artist, for helping develop his style of thick line blocking. “Even though a lot of the vehicle is kind of cyberpunk, anime aesthetic, I think it actually deals a lot more in colour theory and shape and form and composition,” says Michah. “None of my characters are drawn in a traditional anime style. The aesthetic for this show largely in particular is Tokyo and Japan-based, so that’s where that anime-vibe pulls in—more so in the background, but the characters are closer to realism rather than anime.”
The exhibition, which debuted last month, features 15 new works by the artist as well as classic pieces redone and retouched. Michah, who is now based in Toronto, describes the experience as surreal. “I’m in Tokyo with my whole family and there’s a big art exhibit and it looks beautiful. It was really overwhelming and exciting. It’s kind of hard to describe how awesome it was.”
Other than attending the exhibition, Damon helped produce some of the work with Michah. “I’m very proud and very happy for him… it just sort of exploded,” says Damon. “I worked in art all my life and most of the work I’ve done is material work but with digital art until you see it on the wall it’s just remarkable and gives it a new dimension. So I was very happy to see that.”
Michah—who is also a successful musician, notably playing in the collective, Sideways, along with fellow Thunder Bayers La+ch, aka Rob Benvegnu, and Coleman Hell—says his art evolved from music projects. “I’ve always done music and art in tandem,” he says. “A lot of my style I developed by working on album covers for La+ch and Colemen.”
Michah also credits local artist Ray Atwood, who motivated him to get an iPad and the digital illustration app Procreate in 2017. “I started just developing a style and patience to make these things,” he says. In July of that year he created his Instagram account, which now has more than 175,000 followers.
Although the social media platform launched his art career, Michah views Instagram as a
double-edged sword. “Maybe I could have done the same thing through Twitter or through Facebook or whatever but Instagram is good for artists and you can create a web of interaction easily… but it’s constantly messing with your brain chemicals so proceed with caution.”
Along those lines, Michah advises emerging artists not compare themselves to others too much, create something you’re proud of, and always be striving to improve your skills. “All those kinds of things are actually what in the end will sustain your soul and lifeblood to move through the whole thing,” he says.
To view Michah Dowbak, aka Mad Dog Jones’ work, find him on Instagram at @mad.dog.jones.