Caroline Dowsett’s work is inspired by the colours seen in every day life

Manchester-based illustrator Caroline Dowsett’s colourful shape-based work serves as a gentle reminder to be optimistic.

10 January 2020

It’s safe to say that colour is integral to Caroline Dowsett’s striking shape-based work, the ideas for which can be found in a variety of environments. “I’m always being surprisingly inspired,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I’ll go into a shop and see a bunch of different coloured socks misplaced together, or I’m out walking in the park amongst all the different shades that appear in nature – that gets my creative brain ticking!”

Caroline, who is based in her hometown of Manchester, focuses on creating “playful and fluid” pieces, reflecting the way in which she approaches her work. “My paintings are bold, a mix of coloured shapes puzzled together and black lines on top to create movement and energy, and then often words that are present in my mind whilst in the moment of painting,” she says.

Unlike many people, Caroline doesn’t really plan what she is going to create. “My work is rather organic with how the shapes slot together, and the lines just flow in the moment, the only thing I often really plan out are the colours,” she says. “I set aside around four to six colours, and mix my own shades too, and then go!

“I mainly work in acrylic and ink onto heavy stock paper, canvas or wood, in large format so I can get a movement going with the paint and lines,” she says. “I create work for myself in the form of paintings, prints, laser-cut wooden shapes and an on-going sketchbook, as well as for clients in digital format, hand-painted murals, textiles, printed goods and sculptures.” These projects have seen her previously working with brands such as Uniqlo, NTS, Camden Brewery and Virgin Trains, as well as a host of independent companies in Manchester.

Drawing and “mark making”, as she describes it, has been something that Caroline has done for as long as she can remember: “it was how I was kept occupied and still as a kid, and it’s been the same ever since,” she says. After finding that art was the only subject she really enjoyed at school, she went on to an art foundation course that she believes was her “most informative year in education. I dipped my toe into all the different methods and was introduced to a wide selection of practices and artists, this is where my interest in applying my work to different media came from and the power of the sketchbook,” she says.


Caroline Dowsett

Following this, she studied graphic design at Manchester School of Art, however, decided to drop out at the end of her second year so she could focus on her own practice. “I was desperate to do a year of just this and see where it takes me,” she recalls. “I was working from home for a year working on pieces for myself and taking part in fairs in Manchester and London.”

After the commissions started to roll in, Caroline took up a studio space at Islington Mill in Salford, however, an unexpected illness recently forced her circumstances to change. “Since the summer of 2019, I’ve started working from my studio at home due to some health issues that popped up a year ago, affecting my movement through an autoimmune condition,” she says. Despite the setback she has managed to keep a positive outlook: “It’s not a daily thing so it’s cool! I now have a new studio buddy too called Prince the cat.”

The recent changes have also helped to inspire Caroline’s work, and particularly the message she hopes to convey. “The past year my work has turned to gentle reminders to the viewers, and myself, to be optimistic, present and to keep moving where possible. I keep it rather simple and allow the observer to take it as they please, not shoving positivity onto anyone but just easing a positive spin onto things,” she says.

Looking forward, Caroline is preparing for an exhibition in London in the summer of 2020, in what will be her first solo show outside of Manchester. She is also diversifying the mediums she works in, producing textile pieces and wood-based sculptures – both areas of work that her style translates well to.

“It’s something I enjoy the most about my practice, how these patterns and abstract paintings I create can be applied to pretty much anything,” she says. “It’s important for me, it keeps it fresh!”

GalleryCaroline Dowsett

Hero Header

Caroline Dowsett

Share Article

About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.