T. David Downs was born in 1976 in Bowie, Texas. He studied mechanical engineering in Aiken, South Carolina, but soon after began to study painting under artist Thaddeus Suits in Augusta, Georgia. In 2005 he moved to Manhattan, New York, and spent five years studying classical drawing, painting and sculpting at the Art Students League of New York. This education was supplemented with independent studies of classical craft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through 2011.
In 2015 and 2016 Downs studied with renowned American realist painter Bo Bartlett in Columbus, Georgia as a part of the Bartlett Master Painting class.
Downs has exhibited in the US and abroad including shows at the Niagara Gallery in New York City as well as the US Embassy in Rome, Italy.
He currently uses his studio in Pittsburgh for his painting, photography and wood sculpting.
"One is an artist as one would be a poet or a philosopher.
The picture is not a picture. It is an object, the evidence of the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence. A readable trace of a former clarity, a state of true living. The living is the object and the object is real."
- T.D.D. 2018
What first got you interested in painting?
"I have been asserting myself as an artist from the earliest time I can remember. There’s no specific reason for this except I just really loved to draw. The home I was in and the public school I attended didn’t hold art in any high regard. I just came about it naturally, as naturally as one can within the spaces that the imagination is allowed to wander.
My mother had a bible illuminated with old master paintings, mostly Carravaggios. At around the age of five I was sitting in church and looking through these pictures and I asked “How did someone get photos of this stuff?” and she replied “Those aren’t photos, they’re paintings.” I remember clearly the jaw dropping moment when I realized “somebody made this.” It was probably the single most powerful art moment I’ve ever experienced. Not only did they look absolutely, convincingly real but they felt savage and imbued with emotion.
I said “I want to do that. I’m an artist.”
What inspires a painting?
"A combination of ancient esoteric mystical texts and my dreams. Though, admittedly, most days and nights I don't know if I'm awake or dreaming. Maybe I'm an artist in my dreams. I'm sure that I followed a white rabbit to my destiny.
But I'm certain, yes, it's the wandering that inspires."
Advice for an aspiring artist?
"SEE. Learn to see. See things for exactly what they are, what they aren't, where the meaning begins and where it fades. Let yourself be lost. And don't forget to make art, like your life depends on it, make make make... "