William John Patton McDowell began his career as an apprentice at Vickers in the Drawing Office. He studied naval architecture and qualified as an Associate Member of the Institute of Naval Architects. However, following World War I, he became a full-time commercial artist and received commissions from many shipping companies, undertaking murals for Stratheden, Mauretania and Queen of Bermuda. He exhibited regularly at the R.S.M.A. and published an illustrated book entitled The Shape of Ships.