Gowan's choosing art "partly to grieve the souls of the Barnacles-in-chief who had not provided for him" (Book 1, Ch. 17) shows he has no love for art and that he is lazy and wants an easy way to earn money.
Gowan proves careless not only in his vocation but also in his words. He repeatedly exhibits "dexterous impudence" through insincere praise.
Though Gowan does not have evil intentions, one learns quickly not to trust his judgment of others. Dickens furthers this perspective by Gowan's friendship with Rigaud and Sparkler, as well as his relation to the Barnacles. Rigaud is a murderer and Sparkler is weak-minded and undistinguished. If a man is defined by the company he keeps, Gowan is bad news.
His relationship to the Barnacles shows he shares sentiments with them. His opposition to progress is illustrated in the following quote:
If one impedes progress, one avoids obligation to others for that progress. Gowan does not believe in work and has no problem impeding the work of others.