James Evans - a Brooklyn-based artist originally from Denver, Colorado who, thanks to the New Yorker Magazine's style and the noisy streets of Manhattan, has had an idea planted on his mind. After having had collaborated with Opening Ceremony by writing on its website and by creating prints exclusively sold at the OC store, thinks why it wouldn't be a good idea to put the prints bound to a book. A series of one-hundred quirky, peculiar and real individuals as drawings. Figures you may have probably seen and encountered on the street, but have never really put deeper thought into until having had seen it through James' artistic point of view. And its the kind of personalities that make you realize how everyone is just randomly unique.
Having had been originally inspired by the architecture of the city, James realized he had more to offer than just forming minimal colors and shapes.
Looking at people and recreating them on his canvas certainly challenged him. Constant attentiveness was put more into act, which made James be more naturally observant of society based on how the they deal with their surroundings.
The complexity of it though, initiated James to interact more with paint, which is something he prefers to do a lot more than just illustrating or doing graphic design.
Aside from painting, it is also the New Yorker Magazine's engaging and well-written pieces that have charmed James' interest to write a lot more. And looking at it closely, it makes sense as the illustrious pieces explain there is a story behind every individual, as the captions below the images were made up by the artist himself.
Example : "Guy that only talks about himself"…Something humorous and something we may always encounter with too, unfortunately.
But as there may be joking here and there, James remains sincere about his work. He keeps himself busy, it being by having side projects with companies, such as; Lucky Charms (the cereal), fashion brands (Steve Madden, per se), and magazine editorials (Seventeen Magazine..).. And he does all of it while he prepares for his art show which will be held mid-October in Chinatown.
The question is - What does he aim to plant in his audience after they walk out of his show? "Well, to be able to get a reaction", he says, "and for them to be able to take out something from it."
So, who knows … purposely he might end up observing this time our reaction in an environment where his work is shown. And if we're lucky enough, we may be able to also form part of his 'The New Yorkers I saw Today' book as another one of his characters - and yes, with caption and all.
How did art find you?
I didn’t go to school for it, I went to school for English. I wanted to be a writer, and I still want to write.. but I don’t know, at some point something switched in the visual arts. I started working with this clothing brand In Denver just helping them with graphics and making shirts and stuff, and that’s why I started teaching myself. I’ve always cared about it so when I was at school which is like 20 to 30 hours a week, I just started learning illustrating, learning Photoshop, learning tutorials. Then, when I came to NY, I was so sick looking at the computer, and I decided I would apply that same idea where I would spend like literally just hours every night doing more of like shapes. Trying to do clean lines, trying to do shapes, trying to just learn the fundamentals of paintings as I didn’t go to school for it. So I went to shows trying to force myself to paint, trying to give myself assignments, you know? Its funny because in retrospective, a lot of it is really bad. It forced me to do it though. I’m sure at one point looking back, I’ll say ‘oh that was really bad’ but for now its fine. It’s the process.. but yeah, I love writing though.
How does your creative process look like?
When I do design or print I have music playing or there’s much people. Generally there’s people hanging out here all the time. But when I write, it has to be dead silent. That’s why I don’t get to write as much and if I can write, I get up super early – because everyone’s sleeping.
When I paint I can listen only solely to one band, over and over. Sometimes I’ll just put it on shuffle. But there are days where I just like put – Pavement, Destroyer, classic or indie, or listening to Kodak Black .
My roommate was telling me the other day, ‘why are you painting so serenely and listening to hardcore?’ -- So, I don’t know.. I guess I need to distract myself, I think that’s why I do this. Not that I get bored, but I just start to wonder and if I have music playing, I don’t get distracted
What time of the day are you most inspired?
I think I do best when I get up early. But then I’ll go out for a couple of nights or I’ll be painting really late some other nights. I think if I can get up in the morning and have daylight it’s just great. I’m not a morning person, that’s why it’s hard.
I get so distracted also with the show that is coming up, as that is all I want to work on.. So, it really depends.
Which collaboration has been extra special for you?
It’s not a project, but I’ve collaborated in art shows. It’s nice doing those because you get to work with creative voices.. Painting is the most fun though. The process of walking around town, thinking of ideas, and sketching them out is fun. But I hate the sketching process, I hate it so much. I don’t like staring at a computer screen all day, that’s why I got into painting.
What do you like writing about the most??
I like writing about mostly of what I read.. This book 'Infinite Jest' by David Wallace (2nd time reading it).. It’s the hardest read ever, but some of my favorite authors besides Wallace is John Saunders. I think, at a certain point, if you read a lot of something – or are around a creative medium, you get obsessed with it and it’s going to reflect on your work.
So, say a lot of reading John Saunders, I’ll start writing a fracture of reading short stories to stop myself. I have a novel in my head and I have been thinking about ideas for a while, and I've been writing bits and pieces for a while. But until I have the time to really sit down and do that it could happen.
Would you ever do portraits?
Not really, especially because of the way I’ve been painting lately. For example, the way I paint the way I do now is because of that TV (broken and painted in the corner of the living room).
It was like in a lobby one day, and it wasn’t working. So we were really drunk and we brought it here, and we were just poking it just, just making funny lights and all of a sudden it was broken.
I just thought…. ‘Might as well just throw paint on it’. With the black background, but put on less paint it gives it this weird depth, so to give it depth I am using less paint. For me it’s just amazing. So now, whenever I do something I kind of always paint it with black first. Literally that stupid TV was my first step to the technique I have now. Because I was getting kind of sick of painting very flat and precise, it has no depth if it’s just a figure - it has no personality. It’s interesting, it’s interesting aesthetically, but it doesn’t have that depth I wanted to express. So, for the last year or so I was working on more lively figures.
This show that is coming up is really important to me.. its really frustrating to break into the art world. Art isn’t just paint. I care about it, but I don’t really know the people that I’m supposed to know – so I really want to have a good show. Because at the end of the day, I just want to be painting. Illustration is fun, you can do it for yourself, do it for other clients, but I wouldn’t like doing it all the time. The art world is like fashion, once you know people you know people. And I feel like I do, but it’s just different. For me is relatively a new thing. And I have worked in a lot of other mediums, but art is what I want to do so that’s the important trajectory for me.