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James Pearson

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating
I've been drawing and painting since I was a toddler. I'm 32 now. My mom used to draw quite a bit and we'd draw together. She bought comic books and taught me to read when I was 4. My grandma would take me to the library a lot and I got my first library card at age 5. From then to now, I'm primarily self taught. The closest I ever got to formal education in art was during high school. I had a great art teacher named Nona Atkinson who allowed me to create my own assignments and course of study. After four years, I had become a fairly accomplished portrait painter in pastels. I also served as president of the art club - co-designing, organizing and installing a ceramic sculpture in the lobby of the school my senior year. I attended college with my own money for one year. My interest was in education. I never wanted to study art or music under someone else's guidelines. After a year of college, I ran out of money and lucked into what would become a 14 year career in broadcasting, video editing, audio production and engineering. I've never lost my love for art. The short answer to "how long" would be all my life. Everyone starts out drawing, painting and making images. I just didn't stop.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
In my mid 20's, I began to play catch up on my knowledge of Art in general. I became very interested in modern art including the fauvists (Mattisse and Derain), the blue rider school (Klee and Kandinsky), Calder, Chagall, Modigliani, the New York abstract expressionists (Rothko and Kline) and the California school (Diebenkorn). I had always been attracted to Degas' pastel work but rediscovered his late period bathers. Of all the artists, I feel closest to Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. I think Klee was right in recognizing the importance of children's art. I see proof all the time in the drawings and paintings of my two girls (age 4 and 6.) Their work is unfiltered by technique or experience. It's figurative AND abstract AND emotionally raw AND technical AND colorful AND completely spontaneous. Also like Klee, painting and music are completely intertwined in my life. I've been writing and composing music since I began playing guitar at age 11. I've also been a big fan of music collage via Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren and the Beatles - starting with a 4 track cassette recorder in 1986, long before the sampler and computer software made such music so accessible. I'm also a big jazz and pop fan - equally enjoying Thelonious Monk and XTC. I love no format radio and we keep all of our cd's in pure alphabetical order with no categories or subdivisions. Again, like Klee, I also teach art and music in classes and private instruction - often swapping subjects for back-to-back lessons. My classes at the local gallery are for all age students but I especially enjoy teaching kids age 6 to 16. In art and music, I believe it's important to cross reference as much as possible with other artforms -dance, poetry, name it. I want the students to understand that all these forms of expression come from the same mental and spiritual place. I also think it's extremely important to cite examples of working artists so students (and parents!) realize that there are many opportunities for creative minds. That's not always immediately obvious in a small town. Finally, like Klee, I'm also a homebody, devoted husband and father. I love living in a small rural town where we have a 120 year old house and can walk and ride our bike to the square. We've visited most of the country and love to travel but home is where the heart is and for me, that's with my family in Kentucky.
How would you describe your work?
I'm not sure. I think there's a continuity and would generally say it's modern but beyond that, it's difficult. Also, my work is changing and hopefully, moving forward. Right now, my favorite pieces have subtler colors applied in gentle washes. I let the brush go where it will initially and react to what is there. The lines either expand the general theme as in "Sing" or work in contrast to create additional meaning as in "Melody, Harmony and Counterpoint". The relationship between line and color isn't really understood by anyone so I feel free to work as I like.
What are your motivations for creating?
I paint because I like to. It's really very simple. Kid's are like that. They paint when they want to and don't paint when they want to do something else. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.
How, if at all, has your art been impacted by the events of 9-11?
I've taken more risks. I've prayed a lot for wisdom, patience and courage. Immediately after the attacks, I painted 3 large pieces in series. They were all much more abstract than anything I'd previously tried to sell on eBay and I sold the largest piece within 2 hours of listing it. I like to think that's a sign. God likes risk takers.
Tell us about some upcoming projects.
I've been busy lately. I'm trying to experiment and follow my instincts. We are gradually approaching more regional galleries with some help from good friends and supporters. I participated in a multi-gallery's studio tour last month and have a solo show next fall at another regional gallery. My eBay sales have fluctuated like everyone's but I've been fortunate to supplement my income with teaching. Through eBay sales, I've also managed to get a couple of commissions for larger works. I'm presently working on a large scale improvised painting 12' x 4' for a friend and longtime patron. It's inspired me to continue working on that scale so I've also stretched canvas for another 5' x 3' and two 4' x 4's. I hope to catch a wave of inspiration and paint them all in series. After finishing them, we'll be approaching some more galleries. At this point, opportunities are really opening up for me. I left my job last spring after a 14 year career in broadcasting with no guarantee that we'd make it a month. Amazingly, here we are 8 months later and still going one day at a time. We stay positive and look at the glass as half full. I definitely believe in creative visualization and prayer. Believe in yourself and persevere to do good work. The financial stuff should fall into place.
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
Don't mistake my optimism for naiveté. I've made a decision to focus my work out of a philosophical desire to contribute something positive. I don't censor myself while painting but I DO have a responsibility to create a personal frame of mind that will foster good work worth sharing. I'm a fan of the Tao of Pooh and believe in the "wise child". I want my work to lift, not reflect. I'm not a camera. Paintings can be as pure as we choose to make them. Letter to other artists:. Sell your best work. Let it go. It will inspire you to create. Avoid prints of your paintings. Don't dilute the market for original art. Use your real name. Be honest about who you are and what you are trying to do. Seek an original identity as an artist. Take chances. Exceed your own expectations. Whenever possible, stock materials in advance. Act on inspiration. Stay positive and surround yourself with other positive people.

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