This October, we embark on an artistic expedition into the captivating world of James Bartholomew, a modern-day maestro deeply inspired by the ever-shifting rhythms of the natural world.
Our artistic journey with James started years ago, and it's his boundless energy and the distinctive cadence of his brushwork that initially lured us into his vibrant creations.
We reached out to James eager to get to know more about the person behind the art and to remove some layers of enigma around his creative process.
James is known for his contemporary paintings capturing the British seascape, landscape, and animals. And so, we wondered what influenced his path.
People and Experiences That Shaped The Artistic Style
What experiences shaped the direction of your artistic style?
”Around 1994, I did a commission for Chevron Oil. They asked me to produce a painting of one of their oil rigs in the North Sea but wanted it in a calm sea with a sunset! I asked if I could make the setting a little more typical (ie wild!) and thankfully they agreed.
Since then, the sea has been my main subject. I’ve travelled extensively (even as far as California & Hawaii) to watch it and paint it in all its forms - whether smashing against rocks or calmly emerging out of the mist at first light. The Cornish coast is by far my most visited subject and I return to it on a regular basis.”
James recently returned from a painting adventure in Hawaii, where the dramatic seas, wild conditions, strong sunlight, and stormy skies provided an awe-inspiring backdrop. However, he emphasises that Cornwall can be equally exciting, and he never tires of returning to this beloved location.
We were also curious to know more about the artists who influenced James’ style and approach to the creative process. After all, the sense of knowing how something will look comes from an inner perception that has been nurtured over the years. And whilst his work is more true-to-life and figurative, the artists who inspired his techniques have a more abstract approach.
“Most of my favourite artists work in a more abstract way than I do. Artists like David Tress and Michael Honnor (both alive & practising!). I really like bold, gestural marks and strong, pure colour. You can see the influence in my work when you look up close but it’s less noticeable when you step back.”
It’s always interesting to know the little technical secrets of an artist’s style, and James, luckily, unveiled more about his technique.
What painting materials and tools you can’t work without?
“I combine watercolour (gouache) and pastel and find it hard to just work in one or the other. I like to smudge pastel over the watercolour (and then remove it) and I like to wet the pastel and move it around with the paint.
It’s a slightly unusual process but what I've always done. I use old Stanley blades and rubbers to take layers off and sometimes a sponge to wash out areas that I don’t like.”
With painting being one of the oldest forms of art, we wondered what James would like to be remembered for.
“I like paintings to be uplifting, colourful, and energetic and generally choose subjects that are at least one of those. I hope that my paintings reflect that. If my paintings can somehow share those qualities with other people then I’m happy.”
A close look at James’ art will reveal he likes portraying the natural play between light, shade, and colour. Creating real-life dynamism on paper is no easy task, and so, we were curious to know if there’s something or someone that James would like to give a shoutout to.
If you could have one shoutout, who/what would it be?
“Digital photography. I love the process of exploring with the camera - experimenting with compositions and trying different perspectives. Being able to see what you’ve taken there and then has been a game changer and is so valuable. I also like to sketch at the scene and then combine all my references when I get back to the studio.”
If I wasn’t a painter, I would…
We know James does a fantastic job at painting, but we wanted to know more about his hidden skills. We asked James: If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
“I love spending time outside and in the garden. I’m very happy building things and re-landscaping out there, so I guess that’s my retirement plan!”
And now, he left us with the question: Do artists ever really retire?
That's a question for our next artist.