1xRUN Thru Interview
Picnic Panic by Nathan James
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about this piece, is the original still for sale?
Nathan James: With this piece the original idea was to create a painterly gag by taking images from a particular genre (in this case iconic pin-ups by Gil Elvgren) and to alter it with some grotesque faces. Sort of a Tex Avery sort of thing. The originals are not currently available.
1xRun: Was this piece part of a recent theme, series or show that you had?
Nathan James: This painting was part of my last solo show, PUNCHLINES, at the KK Outlet in London. In Punchlines, the original intent of the source material was undercut by darker elements which at first seem superficially funny, but leave the viewer with a bleak, lingering aftertaste. Archetypal beauty has turned sour and perfection is replaced by a warped cartoon aesthetic. My work draws influence from both the failed industrial background of my childhood in Ontario and the fantastical world of cartoons and characters I grew up immersed in.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Nathan James: This piece was painting was created last summer (2013) using oil on sized linen, the original piece is 40 x 30 inches. I knew that I wanted to do some goofy pin-ups and Gil Elvgren is the master, so sending up his work felt like a fun thing to do. I actually learned a lot re-working his pieces. This piece was particularly satisfying. I’d say from start to finish this piece took between 2 and 3 weeks.
1xRun: What is unique about this piece?
Nathan James: Aside from being humorous re-workings of one of the masters of Americana I think of both pieces as sincere tributes. Even though they’re more than slightly tongue-in-cheek.
1xRun: Why should people buy this print?
Nathan James: I think it’s something that could bring a smile to your face every morning. It could be a great gift for grandma or you could hang it over your baby’s crib.
1xRun: Describe the piece in one gut reaction word.
Nathan James: Butter-Face.
1xRun: When did you first start making art? What was your first piece?
Nathan James: I’m not sure I’d call it “art” but I started painting when I was 14. From that age I began to annoy everyone around me with my dreams of one day being an “artiste”. That dream persisted and focusing on it meant I neglected most other areas of my life and education. The consequences have been devastating. The first oil painting I can remember making was sort of surrealist melting face that kind of looked like a Pac-Man ghost that opened up into a checkerboard landscape, on a canvas board. I think that piece is lost but I have a picture of it somewhere.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on? What artists inspire you now?
Nathan James: Mostly Picasso and cubism when I was young. Some Fauvists too. Beyond that I didn’t know much about modernism or contemporary painting until I went to art college. Right now I really like Dawn Mellor, John Currin, Nigel Cooke, Inka Essenhigh, Kaye Donachie and George Condo.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Nathan James: I mostly listen to podcasts and audiobooks lately. Today I was getting caught up so listened to some Radiolab, Dan Savage, The Indoor Kids, Freakonomics and How Stuff Works. I used to listen to music but I seem to prefer informational or funny stuff lately.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why? Any deceased artists?
Nathan James: I’d love to collaborate with Jake Chapman. I saw that he did these funny exquisite corpse pieces. I think I’d be good at those. For the latter, it would be Picasso. My first love…but we’d probably just end up creating a bunch of George Condo rip-offs.
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it? The last?
Nathan James: I have a Britney Spears drip painting by Derek Mainella back in Canada. I left it with my mom when I moved to the UK. As far I know she has it up. I think that was the first piece I ever bought. I recently bought a Thomas Rowlandson print titled “Lambeth Cavalry”. I’m supposed to be a descendent of his.
1xRun: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Nathan James: I’ve got some very big things coming up but unfortunately I’m not currently able to share. You can visit my site ndjames.com and join my mailing list for more info when it’s available.