For most of his working life James has been concerned with ceramics as a way of earning a living, both as a lecturer and practising potter. Gradually, as circumstances allowed, he returned to his first love which was and always has been painting.
James works in oil, watercolour, gouache and pastel, whichever suits the mood of the moment. He has occasionally tried printmaking but with varying success.
Painting a portrait in watercolour is always, for him, an exciting challenge but perhaps best achieved through the medium of oil. Indeed, portraiture is his preferred activity although landscape has been a constant source of fascination and has more to do with mood and atmosphere than topographical constraints.
When outdoors, sketching and the camera have been useful tools, but the serious work is confined to the studio. Wordsworth’s phrase ‘Emotion recollected in tranquility’ comes to mind.
James has a few role models or heroes and allegiance changes with the weather, but if he were to name three contemporary painters who have influenced him, they would be Paul Nash, Peter Greenham and Giorgio Morandi, all for different reasons.
The artist uses both watercolour and oil, with occasional sortie’s into pastel and printmaking. Watercolour is an ideal medium for registering momentary or figurative sensations and James thinks spontaneity is of the essence. Painting a portrait in watercolour is always an exciting challenge, but perhaps best achieved through the medium of oil, which is more versatile and less confining.
A tutor of James, a notable water-colourist, regarded any mixed media with scorn.
Such a purist attitude is not fashionable nowadays, and in truth, artists have always experimented with various media and used, not only the brush, but fingers, sponges, rags, blotting paper – anything which comes to hand and helps to achieve the desired effect.
Although James paints landscapes and sometimes still life, portraiture is his preferred activity, mainly because of the challenge and the difficulty and, of course, the ultimate satisfaction if things go right. Only very occasionally does he accept a commission.
1928 Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire on January 15
1943 to 1952 Attended Edward Orme School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Burslem Art School, Stoke-on-Trent and Royal College of Art, London
1960 to 1982 Lecturer and finally Principal Lecturer in Ceramics at North Staffs Polytechnic, Assessor for the NCDAD and Designer for the ceramics industry
1988 Elected member of the Royal Watercolour Society
1995 Elected Member of the New English Art Club
Royal Watercolour Society
2004 Prize Winner, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition
Stoke-on-Trent City Art Gallery
Pelican Gallery, Cambridge
Burlington Fine Art
International Watercolour Exhibition, Barcelona
The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, London
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (Regular Exhibitor)
Watercolour Masters Then & Now
The Watercolour Expert