Interview with Artist James White
The team at Creative New England is creating a range of exciting competitions for one and all to get involved in over our lockdown period. We were lucky enough to spend some time chatting with the hilarious James White who recently helped us create one of a series of Artist videos with our friends at NERAM.
James, thanks for spending some time with us!
Tell us a little bit about your job as an Artist and how you got to where you are today?
Making art has always been a large part of my life from when I was young and over the years it is an activity that has always given me pleasure. Local art competition in the North West region during the 1970/80/90s gave me the opportunity to compete against other artists and in the process, improve my skills as well as sell works, something I strove for.
Do you think your career as an Artist has been influenced by your upbringing or personal life?
Yes, my mum was the first person who encouraged me but then later on my wife Anne organised my life so that time was made available for me to pursue my artistic endeavours, organise art enteries as well as arrange art exhibitions in various galleries. Without these interventions, my art making would be far less advanced. We all need a leg up sometimes !!!
How do you find your creativity?
I remember an artist friend saying that art ideas are wherever you look!
This is true but quite often the seeing is the hard part. I have a fairly scatty brain so I am often chasing new ideas as the spirit moves me. I work in series so for example, while we were living on the farm at Boggabri, the content was rural scenes, landscapes, and things agricultural.
Once I started branching out of the box I created themes that made me follow another road. Views through windows became the main content but as I lost interest in the views, they became distorted and usually with a European theme. This lasted a number of years but then another idea arrived.
Flowers are a constant source of inspiration but as another road opened up, away we go. Light and dark (chiaroscuro) started appearing which then led onto Baroque still lifes as produced by the Flemish artists so the changes are constant and not predictable. Shearing sheds are now getting a run as I used to be a wool classer and life in the sheds is something I understand well.
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How do you decide if an idea is worth it?
For me, the creative process is dictated by the last painting. Once one image is completed, the next waiting is to happen so that a series of works happen organically. Not a lot of thinking happens when the juices are flowing as was demonstrated when I was working on a postcard series of works. Once I started, I produced around 80 small works one after the other. Admittedly I had ample source material from the extensive travels we had been fortunate to have done but what work came next was never a problem.
Artwork ideas need to be thought through in my mind for some time before I start sketching. I have numerous visual diaries which over the years have been used as the first port of call. If the idea doesn’t work as a preliminary sketch, it is dumped and another approach tried. Sometimes, an idea might take months to evolve but when the sketch looks right, away we go. All the hard work is done as the making process is quite straight forward. That’s from years of art-making and learning to control the medium.
Can you tell us about a personal highlight in your career as an Artist?
Winning competitions was always a buzz but being asked to be a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute in the late 1990s was very satisfying. This organisation is Australia-wide and members have to be invited to join providing the artist’s works have reached a high standard. Every year the AWI has an exhibition but even then, one’s work isn’t guaranteed of being hung. Standards are very high!! Another joy is to hear people say they have a James White work and it gives them pleasure every day. What more does one want? 😀
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I have now focused on watercolour painting, but over my life have worked with printing, coloured pencils, collage, photography, and whatever else takes my fancy. However, watercolours always win.
Do you feel that you’re influenced by any other Artists?
Yes, all artists can be influenced by what they see and I am no different and constantly watch what artists are creating to see if there are ideas that might appear in my works. All artists are worth looking at so influence happens often without realising.
Do you have any other hobbies, outside of Art, that influence you creatively?
Oh yes, I love making old things young again!
I am an enthusiastic house renovator and have been doing this activity all my adult life. Gardening and the results of the same are also very rewarding. Family is a complete joy but this is more than a “hobby”.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
When I’m not tired, motivation is easy. I am “addicted to activity” so my days are always motivated in many areas. However, when a series starts, getting onto the next work simply happens.
Are you working on a specific project at the moment?
At the moment I am obsessed with the interiors of shearing sheds, the way light works as well as the perspective associated with these Australian cathedrals. The Baroque still lifes are also getting a run as I have been able to use my interest in flowers and art-making skills required to make these images seem to ‘jump from the page’. They give me immense pleasure!
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The creative industry isn’t always the easiest – can you tell us about a challenge you’ve faced in your work and how you approached it?
I am an amateur artist so this activity is seen as an add on in my life so if I don’t sell works, tough! The making process for me now is one of enjoying what happens.
What would you say is the most enjoyable thing about being an Artist?
Making art to a high standard, selling works, and seeing the new owners enjoy their purchases.
As a creative, what is the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
Keep working and have a desire to improve all the time with the final product.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about being a part of the New England community?
New England is a hotbed of creativity with the creative arts so well on display and represented by a wide range of artists. Being a part of this family is a very rewarding experience.
NERAM is the most fantastic organisation and one I have always enjoyed. Their collection is simply staggering for a country gallery and something we as the local public are privileged to have on our doorstep. How lucky are we! Their travelling exhibitions have entertained and educated us for years and I am only thankful that it is so well supported by so many people. I am one of them. What a great organisation.
Thank you so much for your time James, what a legend!