// Content reproduced from stateoftheartgallery.com.au //
We caught up with UK artist James Green at his Paddington studio to chat about his work, what inspires him and the fascinating art process he uses whilst painting portraits of everyday passers-by.
Favourite material to work with?
If I had to choose one, it would have to be soft pastels. I love how they crumble and stick to wet paint below; adding another texture. Accidental marks make a piece much more unique, for me.
What themes do you pursue?
Since the age of about 10, I’ve been obsessed with portraiture – and even more so to this day. That’ll never change. I currently seem to be drawn towards female nudes, too.
How many years an artist?
Pretty much from day one! Given that none of my family are particularly arty, it was much to their surprise that I pursued an art career from the off.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
That, often, beneath the surface there are about five previous paintings I wasn’t happy with. I recall once covering up my favourite portrait because ‘it didn’t work’. On the plus side, I do find that interesting textures come through from previous layers – it’s just all part of the process and helps form the story of the piece.
Which living or dead artist would you most like to meet?
A living artist I’ve always wanted to meet is Anthony Lister and he recently invited me to his studio to sketch over a few beers which was cool. Dead, that would have to be Picasso. Having visited his museum in Barcelona a few years back, it was so interesting to see how he worked hard to move away from early realism to develop his own style. I used to spend up to a month creating realistic portraits but that felt more like maths than creativity – which is why I’ve worked at developing a looser style over the past few years.
Tell us about your studio. Location, clean, cluttered, big, small, etc?
My current studio is based in Paddington, Sydney. My working process can be quite hurried and erratic which means my studio can end up quite hectic during painting! I try to have a tidy up once a week (or month more like) to keep things in order.
Art school or self-taught?
Art school, however it was pretty independent and I can’t say I was actually taught much… It just gave me the time to paint, and teach myself mainly. Sharing a studio with like-minded people was a lot of fun and I found that so much can be drawn from someone else’s interpretation of the same subject.
Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?
Music every time. I usually listen to hip hop when chucking paint around.
I prefer ripping up t-shirts and using those as brushes.
Where can we find you outside of the studio?
In an English-style pub or on a nice long walk with the Mrs and Dizzee (the pup).
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Interests other than art?
I’m generally pretty interested in culture and how that can vary massively the second you cross a border. Whenever I go away, I always have a mini sketchbook in my pocket so that I can scribble any interesting sites/ideas down. My eyes are always pretty busy when I visit a new place!
What do you collect?
Nothing at all!
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
That only my opinion matters, as an artist.
Are there messages within your work?
Only that of personal conversation that pop into my head during the painting process which is why, sometimes, random words/statements appear on my works. They’re never planned and are just my way of illustrating that particular moment – which is important to me.
What does your art process entail?
I think my process is pretty unique…
I typically begin by sketching passers-by on the street – limiting the amount of time I have to capture my subjects to a matter of seconds. I then work inquisitively from these studies to form multiple representations of the original ‘sitter’; trying to capture the person and pose with reference to only a single line drawing, and memory alone.
I don’t have a lot of patience and paint with a hurriedness; which results in intentional accidental marks, and an unintentional product. I don’t actually want my portraits to look like the sitter. It’s about painting anyone in everyone, and everyone in anyone – creating the everyday person (plural) through every portrait.
With all mediums to hand prior to painting begins, I grab whichever tool (and colour) feels right at that specific moment – purposely blocking out methodic thought, personal conversation and personal debate so that the resulting interpretation is personal to that moment alone and entirely a one-off – only satisfied when the outcome could never be replicated by myself, or anyone else. I swear these things happen by accident!
What are your inspirations?
People, the decisions they make, and I also find money pretty interesting. It’s pretty baffling that people are willing to be overwhelmingly unhappy Monday to Friday just to make a few coins.
What materials couldn’t you live without?
Pencil (I drew for 5 hours with no break today!), oils, spray paint, charcoal and soft pastels.