Question The Artist: James Flames

Last week's edition of the Dallas Observer was gloriously illustrated by poster artist/illustrator James Flames, one of the many fantastic artists exhibiting at Flatstock 29 back in March at SXSW in our fair state's capital (of which you can still view the images we captured here and here).

Not only were very fortunate to have Mr. Flames wave his magic wand over our blank page, we asked him some questions, as we did the previous week for our friends at Bee Things for our Question The Artist feature. James also took the time to personally blog about the making of this piece, complete with step-by-step progress photos, documenting his journey from inception to final. Check out both our Q/A and the link to his process after the jump!

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Tell us a little about yourself; when/how did you begin doing what you do today and where do you reign from?
I'm an illustrator and screen printer, and I've been living and working here in Asheville, NC for the past 4 years. I'm originally from Brooklyn, and I've been drawing since I was old enough to sit upright (literally), so I've had a lot of practice. I guess it all started with drawing comic books as a kid, and that evolved to making posters for my own bands as I got older, to eventually making posters for other bands. I guess I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I went through many careers before I finally took the plunge -- I was a travel agent, I made prosthetic legs, I ran a coffee shop. So weird to think back on that all. It's been very interesting, but through it all, I always drew, and I'm glad I never gave up on it.

Within your body of work, what would you consider to be your specialty? What are some things as an artist you wish to do more of?
It's hard to pinpoint a "specialty" of mine, because I like to switch things up -- style, technique, mood, etc. -- as often as possible. I like drawing gnarly skulls and freak-out scenes, but I also like drawing more serene scenes with a tinge of mystery. But if I had to narrow it down, I feel

that my brush drawings would be considered a specialty in terms of technique. And for the content itself, I like to make my drawings seem like a still frame from the middle of a longer scene or action -- so the viewer's imagination can fill in the story of what happened before and after that particular part occurred. I think that's a pretty common theme in my work.

In the time you've been illustrating, have there been any major obstacles to overcome in the evolution of your work? Have there been challenges that were NOT anticipated?
I think the main obstacle is time. I just don't like to rush anything at all in my life, and that includes my art. Though, I don't like to draw things out either -- I hate procrastinating. In a perfect world, I would be able to slowly let a piece evolve on it's own time frame -- some need a lot of time to reach their full potential, but some work best in their immediacy. I'd love to just let it be what it needs to be with no regard for the time. The reality is that everything needs to be done yesterday, so lots of times I'm not afforded the extra time on some pieces. So I've worked really hard the past few years to be better at working fast, but with the same quality and thoughtfulness. It's not easy, because I also need a certain amount of time to beat myself up over a piece before I deem it good, haha. It all comes down to practice and working all the time - never settling for less, and when all else fails, staying up all night to make it right.

Who can you credit as a major artistic influence(s) to your style/kind of work?
So many! The genesis of all my artwork is from comic books, so all my heroes from that genre are pretty much the basis of everything: John Romita, Alex Toth, Barry Windsor Smith, Gene Colan, Mike Allred, and lately Darwyn Cooke. After that, it's just a mish-mosh of lots of people in different fields -- Kubrick, Schiele, Robert Frank, Warhol, Blue Note album covers, James

Jean, punk rock fliers, and stuff like that. But there's a huge influence from my fellow contemporary poster artists -- I mean a HUGE influence. I'm humbled by so many of these great artists like Ken Taylor, Drew Millward, Ron Liberti, the Youngmonster crew, Todd Slater, Rich Kelly, LandLand, Strawberryluna, Tanxxx -- and many more that I could go on forever, and each one of them has such an impact of me in terms of inspiration, motivation or just admiration. This is a great time for posters.

What are some "non-artistic" sources of inspiration for you, if any?
See previous answer.

Are there any new/exciting big projects on the horizon for yourself?
Yeah, LOTS of very cool things. Most of which I can't specifically mention just yet -- but there are a couple of video-game related things in the works, which I'm super psyched about. There's an album cover I completed recently for a UK band featuring a legendary guitar player -- I'm so proud of this one. I think it's very close to being released, can't wait. There are some upcoming gallery shows that I'll be a part of this summer along with some of my favorite artists (some that I mentioned before). Also T-shirts! I'm finally making some T-shirts of my own -- I've been designing T-shirts for bands and stuff like that for awhile, but I've never done my own. Very psyched about that. And of course I have some new posters in the works too. One day I'll take the day off and relax, haha.

Lastly, is there a "dream" client/project that you wish to get your hands on someday?
Hmmm, good question. When I think about the future, I seem to always think about it in a global sense. For instance, I think eventually I'd like to travel around and make my art in different places around the world - reacting to the different cultures and situations, and putting it through whatever filter my brain is in at the time. Sort of like what Stefan Sagmeister does, but maybe with more of an illustration or printing focus. That would be awesome. Otherwise, a dream client.... I'd love to do some work for Marvel, that would be dope. And it'd be a cool way to bring everything full circle. I think the beauty of it all, though, is that I have no idea what the future holds -- but it's gonna be awesome, for sure.


Thanks to Mr. Flames for all his talent and enthusiasm. Check out all of James' process shots on his personal blog here!

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