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I've had several requests lately from people working on school art projects. Please feel free to reproduce anything on this page, as long as it's for a school art project. I'd also be grateful if you'd let me know you're doing a project on my work and am happy to answer questions if you need to know anything. You can contact me by e-mail and I'll do my best to help.

Thanks,

Adrian.


Notes for School Art Projects

Background

I'm 37, and have been a full-time artist since November 1994. I was born in Pembrokeshire, and apart from five years at college or working away, have always lived here.

I've enjoyed painting and drawing for as long as I can remember, there was always plenty of encouragement from my parents and I'm not the only artist in the family. I did enjoy art in school but dropped the subject before reaching my O levels, partly because of timetable problems and partly because we weren't always drawing things I enjoyed.

I did study Engineering Drawing at O level and this did improve my artwork, making me much more precise and encouraging me to pay attention to detail. I also learned how to sharpen a pencil properly, with sandpaper.

On leaving school I went to college in Llanelli, then Wolverhampton, to study computer science. This was challenging and very enjoyable, I was Department Student of the Year in Llanelli, but I still sketched at every opportunity. Unfortunately, after getting good grades at Llanelli, I didn't finish the course at Wolverhampton.

My first proper job was as a costing clerk and programmer at a plastic bag factory in Port Talbot. It was here that I first saw my art in print, a Christmas snowman on a hundred thousand festive carrier bags.

Between computer contracts, I took a job as a carer in a nursing home and found I enjoyed the work so much I stayed there for nearly 4 years. Luckily the shift pattern allowed several days off every week and I began to develop my watercolours. These began to sell and I saw a possibility of making a living from my art. I worked up the courage to paint full-time in November 1994.

The Art Business

To begin with, I worked from the spare room at home. Eventually, the business outgrew this small room and I now have a studio at the Maritime Park in Pembroke Dock. This gives me space to hang my work and also allows me to run watercolour classes.

Initially, most of my sales were of original watercolours, some as commissions. I also did a variety of work including calligraphy, sign-writing and cartoons. As the business built, the emphasis moved to limited-edition prints which sold through gift shops across much of South Wales. These shops also gave me the opportunity to do public painting demonstrations. I've also spent time in several local schools working on art projects.

Recently, I've been concentrating on original sales again, and developing my portrait and Celtic work. For portraits, I work mostly in pastel. I'm not ready to sell these portraits yet but feel my work is improving and will soon be of commercial quality. Celtic work is usually produced in pen and wash, and some of this has been produced in print. I've also been working on some fantasy art and hope to do more of this.

My time in college has not been wasted. I use the computer in most areas of my business. I have also built and maintain this website.

As for the future, I hope to develop the range of prints, landscapes as well as other subjects. The art classes are also developing well and I plan to run more of these. There is also the possibility of running painting holidays. Being an artist means spending a great deal of time working alone and teaching art gives the chance to work in company. It's a lot of fun.

My Artwork

Much of my work is for commissions, where a customer will ask me to paint something specifically for them, such as their house or favourite place. Many works are also produced at the request of galleries or shops so I can't always paint what I choose. This does keep me versatile though, and brings variety to the job. My favourite work, the subjects I enjoy most, are usually dreamy places with real mood to them. The two paintings shown here are my real favourites. Both sold long ago but I have had them printed at full size so still have them hanging on the wall here. These are more studies than landscape paintings, I've come in close to the subject. I also find that for subjects like this I prefer to work in portrait format with the painting taller than it is wide. Usual landscape format has the painting wider than tall and I feel that portrait format allows a much better balance of foreground and background. My work is usually quite detailed but mood is far more important. A painting will work without detail but never without mood.

More of my personal favourites can be seen in the archive section of my website.

 

Ebb and Flow

 

These rock pools at Saint Govanís in South Pembrokeshire can only be reached at low tide by climbing through a crevice in the rocks. I did use a little artistic license on this painting, enhancing the colours and posing the waves. I almost got cut off by the tide on this occasion, balancing on one of the boulders in the water to get the best view.

© Adrian James 1997

Frame size 16 by 20 inches
Painting size 11 by 15 inches

 

It was the idea of the chapel looking out over an endless sea that appealed to me here. I deliberately made the horizon hazy and indistinct to enhance the sense of distance. This was also an interesting painting because of the perspective, looking down from the top of the cliff. Painting the cliffs in deep shadow allowed me to place the chapel in bright sunshine with strong contrast against the background.

This is one of those paintings that I really didn't want to sell. However, after we'd received the fourth offer for it within a few hours, my agent reminded me that we were in the business of selling paintings. At least I know it's gone to a good home.

© Adrian James 1999

Frame size 16 by 20 inches
Painting size 11 by 15 inches

 

A Roof and a Hard Place

 

I generally start a painting with a lot of water, even soaking the paper with clean water before adding paint. I find the soft edges and gentle tones produced this way very pleasing. As the painting progresses I work with less water. Watercolour is also quite a disciplined medium, as the paint is transparent. This means I have to work from light to dark, as the lighter colours are unable to cover darker paint underneath. The painting must be planned before any paint touches the paper. Sketching is also important as it allows an artist to explore a subject and become familiar with it before starting the painting. Some of my techniques can be seen in the Classes section.

Pencil sketches also make us think in terms of light and dark instead of colour. It is easy to become sidetracked with colour but tonal values of light and dark are far more important for a good painting. I have sometimes painted with just one colour, such as sepia, for castle paintings. However, the camera is too useful a tool, and I work from photographs on most paintings.

These favourite subjects are also my favourite places of course. My usual haunts are Saint Govan's and the Green Bridge, my favourite beach Barafundle, all in South Pembrokeshire. The job has allowed me to venture further afield and I love the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia. I've also spent time in the Lake District and a friend and I walked most of the length of Hadrian's Wall.

Future trips are planned as soon as time and money allow.




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