NoCo Studio Presents: Robert James

2011-05-06 20.52.06Throughout the month of May fans of art and music may find themselves intrigued to check out art from local artist, Robert James, at Fullerton’s newest addition to the Art Walk, NoCo Studios. Exhibited on the walls are pieces portraying iconic figures in music, but James also paints a mean guitar.

How long have you been painting guitars? How did you start?

The first guitar was probably in the 80's some time, but I didn’t really start getting creative with it until that Freddie Clagg guitar around 1993, I only know the answer to that question because I dated the back and noticed it when I hung it up that night. I would be interested in talking to anyone about a future project. I cant make any promises, but I like what I’m doing and I’m easy to work with when the project makes sense to me.

The styles of a few of your guitars are packed with detail, and they’re interesting to look at because they reveal more each time they’re looked at. Have you ever done work with murals, or do you follow artists who follow this medium? 

the detailed guitars were painted for specific individuals, friends of mine who gave me carte blanche, the designs are inspired by that player for that player

2011-05-06 20.49.30Is it hard to paint on a pick up? Is there a risk that the paint might change the response of the guitar?

Good question and I have asked the same thing, I’m not a musician and I certainly do not want to ruin the sound of these guitars, from what I understand  it does not affect the sound, some of the guitars  are meant for display only and will never be played, if that’s the case then many times I will paint the neck and head stock. I’ll just use the whole thing as a blank canvas, but I do like the idea of the guitars being playable though. It’s rewarding to see these things come to life on stage.

You use a lot of pencil work in your other pieces. Is this the medium you’re most comfortable with?

everything starts out as a drawing, sometimes it turns into a painting and sometimes not, but there is a comfort level there with a pencil and paper for sure

You draw many musicians who played huge roles in punk music like the Ramones and Black Flag, but you don’t stick with the genre strictly. Other pieces portray musicians like Tom Waits and Frank Sinatra. How do you choose which people to draw? Are these musicians people who’ve inspired you throughout life?

2011-05-06 20.52.35I think that Frank Zappa, Tom Waits and Frank Sintra are hardcore, maybe not punk rock but certainly hardcore. I’m a huge music fan, music is always around me, it inspires my art for sure. These musicians have given so much to me that I just try to honor them with a portrait. I try to do portraits of musicians you wont typically see illustrated, musicians that I think deserved to be illustrated. I included in the show a piece of Stiv Bators from The Dead Boys and The Lords of the New Church. Not everyone knows who he is, but more people should. He’s not with us anymore, so maybe sharing a painting of him will interest people in his legendary music.

What do you think about the music scene in Fullerton? Do you check out shows around here?

The music scene has always been strong in Fullerton especially when I was a teenager here in the 80's. Sadly, I don’t get out to shows much anymore, but I’m always open to new music. Young people have the best energy for making music, so I would be into working with young bands. Doing promotional flyers for shows and album covers was how i started and would be interested in doing that kind of thing again.

How often do you show your work, and how did you get the show on May 6th at NoCo Gallery?

The gentleman (Owner, T.J. Shepard)  that runs NoCo Studio visited my home, which is a practically a gallery all its own to my work, he liked what he saw and he invited me to share my stuff. I have not shown my work in a gallery for almost 20 years, but he encouraged me to give it another try. I’m a reclusive guy and the art scene is one I never felt comfortable in, but it felt right. The timing was right and the key word he used to influence me was the correct one. He said I needed to "share" this stuff, and that’s what I wanted to do. I hope people enjoyed it, even though it probably won’t be another 20 years before I do it again, but it’s not going to be any time soon.

If people are interested in your work can they contact you to commission a piece? How can they follow your work?

Although I’m kind of comfortable in the role of hermit artist, I am trying to come out of my shell more, so i would be open to trying to new things with new people. robertjamesart@gmail.com

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