We interviewed James Knight, the artist behind our mural at 302 West 2nd in Vancouver. James has considerable experience creating realistic and moving portraits using mediums such as spray paint and watercolours, and is considered a leader in his field.
How did you get into art as an interest/career?
I don’t have a formal art background. However, being artistically inclined since I was young, it ultimately ended up manifesting itself in the graffiti subculture. I went to join some friends to go paint walls as a hobby, and as time passed, I began to push these artistic interests further. My very first influences would probably be friends of mine. Soon after, the internet exposed me to a number of prominent graffiti writers from around the world. As my interests evolved, artists from Rembrandt to Rockwell were catching my attention, mostly recently, I’ve been enjoying a lot of Sargent’s and Kanevsky’s work.
How do you inspire your work?
I just take notes on things that catch my eye aesthetically or conceptually, from film, music lyrics, literature to other genres of artwork, then I catalog it, and try to find an underlying thread within whatever i’ve been digesting to connect it to what I want to paint. Drawing from a variety of places, genres and then cataloging it is easier than ever with the internet.
What is your preferred medium?
This mural is a mix of house paint and spraypaint. I’ve been working with anything water-based in my work, spray paints, acrylics, watercolors etc. I’m always looking to incorporate other mediums which create new aesthetics and approaches to mark making. The one medium I haven’t spent much time with is oil paints, mainly due to the fact that with the longer drying times, it’s hard to incorporate it into my regular processes. I still don’t feel I’ve pushed the aesthetics I’ve been working with to their fullest potential, so I won’t be switching up mediums anytime soon. But always wanting to challenge myself, I can see one day wanting to spend time with oils. The versatility of it is alluring, from figures to landscapes and everything in between.
What is this mural about?
The mural contains a variety of portraits that range in sex, age and ethnicity, which can infer community within diversity. However, the portraiture has a degree of ambiguity, which I hope allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions.
Why a mural?
I have previous experience with exterior paintings from when I was first working with letter based graffiti. As I moved towards representational work, I’ve been wanting to produce some larger scale paintings in line with my current work. So when the Burrard Arts Foundation asked if I would be interested in creating a mural with them, I was really excited for the opportunity.
What do you want to bring to the art scene in Vancouver, or your future career?
I have interest in the Vancouver art scene as I live and work here, but I don’t know if I spend too much time thinking about it in that context. Especially in the digital age, access to information transcends geographical constraints. I want to bring to the Vancouver art scene what I would want to bring to an international scene. I’m trying to be well rounded, creating a variety in scale and subject matter. I want to push the aesthetics while exploring different concepts, which will hopefully create work that people haven’t seen before. In the upcoming months and years I’m wanting to encompass my previously mentioned intentions into larger bodies of work for gallery settings. To exhibit internationally, as well as locally. I am also looking to take those same principals of my fine art practice into larger exterior works.
Check out James’ completed mural, Shear, at 302 West 2nd Street!
James Knight & Alexandra Best