Returning To Graphite
Interview of James McPartlin
News for June
Interview of James McPartlinArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
This article contains questionable material. This article is questionable because: female nudity
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James McPartlin is probably one of the last true romantics left in the world. A great artist, whose works depicts beauty and danger, fantasy and romance, he masters colored pencils and uses fellow artists as his beautiful models. Many models have expressed their admiration for what he has seen in them that they were never aware of. Having gone through some really harsh time himself has not stopped him from being very supportive of others, with a huge gold heart that is always willing to have some nice words for those that are in distress.
-- Are you self taught? Did you go to art school?
Yes, I'm self-taught, and no, I didn't go to art school. I did, however, go back to college to freshen up on my pencil and paint techniques as well as my anatomical knowledge, which had been letting me down with my figure work. I also had plans to achieve my masters degree in art but family considerations forced me to shelf that for a little while.
-- How important is art in your life?
Art is the most important thing in my life apart from my family and the people I love.
-- Are you a full time artist?
I'm not a full time artist, although I do produce the odd book cover and some commissioned work... most of which is mundane to me, but helps to buy me sugar for my coffee and a few good books to read.
-- Why do you choose colored pencils over all other media?
Ah now! This is in a way out of necessity! I travel constantly between Scotland and the south of England where I live. I need to do this because my mother is getting older and needs a bit more care from me these days... especially with the heavier duties around her house. I find that pencils and paper are a more convenient medium to travel with. I would love and I will get more into the oils and acrylics when I get the chance to sort this out... heh heh... not quite sure if my mother's heart can take the thought of oil paints being splashed across her house!
-- Do you have a favorite brand of pencils that you can recommend to growing pencil artists?
My favorite type of watercolor pencil is "Caran D'ache Prismalo I" but I also like the "Derwent watercolor". These are both great because you get the lovely sharp details of a pencil combined with some great watercolor effects when you add touches of water with a brush -- or you can wet the tips of the pencils to get a more vibrant color, which is great for highlights.
I also like to use lightly colored card or paper with these pencils. That way you can benefit from the white and lighter colors.
-- Do you have a special technique to achieve those rich uniform colors?
The sad thing is no matter how well you photograph your work, the real details and feeling never show on the computer screen, so I do add a touch of artificial contrast to brighten my works up a bit.
-- Have you ever finished a piece and noticed that you really did not like it right after you were done?
Oh my! All the time. I have at least a dozen that I want to go back and improve on.
-- Why do you choose to portrait fellow artists instead of models?
Another simple question to answer. It's all about inspiration. I need to feel a connection with the characters that I'm creating or it simply doesn't do it for me. I have tried using stock material but this just feels like working with cold stone! I love to portray creative people and models that I feel are vital and alive. I just love the challenge of trying to capture the intricacies of their personalities in my work! I remember a time when I asked an artist/model to pose a certain composition for me, and I sent her a stock photo ref of the pose that I would love her to do. So she then asked me, "Well, why don't you just use the stock model?" And I replied simply, "Well, she just isn't you!"
-- Do you have an image in mind and then you contact an artist that fits it or you get the photos from them and then you find the topic to your image?
Ha ha, yes, I do but after I dialogue with the artist usually the first idea goes right out the window to be replaced by a hopefully better idea. I strongly encourage artist collaboration in all my pieces. It is kind of interesting for them and more inspirational for me that way.
-- Many of your works include nudity. How do you approach a fellow artist to pose for you?
I am extremely careful about that and I am usually very sensitive to how I make my request. My main aim is to portray my inspirational model refs in a way that brings out who they are in an unusual and vibrant way. As for nudity, I would never just ask any artist to do a sensual or nude composition ref for me unless I was certain that they would be happy and comfortable with the idea first. I would probably do a bit of research to find out their views on this or if they had done some sensual work in the past first, and even then I would not presume a positive reaction. After all, I am to all intents and purposes a relative stranger to these girls and not a renowned professional... it really is all about trust and respect and I am amazed and humbled at the reaction I have so far received.
-- I have heard more than once from an artist that you have portrayed that they were amazed about how you perceive them. How do you find the beauty and character in each artist? Do you believe that there is something beautiful in each person?
I'm glad you asked me this. A superb artist I know (Emily Veinglory) sent me some amazing photo shots some months ago. I created one piece called "Shades" from these but I intend to produce a whole batch of artworks from the rest of her pics; the strength, beauty and character in this woman's images just simply blew me away. I think that it was one of those rare moments that you see an image that matches exactly the idea in your head!
As for seeing beauty in everything, I'm not so sure. I've known physically handsome people whose souls are as ugly as sin and I've known unremarkable folks who can give you that certain eye glint that makes you want to take them back onto the dance floor time and time again... those are the people I want to paint!
-- Lately, your art is a mix of beauty, darkness and danger, except for few pieces. Do you feel that what you have gone through in life affects what you express?
A lot of the work that I've done so far is along the lines of collaboration material, although I do have plans to create some more personal pieces dealing with my own personal experiences... of course I don't want to get too heavy preferring to stick to a slight fantasy type genre!
-- Many times you seek to provoke discussions in the artistic community that are very mind provoking, and then you sit back and watch them unravel. How is it important to you to open the grounds for a certain topic?
I am, I would like to think, a classical artist. I think it is important to know if I'm going in the right direction. Whether I agree with it or not I have absolutely no intention of being self obsessed or falling into a destructive artistic hole... A few of the last century's artists suffered for their art -- in other words, became unpopular at the time because their work was being criticized by the public for being too far out.
On that note, I like to get a feeling on what moves people -- what motivates them and what disturbs them in life. By provoking discussion I get to know a bit of this as well as the speaker. It kinda throws up a lot of ideas into the air as well!
And most importantly, I get to meet some lovely, interesting people in the process.
-- You seem to be in love with love. Why is love so important for you and who is the greatest love in your life?
I think that love is the most precious gift that we possess. It really does not matter what God you follow; it shifts between cultures and religions like air!
I am and have always been in love with a woman that I've never brought to the table. Although I keep her anonymous she influences most every thing I do in life. She is my soul mate, my lover and my best friendů she is my perfect inspiration.
-- Likewise, you seem to be in love with women as an ideal. How is your ideal woman?
Without women my existence would be meaningless. Women have influenced every aspect of my life. Most of my historical heroes are women; nearly all of my favorite authors are women! Heh, I think Julie Bell can knock spots off Vallejo most of the time! I think that what gives women the edge in most creative media is their humanity! When Superman with his super powers saves the world it's marvelous. When little miss grey gets battered to a pulp but endures through sheer will power and manages to save the world with a hairgrip now that's BLOODY marvelous! I loved the movie Death Wish when it came out in the 70's, but Jodie Foster just blew the lid off the vigilante genre when she starred in the 2007 hit The Brave One. Her femininity and humanity added something powerful and relevant to most human beings!
Heh, heh, as for my ideal woman! Well I guess that a woman that doesn't give a rat's kiss whether the toilet seat is left up or down is pretty ok with me.
-- How does music inspire or affect your artwork?
Yeah, I'm a massive fan of good music. My love ranges from Okeh soul to the classical piano stuff of Rachmaninoff... In between are heavy doses of rock and crying in the rain country ballads. And I've got space on my boat for the arctic monkeys and green street and any other band that hits me right!
-- What made you decide to start living again and rebuild yourself? How hard was to take that step?
Dead simple really! When my young daughter saw me as a bum on the street! Even through my drunk-sodden mind I felt the shame. Before this I thought that what she did not know wouldn't hurt her..! The little girl asking her Mommy "who is the funny smelling man" did it for me! After that day I started the hard road back! It was not a fairytale thing and I have nightmares about it till this day. Hospital commitments and breakouts ending up in gutters of towns I just can't recall... I nearly died twice but the Angel who was looking after me was having none of my s*** and eventually I got sober!
-- How did you reconnect with your daughter after you became sober? Are you good friends now?
Yeah we are the best of buddies now and I'm so proud of her. She is back at Uni now after spending her gap year in Thailand teaching English language.
Like a lot of clever alcoholics I managed to hide my problem from her and my family for some years. Even when I ended up on the street I was too proud to tell or ask anyone, including my family, for help. I had managed to devise an elaborate set of circumstances that led most people to believe that I was living quite comfortably! That all came crashing down though when quite by chance my ex partner and my little daughter spotted me sitting and drinking with the rest of the hobos in a public park! The shock for them and me was devastating and profound! Obviously I could not drag my ex and my beautiful little girl into my deceit, after that day I had no choice but to seek help for my addiction and pull myself out of the gutter and back into the real world.
It took me nearly two years of ups and downs and a lot of pain to get my life in order and eventually chain my addiction. You cannot cure alcoholism, you can only learn to control it! These days I pretty much never drink alcohol, although I have had the odd small relapse but nothing on a grand scale. I have far too much to lose in my life now to let the past be repeated.
If I had one piece of advice to give to anyone suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction it is this: seek help! It is almost impossible to beat the demon on your own. Do not let pride or guilt or even disillusionment continue to drag you down into a life of despair and hopelessness, and no matter how strong the addiction is or how rough the road to recovery may be... that little light of hope at the end of the tunnel never ever goes out!
James through the eyes of other artists:
Chris Griffin: He's one of those guys I can easily say is quite a tender soul... a real romantic at heart. Nice, to the very tips of his toes. [When he portrayed me] I didn't do much, by way of posing, except send him a few rather poor photos! So he really didn't have much with which to work. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, James does. A true eccentric. An old soul. Sometimes I feel he would've fit better in a time when chivalry wasn't near-dead, and men wore jackets and gloves, as a matter of course! (Keep on marching, James!)
Elin Josefsson: James is so good at portraying emotions, and at showing the beauty that lies within all women. He can paint all kinds of people, and always show what is beautiful with them, while still keeping them real looking.
Rita Ria: I saw James' artwork first time at another online gallery many years ago, at Epilogue. And I already loved his work there and was so amazed and pleased when he asked me to model for him for a portrait. Now we wrote emails back and forth and I got to know him a bit better.
James is not only a most awesome artist, who seems to become better and better with each new work, but also a great person and friend. Whenever I need advice or just want to talk about some artwork, he is here to listen and to share his knowledge! He is encouraging, helping and having great ideas! I call myself just lucky to call him my friend.
A very special point of his work is that he uses very normal people/women as models and always turns them into something mystical and enchanting. I love all the portraits he did of me or my kids. He turned us into magical creatures and wonderful beings.
He tells at his homepage: "My aim.....hopefully, taking the ordinary and making it a bit...extraordinary!" and I think he just succeeds 100 %!
I have some originals from him hanging in my home, and WHENEVER I see them (which it is several times a day) I have a look at them. So often, I also have another look, closely and still am amazed about his strokes and still in love with his work. I guess all of us know that feeling, when you look too often to a picture, one day you want to change it and see something new. This never happened with his work, and one painting I have already for 4 years (called Romeo and Juliet, painted as a fennec and a wolf).
I am happy that Coty asked me for some words about him, because now I can say: James, you are a great artist and thank you for being a wonderful friend!
Inge Vandormael: James' art truly takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. His passion for fantasy art and mythology is easy to recognize when looking at his art. He creates magnificent portraits of fellow artists. While doing so he is able to make the soul of the portrayed shine through, and that is a talent that is extraordinary and highly admirable.
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