James Chapman is a UK-based doctor-turned-illustrator and children's author. While primarily focused on digital art, he sought a change of pace by exploring various artistic media. He discovered a positive response from online audiences when he started using Posca paint markers to create vivid physical artworks.
Exploring this medium has not only brought joy to @chapmangamo but has also nurtured his artistic growth. Each artwork becomes an experimental canvas for exploring composition and color theory, leading to the creation of distinctive and visually engaging pieces over time.
Hi James! We’re honoured to have you here. Let’s kickstart the interview with a quick self-introduction?
Hi! I'm so excited to be working with Mossery on this art kit as I'm a firm believer the world needs more artists in it, and it's a lot easier to start than you think. I've never been to art school, and have absolutely zero training, but practising a little every day is a great way to improve at anything, and now I'm here drawing colourful things with cute faces. My work online is often inspired by films, as that's one of my major passions in life, and I love to find new ways to visually show the feelings my favourite films gave me. And I'm very excited to share all the things I've learned in my journey into art with you all!
We noticed you have a PhD in Nanoscience, but now you’re an artist/illustrator/animation designer. What happened and what inspired the change?
I always wanted the work I did to have a positive impact on the world, and for a long time, I hoped that I could do that through science. My PhD was about making some very complicated new materials that had no real practical uses. They couldn't even survive contact with the air and only become useful at -267°C, so they weren't exactly world-changing discoveries. I'm sure they were slightly interesting on a theoretical level to maybe 6 scientists working in the same field of research but I didn't feel like my work was adding much to the world so I really wanted a change.
I spent most of my free time practising drawing, just making pictures I thought were funny to post on a blog. Then at a certain point, I started working on an art project called Soundimals, where I asked around to find what sounds animals made in different languages. I found so many new sounds I was never expecting and felt such a passion to share them with the world, and I chose to do that through art. I stayed up late every night drawing German pigs going "grunz grunz" and Hungarian frogs going "brekeke". The response to the work was so positive, and people were really enjoying the project in a way that I'd never felt through science. It was clear to me then that my passion was in creativity and spreading joy, so I left science behind when I graduated, and I've been professionally silly ever since.
Besides working on art digitally, your preference is acrylic paint markers. Is there a particular reason for this choice of medium?
I think paint markers are a really good middle ground between digital art and physical art. It's like having a real-life Undo button. A lot of physical art materials are very unforgiving, and if you make a mistake in watercolour, it can be very hard to fix. But paint markers provide colours that are so opaque that you can cover any mistakes as you go and no one would ever notice. I also love that I can have an idea and be drawing it seconds later. There's no set-up, no pot of water or mixing palette needed. I often draw on public transport or out at a cafe as all you need is a sketchbook and a few pens for the art to start happening.
How would you describe your artistic style and influences?
I would describe my art style as silly but sincere. I want to make people smile with my art, and ideally give a heartfelt message of hope as well. That doesn't mean I want to entirely avoid sad subjects, but I like to find the silver lining when I tackle them, which is a fun challenge. My artistic influences are mostly directors and cinematographers really, as it's through films that I learnt most of my compositional style. I really enjoy using the flat perspective and symmetry of Wes Anderson in my pictures, and I love borrowing colour inspiration from Dario Argento movies. I think there's a whole visual language in cinema that's been influenced by art, and I like the idea of putting that cinematic style back onto paper.
Are there any other artists or creators who inspire you in your work?
Yes! I've been so lucky to be part of a great community of artists in the UK and that's really given me endless inspiration, especially in my early years. Following artists you admire online is such a helpful thing when you're learning, as you can see how everyone solves a problem in a different way. Like how to draw eyes, hands, or hairstyles, and borrowing a little from all the people you admire. I was inspired a lot by the artist Scott Campbell, who brings a lot of joy to his art, in a way that I always aim to emulate. But on a personal level, artists like Clarice Tudor, Sarah Graley, Chris McCoy, Kirsten Shiel, and Alex Norris, they're all wonderful and inspiring, and I've stolen more from them than I'd like to admit.
Creating this Paint Marker Art Kit has been a crazy journey for both of us! We’re very grateful for your patience and perseverance. We would love to hear what are your thoughts while working on this Art Kit?
It was a new experience for me, as I've never had this much freedom in a project. It was a dream job to draw so many new pieces to demonstrate all the different techniques that are unique to paint pens. I'm so proud of how they all turned out and I hope it's a helpful set for new artists and experienced ones alike.
What would you tell someone who’s starting from scratch in a completely new art medium?
I regard my work as nature’s design and I am part of this big I would say that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, so don't be afraid to make a big mess when you're starting out. If the first picture we made was perfect there'd be no need to make another! Doing lots of smaller pictures is a great way to learn, and to get a lot of the initial mistakes out of your system so you can move onwards and upwards. Every painting is just practice for the next one, and we're never going to run out of things to paint.
Besides learning to create art with mixed media, how else do you hope our users can benefit from using the Paint Marker Art Kit?
I hope people can feel at ease and eager to fill their I think spending time being creative can be really beneficial for mental health, as it takes a lot of focus. Once you find an artistic process that you're comfortable with, it can become so relaxing and almost meditative to spend time doing it. It's a chance to stop using the thinking part of your brain and express yourself with the feeling part (my PhD was not in brain studies so that is probably not accurate science, but I feel it makes sense).
Could you share with us your sources of inspiration that might surprise us?
Inspirations for me usually come from new experiences or new places, so if I'm ever feeling uninspired I try to break out of the same daily patterns and go and draw in a different location. Like a new city, or on the bus, or a cafe full of people. My comfort zone is usually drawing at home, as I can be more in control of the process there, but if that begins to feel uninspiring I find the set I make can be more dynamic and surprising if I'm in a more energetic place and I have less time to think.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists or any pitfalls to avoid?
This sounds very cliché but "follow your heart." It's tempting to follow trends in art as they can often look like a shortcut to success, but I think it's much more important to create through love for the subject matter and love for the process. It always shines through in the final piece. If the latest trend is drawing frogs, you could probably gain a lot of support by drawing them endlessly. But if you're not driven by an extreme passion for frogs, the time you spend drawing the 1000th one might not be so enjoyable. If you draw what you love, and you fill the art with that love, when you share it with other people, they'll see that and fall in love with it too. Passion is very contagious.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with the Mossery community and those who appreciate your work?
I just want to say thank you to everyone who appreciates art online. There's a large community of artists (myself included) who are so touched by the support we receive from followers of our work. In the 1800s I'd have never been able to have a career as an artist, without all that classical training, but in today's world, I'm here today doing what I love all thanks to the support of people on the internet clicking the like button and sharing my work with their friends. What might feel like a meaningless click or a tap has meant so much to so many artists getting started online, so thank you!
Experience the vibrant world of James Chapman with the new Mossery × James Chapman Paint Marker Art Kit that’s going to melt your heart and put a smile to your face!
We hope you enjoy this curated art kit as much as we do and we look forward to seeing you all try a hand at recreating these breathtaking sceneries and adorable animals!