Residing in Guernsey with his lovely wife, Ingrid, and their son Heron, James has carried his childhood love for the sea into his adult life. His profound passion for the ocean continues to shape his artistic endeavors. James’s goal is to magnify the essence of his sea experiences, stir emotions tied to the environment, and foster a profound connection with the world that surrounds us
During our conversation, we inquired with James about the inspirations behind his focus on capturing Guernsey scenes. We also discussed how he manages the delicate balance between his work and family commitments, as well as his favorite culinary spots on the island.
It has been 25 years since you began your journey in graphic design and advertising. Can you recall the moment when you realized that this was the path you wanted to pursue?
I literally “fell” into a career as a graphic designer! I was on the verge of completing an illustration degree at Falmouth College of Arts when I broke my arm falling off a skateboard. Since my arm didn’t heal properly and required an operation, and with my painting arm out of action, I began knocking on the doors of local advertising agencies in search of work.
Wallace Barnaby, an agency, took me on, trained me up, and I truly appreciate the opportunity they gave me. I’ve worked in many companies, including starting up my own web design agency with friends and I found I loved this creative profession.
Last year, you transitioned to becoming a full-time artist. What initially inspired you to focus on capturing Guernsey scenes in your artwork?
I was working as a Creative Director and enjoying being part of a team, but my art commissions were gaining momentum as well. I found myself doing all my artwork late into the night after my son had gone to bed. The volume of art reached a point where I thought, if I didn’t try to follow my dream and go full time now, I never would.
How do you go about selecting the scenes or landscapes to feature in your artwork?
It’s all about feeling, really, and how I connect with a place. When I find these spots, it’s good to visit at different times of the day and in varying weather conditions. If it’s for an art commission, I try to learn why the person loves that spot so much. There is usually a story that goes with it, and I love trying to portray that somehow.
What artistic techniques or mediums do you find most effective in capturing the essence of Guernsey scenes?
I love the immediacy of sketching and watercolours on location for composition, but my final pieces are done in oils. I thoroughly enjoy the oil painting process, and the power of colour in this medium is truly amazing.
Are there specific challenges or joys associated with transforming these scenes into fine art prints?
It’s important to me to get the fine art print as close to the real thing as possible. I photograph and capture every fine detail of the painting. Then comes the colour matching, which has to be precise. Here’s where my background as a Graphic Designer certainly helps, as my production skills really assist in getting the final art print spot on.
How do you see the field of graphic design changing in the next few years?
Obviously, AI is the major disrupter here, which makes it hard to predict. So far, I can only see tools that actually help the designer rather than take jobs away. Every business is on a mission that a designer can help bring to life. I believe that in the age of automation and homogenisation, it is the companies with personality and the ability to add depth to the brand that will succeed. That’s where a good designer excels.
How do you manage the balance between being a husband, father, and pursuing your career?
I’m mindful of getting the balance perfect, especially as my wife Ingrid has her own business too at Chateau Bee Selection. Plus, I help her out with that. Being both self-employed gives us the flexibility to pick up our son from school, spend more time with him in the summer holidays, etc. On the flip side, we have to get the work done around that, and it’s a 24/7 mission! Overall, I’m grateful for the flexibility of time that comes with being self-employed.
Are there any family projects or collaborations that you enjoy working on together?
As I mentioned, Ingrid and I work together on Chateau Bee, which is a very cool project. Essentially, it’s like Airbnb for wedding venues in France. It’s Ingrid’s concept, and it’s amazing what she has achieved to turn it into a successful business. It’s also really fun visiting these amazing Chateaux and stately homes all around France.
We’re also big foodies, which ties in nicely with our travels. With our 6 year old son Heron, he is a prolific artist too and I love painting with him. I love the way kids just get stuck in with the art, enjoy the process and don’t worry about the outcome.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Days vary quite a bit depending on commissions vs personal work, but I usually walk my son Heron to school, which helps me clear my mind for work. Then, I try to do a few hours of art before delving into emails and admin.
After a spot of lunch, I dedicate a bit more time to work before the school pick-up. I typically pause my work then to spend time with my son and resume my art around 7 pm in the evening.
To be honest, I’m a bit of a night owl and am most productive during that time, perhaps stemming from past habits of being a daytime designer and a nighttime artist. I try and squeeze in exercise around this too and jump in the sea at Saints Bay year round, weather and tides allowing.
As a foodie, which cuisine or dish do you find most enjoyable? Additionally, could you kindly recommend any must-try dishes from Guernsey?
Ah food! I love Mexican cuisine but we recently came back from Japan where the food blew my mind! In Guernsey we love the sushi at Fukku for a quick bite or if I really want to treat myself I love the Spicy bouillabaisse crab hot pot from Octopus… you’ll get so messy they offer you a bib!
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects related to your Guernsey-inspired art?
I have an exhibition in mid April with Art for Guernsey in Mill St in conjunction with a Turner exhibition showcasing his time and sketchbooks on Guernsey and the Bailiwick.
I also have 2 large scale public murals I will be doing the first half of this year but they are top secret so I can’t tell you any more at this stage!
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To find out more about James Colmer and his art, please visit his website JamesColmer.com , where you can also sign up for his newsletter. Don’t forget to follow @jamescolmerart on Instagram and Facebook.