To celebrate our March IPL campaign and doing things a little bit left of centre, we’re sitting down with talented mates in our community, known for thinking differently.
This week, we sat down with James Giddy, Perth-based visual artist who specialises in painting subjects in their natural surroundings; from people and Australian animals, to nature and vast landscapes. James completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Curtin University in 2016 and now paints many murals throughout rural Western Australia, as well as overseas. James is only 24-years-old and has found himself with a dense portfolio of commissioned works, a sixth solo exhibition underway and has recently begun teaching art classes to both children and high-school students.
How would you describe your style of art? Is it representative of yourself as an artist, or does it have a deeper, more symbolic meaning?
I would describe it as everyday things that I encounter and my surrounding environments. My whole body of work is very representative of the landscapes that I go to and work at, like in the wheat belt, for example. It’s very baron, so I’d say isolating subjects and their engagement with those spaces would describe my style of work. My work is also reflective of my environment and animals interaction within the space; but at the same time it’s largely ambiguous and open to other people interpretations in that context. There’s definitely some impressionist realism going on.
How did you first get into painting?
I’ve painted since I was a kid. My gramps retired from his job as a bank manager and took up painting, so I learned different painting techniques from him when we’d go over to South Africa and visit. We’d go out in little fields and do these epic watercolour paintings and [he’d] spend an hour on his, while my sister and I would spend about 15 minutes on ours. So just by growing up around him and not having the latest playstation, I didn’t have the option to waste time on video games.
Instead, I wasted time on painting…and I guess it’s not wasted now because little did I know I was preparing for my future. I think growing up around creativity also helped. My mum is a school teacher and speech therapist and was into her arts and crafts, so she’d make sure I only submitted my best work. I also went to some basic painting classes when I was about 8 and won the Cambridge Art Award back in the day, as well as the art award at school a couple of times. But when it came to choosing a career path and what to study, art unfortunately wasn’t an option and it was suggested I took a more academic pathway.
Luckily, I chose art anyway. It’s definitely more widely accepted today as a career choice, but we never had that when I was at school. It wasn’t cool to be good at art, but now everyone else works in commerce or accounting and so it feels pretty good to be doing what I love as a job.
Talk us through the different mediums you use. Do different mediums help convey different meanings for your art?
I use different mediums for different things. Watercolours or pens to sketch for my immediate environment and to create something quickly, and get a representation from something on the go. Then, if it’s something I want to be more timeless, I’ll use oils or water-base paint if I want it to go on a wall. But for the most part, I use different mediums because it keeps my work fresh. It’s like anything; if you drink the same beer for too long (except for Beerfarm) or cook the same dish, it gets repetitive. So I change it up quite regularly to keep it interesting and because it’s my job, it means I still love every element of painting and I feel that is something that’s pretty hard to maintain if your passion is also your full-time time job.
What inspires you to get creative?
Going for a walk or going to Bold Park, if I’m in the city. Getting out and about and going to the beach everyday. Surrounding yourself with fresh air and a nice environment always sets the tone for a more productive day.
What type of music do you like to listen to when working?
Anything that has a little groove or one of those songs that give you goosebumps. Heaps of different genres, but mostly just local music.
Do you have any projects that you’re especially proud of, or that we can look forward to in the near future?
I’m pretty stoked on this exhibition I’m working on at the moment. Since I’ve finished my uni degree four years ago, I have been refining how I do my figurative works, while still maintaining the same impact that people recognise in my mural works. I’ve finally hit a good point and I’m pretty excited about it. My 6th solo exhibition will be kicking off in September at Clever Street, because I know the guys who run it and can paint on their walls and not get in trouble.
Tell me about this painting that you’re working on today?
This is based on a photo that my friend took and has underlying tones of multiculturalism and harmony. There’s a few things going on. I’ve always wanted to paint a life-sized figure and this is one of the first paintings that’s come out alright. There’s still a lot more to work on, as I didn’t realise how hard the flesh would be to paint. You try something new and your faced with all these challenges, but you just have to persevere.
It’s cool to step out of your comfort zone as well, especially when you’re working on something so big. I’ve spent over three solid weeks on this one without going out, or anything. I lost track of the time and days. That’s when you know you love something, when you let it consume you a little bit.