Subsign Spotlight #004

with James Oconnell

We at Subsign want to contribute to the global creative community, thus the Subsign Spotlight initiative was born. We will bring you interviews and shine the light on a person (or collective) who has shown creativity and courage via their work.

This week we have an artist with a very unique and easy to identify style of work.

Subsign: Let’s get things rolling, Who are you and what do you do?

James: Hey! I’m James Oconnell and I’m from the sunny city of Manchester, UK. I’m a Dep Creative Director at Creative Spark during the day and by night I Illustrate under the moniker of Jamesp0p. My illustration styles based on simple Color and Lines, it’s my go to toolbox for making my ideas come to life with an added touch of personalism — my thumbprints!

Subsign: What was your childhood like? Do you think your experiences from childhood have influenced your present creative endeavors?

James: I won’t lie — I had a pretty awesome childhood. Most days I was out playing with my friends, causing havoc by climbing on buildings I shouldn’t and cycling far and beyond, which did end up scaring my parents! I grew up in a working class family with a dad who’s a carpenter and a mum who loved making home cooked meals — yum! I was amazed by my dad’s skill, if he had something in his mind he wanted to do — he’d do it — and it’d look amazing! I especially loved the way he always had a pencil behind his ear — which nine times out of ten went missing and somehow ended up in my hand. My dad’s been a huge influence to me on my journey, cementing a proper can-do attitude in me to not be afraid to share my ideas (how silly they may be) with the world. There was also the silly amount of computer games I was playing at the time and the Pogs I was collected, I think this is where my eclectic nature came from!

Subsign: Tell us about your creative process… What inspires you?

James: To be totally honest the majority of my ideas stem from references in my past, whether it’s a film, piece of music, experience or book I’ve read — all add to the melting pot. But above all, I think I’ve had some of my best ideas whilst sat on the loo, only problem is you can’t really action them whilst on it! Or can you. When it comes to laying down my Color and Lines I always start with the idea in mind and then use a reductive process to get the piece down to it’s fundamental minimum set of details. You’d say the ‘less is more’ motto sounds quite apt here but it’s a bit naff and old hat, I just think my process allows people to see things for what they are without any over-dressing. Currently I’m not allowed a pet due to my partner being massively allergic to animals, gutted as I’ve always wanted to get a chocolate Labrador! On the other hand though, I am surrounded by the likes of Kermit and Morrisey (my missus is a huge Morrisey fan… I’ll leave that with you to judge) — these cool dudes more than make up for zero pets!


Subsign: What motivated you in the beginning to become an artist and what keeps you going?

James: I’ve always been quite handy, ever since I used to make peg guns and sling-shots through to drawing on bus windows — the feeling of expression is also a sense of elation to me. Apart from my fear of sharks I’ve also got a fear of never being good enough at what I do — it’s a bit morbid but it keeps me crafting away and makes every time someone comments on my work feel all the much better.

Subsign: How would you describe the style of your work?

James: That’s easy — it’s a mixture of Color and Lines that cuts to the core of the subject matter with minimalist precision. Alternatively, it’s just a bunch of varied lines, dashes of color and my thumbprint added over the top so it’s super original. Although there has been some copycats already — but hey, everything’s post modernism anyway.

Subsign: Why did you choose it to represent you?

James: I hate overthinking things. There’s an essence in the simplicity of my approach that allows me to rapidly fire out ideas and animations otherwise I think my mind’ll explode! It’s also BS when a client asks to see a ton of ideas when if you actually spend the accumulated time of 3 ideas and funnel it into one killer idea — it’d knock them and their audience off their chairs.

Subsign: What is your favorite project you have done so far?

James: With a churn rate like mine I’ve had projects coming out of my ears and every time someone asks me this I always keep coming back to one. It was an awesome project with an even awesome (that’s not even a word!) independent street wear brand called Anyforty. Going from an admirer of the brand to whipping up some Color and Lines for it blew me away. I was given a pretty direct brief and I knew straight away what I wanted to do. My approach was based on the brief ‘Art is your weapon’ and with my weapon of choice being tats, I threw down an awesome Color and Lines sleeve for the back and a heart and arrow for the front. The design was super well received and I had tons of people grabbing the t-shirt! After the launch, Anyforty owner Alan Wardle, had some pin badges made too and they went down a storm!

Subsign: Who do you admire as a visionary artist ?

James: I admire no-one. Just kidding. There not so much as a person but more a group/studio called Vault49. Their works been consistently top-notch for as long as I can remember. On the other side of the Atlantic, it’d got to be the likes of I Love Dust and Shotopop — if these guys bags were on sale, they’d be closing every minute!

Subsign: If you had to pick what would you do: Shark diving, bungee jumping, or skydiving?

James: Shark diving all the way. I’m massively petrified of them! I’m in the middle of booking my honeymoon next year which is hopefully going to include a shark-cage dive — all or nothing! The fears become a bit subdued though with the help of Damian Hirst and his ‘Physical impossibility of death in the mind of some living’ piece. It was mind-blowing. To be able to view the beast up front and personal as it should be in the sea blew me away.

Damian Hirst “Physical impossibility of death in the mind of some living”

Subsign: What advice could you give to someone starting out in the creative field of work?

James: Only one piece of advice really, don’t be devastated when people don’t like what you do, in fact — let this be an indicator to create a shed load of work. This turns it into a commodity, something that you can sell to a company to make them distinct and stand out from the market. Remember to price wisely though — aim high, then come down.

Subsign: Can you recommend for our readers a book , a song and a movie?

James: For those of you who want words — give ‘The book of lost things’ a try; fiction feeds the mind. For those of you who want moving pictures — try ‘Buffalo66’. For those of you who want a flavor of sound I really recommend giving my latest playlist a go on Spotify: Color and Lines Sunglow Mixtape.

Subsign: Finally, What did you wanted to be as a grown up?

James: I never wanted to grow up! I even visited the Zoltar machine whilst in NYC a couple of years ago to stop it happening, but it didn’t work!

If you know a creative that should be in the spotlight feel free to contact us at .

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