Meet This Month’s Guest Curator: James Roper
Each month we invite a creative from Behance to curate our social feed for a week. Our curator for July is James Roper, an artist based in Manchester whose work has been featured in group and solo shows in galleries around Europe. Here, James gives us a look into his philosophy as an artist, the process behind his intricate artwork, and the projects he selected for his moodboard.
James Roper is a multidisciplinary artist whose intricate paintings and digital collages straddle the boundary between abstract and figurative art. Hidden in their numerous layers are references to Baroque sculptures, psychedelic art, Jungian psychology, and science fiction. Although he works in a wide range of mediums ranging from oils and acrylics to pencil, digital, and installation, the underlying themes that unite James’ portfolio is “the psychology of seeing and the exploration of the unconscious mind.”
James’ creative talent started at a young age. He recollects spending his childhood in his bedroom copying images from comics books and cartoons he had on VHS. “I’m still doing something very similar now to be honest, except I replaced my bedroom for a studio!”
He went on to study fine art in university, but soon realized that his formal education left him inadequately prepared for the reality of being an artist. “My art school education only really focused on creating the artwork itself. It was great to have the freedom to create but learning how to truly make it as an artist in the real world, and all that entails, from dealing with your accounts to online promotion and selling to collectors or clients was barely discussed.”
What James didn’t learn in school, he picked up through trial and error. In his Behance project Artist Advice, he shares insights on the practices that have helped him become a successful artist, from networking without networking, working with galleries and collectors, to fixing poor posture.
“Being an artist is 99% hard work and 1% talent. That 1% may be the vital ingredient that catalyzes the other 99% but you certainly can’t rely on talent alone,” he advises. “It’s also 100% about luck too, but hard work will increase your chances of being lucky. For instance, I was incredibly lucky to have graduated just as Myspace was starting out, so as someone who found real life networking incredibly difficult I used that to my advantage to reach out to people all over the world.”
Building up an online presence through social media and Behance has helped James be discovered and further his career: “I’ve had most of my illustration work come as a result of my work being seen on Behance, but that only happens if they publish your work on the Featured pages where thousands of people will see it. Your work has to be of a high standard to get on there, so again, work at it.” (For tips on how to get featured, check out our blog post.)
One of his pieces of advice for artists is to use these platforms to look at as much art, illustration, and design as you can. “The ability to see more images in a day than most people would have seen in a lifetime, only a few decades ago, is quite unique for artists from my generation onward. This will help you see the standard of work out there and what level to aim for. It will also give you ideas you can adapt into your own work.”
James has always had an open mind to inspiration from all types of creative fields and visual styles, from Baroque art to science fiction, haute couture fashion, landscapes, and Japanese animation. “My visual style has come out of my attempt to intertwine and bring balance to the increasing number of elements that I’ve brought into my artwork over the years. Small ideas that I pick up from other artists can get fed back into the work very quickly and vice versa.”
One of the challenges he faced earlier in his career was balancing these diverse influences. “My Metanoia series embodies everything I’d been aiming to create since I started out as an artist. With that series I finally found a way to balance all of my influences that I’d often kept separate, combining the compositional elements of my paintings and digital work with the photorealism of my drawings.” The Metanoia paintings are also particularly personal for James as he painted these in a period of depression, and the emotional depth of his experience is reflected in the artwork.
James composes all of his 2D work on Photoshop first. Working digitally means he can experiment with the numerous layers and components, changing and distorting the colors, shapes, and formations. “This is the space where I allow my creativity to really come out so I enjoy that process, but it’s fairly daunting when things aren’t working. I’ve scrapped quite a few compositions over the years that never made it to the easel.”
Once the digital collage is finalized, he begins painting the final image, adjusting colors and blending the composition as he works. “When I’m painting I always know approximately what the finished piece will look like so the painting process is fairly methodical and not overly creative, but I enjoy the physicality of the painting process more than staring at a computer screen.”
For his Behance moodboard, James took a curatorial approach fit for an art gallery: “I’ve selected projects that I think would make up a great group exhibition based on the type of work that inspires my own. All the work has a sense of mystery and exploration, in movement, space, texture, flowing forms, detail and layering.”
“The fusion of computer generated imagery, fashion, art direction and make up here is stunning,” says James of THE NINTH, a collaborative project by Nikita and Maria Replyanski, Kirill Maksimchuk, and Nika Davydova. “I’m a big fan of Alexander McQueen and how he fused high art and haute couture fashion, and this whole project possesses that same originality and experimentation.”
“Laprisamata’s work has that great nostalgic feel of 60’s psychedelia but taken to a whole other level,” remarks James about the mind-bending illustrations of Spanish illustrator Luis Toledo Laprisamata. “They have a sort of fractal quality that keeps revealing new depths to the imagery the more you look.”
Some of the projects James discovered on Behance took him back to his childhood: “When I look at Eng’s work I’m immediately transported back to my early teens watching the science fiction films of Tarkovsky, Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott for the first time on late night TV. I would always struggle to stay awake, so Eng’s dream-like imagery feels very familiar to me.”