An Interview with James Bullough for group exhibition ‘GUMBO’

Jame Bullough piece for Gumbo

A short but sweet interview with James Bullough for his upcoming show ‘GUMBO’ at Thinkspace Gallery. ‘GUMBO’ will be featuring new pieces from seven Thinkspace artists who all bring a different style, voice, and flavor to their art. GUMBO opens Saturday April 25th from 6-9pm, and will be on view till May 16th. 

SH: What artist in the upcoming ‘Gumbo’ show would you want to collaborate with and why?
JB: I absolutely love Ryan Hewett’s work. I first saw one of his pieces in Berlin at the Thinkspace curated LAX/TXL show at Urban Nation and was immediately captivated by it. Being a realist painter myself I have always admired painters with a looser, more intuitive approach like Ryan’s. Besides the obvious connection of portraiture in each of our own works it is hard to find many other similarities. This vast contrast in styles and approach is extremely interesting to me and could result in something really special. I also feel like I could learn a lot from watching him work and sharing ideas.

Troy Coulterman would also be a nice collaboration combo. What’s really interesting about him is that when I first came across his work last year in Miami at the Aqua art fare I realized that he and I have actually already done some work that is eerily similar. He has these amazing hand sculptures that are cut up and glitched out similar to what I do in my work. It would be awesome to push this even further and see what we could come up with together. I’ve also always wanted to try and paint onto a 3D object, such as a glitched out hand, and see how realistic I could get it to look. …hmmm, actually this collaboration is starting to sound pretty good. I might have to make a phone call to Troy.

SH: When do you get the most work done; morning, noon, or night?
JB: I’m all over the place. I haven’t had internet in my studio for a little over a year now which I find really cuts down on distractions and ups my productivity a lot, but what that also means is that I have to do all of my administrative work in the mornings before I head off to the studio for the day so my mornings are pretty productive but not with anything fun. Once I get into the studio around lunch time and turn my creative brain on I tend to work straight through for 6 or 7 hours with very few breaks. Leading up to a show can sometimes get crazy with more like 10 or 12 hour studio sessions or longer.

SH: In three words, describe your artwork.
JB: I only need two… ‘Shifted Realism’

SH: How long does it take you to finish a piece? What is your processes?
JB: I tend to take a day or two just for the planning and prepping for a new painting. I start by picking a surface from my stockpile of old wood and metal in my studio, or if I’m working on canvas I’ll determine the size and build it out. The size, shape, and material of the surface helps determine what I will paint. I’m extremely picky about selecting just the right image and experimenting with different ways to break it up and alter it. There’s always hours and hours of unsuccessful experiments before I land on something good. Once the image is all set I try to do a quick underpainting in one day, covering the entire piece depending on the size. From there I can start working on the fun part of adding detailed layers of oil paint over the underpainting. Two layers seems to be working for me at the moment but sometimes it can take a couple more to get it just right. All in, I guess it takes about a week or a week and a half per painting
Ironically when it comes to painting murals, I can paint a 20×50 foot wall with spray cans in about half the time it takes me to do a 20×20 inch oil painting in the studio. Go figure.

james bullough piece 2 for gumbo

SH: Do you remember the first time you showed your work to the public? Where was it?
JB: About seven years ago just for fun I started making paintings in my basement in the evenings after my day job as a middle school teacher in Baltimore. Two years later I met a guy in a bar who had a gallery in Brooklyn and he asked to see some of my work. I showed him some stuff on my phone and he invited me to be part of a showcase at his gallery with about ten other artists. I showed 7 or 8 pieces in that show, two of which were good and the rest were terrible but the experience was amazing. It was just the spark I needed in my life and in less than one year from that opening night I had quit my job of nearly a decade, sold my house and all my possessions, and moved to Berlin to paint full time. Second best decision I’ve made in my life so far.

SH: Do you have any wise words for a fledgling artist who admires your work?
JB: Yeah, listen to my radio show! Every other week I interview a different artist or gallerist for an hour and get the whole story about how and why they came to do what they do. There’s no single formula to success, especially in the art game so hearing all the different approaches and journeys that different artists take is extremely helpful and inspirational. Not to mention it’s basically the best thing you can listen to in your studio while you’re working on your own work. And I hear the host is pretty good too… just sayin.

The show is called VantagePoint. You can listen to or download any of the shows from the past year and a half on our website www.VantagePointRadio.com or subscribe to it on iTunes and thank me later.

SH: Bonus question: Speaking of gumbo, have you ever been to New Orleans? If so, tell us a tale! If not, tell us another tale.
JB: Nope I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I’ve got a Creole uncle who makes a mean Gumbo every thanksgiving. Shouts to big Willie!

gumbo postcard

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