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(Image: James Wilson)

Artist of the Week: James Wilson

James Wilson is a self-taught artist in Seattle.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?
James Wilson: I have been creating art for most of my life. It began as a child when my older sisters would discover that I would color superheroes of all sorts in their school library books then it grew from there. Fast forward to today, I've ditched the color crayons and work with, but I am not limited to, acrylic or oil paint on canvas.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Working from a pre-stretched canvas, I lay down a good foundation to prepare the canvas for the paint by applying gesso, always! I usually begin my process by studying a reference photograph to understand perspective and composition of the subject in the figure. Lighting is important on how I portray my figures in my work, so I find that it is important that I highlight and capture the best parts of the image. Most artists like working from dark to light when applying paint to capture the shades and tones of the subject. I go with whatever feels right at that moment. Never one completely before the other.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
I can find my inspiration from ultimately anything or anywhere. It can derive from the music that I listen to, photographs, and life experiences that drive me to want to capture a specific moment in time. Whatever it may be, there is always a story behind what I'm attempting to convey to my viewers within my artwork. Sometimes, it feels easier telling someone else's story than your own through works of a painting that sheds light on those other voices that can't be heard no other way other than through art.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
Music plays a vital role in the type of style and work that I like to create. These effects that derive from music on human emotions and behavior draws me to portraiture and human expression. Portraits allow you to capture someone at their finest moment, which is why I am so moved and enjoy this style. I am inspired by greats such as the late Michelangelo Di Lodovico Buonarroti or the Kehinde Wileys of the world and their contribution to not only to the art world but also to the style in which they worked with, photorealistic portraiture.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
There is no specific art piece that has more meaning than any other one. I love and enjoy each art piece as they come, the process and all. I've learned that the more that I continue to develop my artistic craft and evolve as an artist, my favorites change and the challenge to exceed any expectations that I've created for myself while creating new work gets bigger each time.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
One of my most memorable life experiences was traveling to Zambia for a month to learn and understand another culture. It was there where I learned to appreciate my life and those people who were a part of my journey. I was surrounded by high-spirited and happy individuals who had far less than me but were completely appreciative for the life that they had. Then, I realized that the Black experience of living in American had its own traumas from the general barriers within society and preconceptions from the media of Black masculinity being portrayed by aggression and violence. These vast social and economic inequalities that persist in a divided America helped me further an art series regarding re-identifying the Black presence.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
I am currently exhibiting my work at Frederick Holmes & Company Contemporary and Modern Art Gallery or, where you can find works from my current series, and you can also find me on Instagram at @Jamesleewilson3art.

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
I have several paintings that I am working on now for my "Calm in the Presence of Madness" series, which touches upon Black male masculinity and the preconceptions that follow from how it is portrayed in America, so there isn't just one specifically that I am more excited about working on than the other. I love and enjoy the process from each painting.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I'm a big fan of a dirty chai latte from Ghost Alley Espresso, or I'll take an iced white chocolate mocha with an extra shot from Dote Coffee.

About 'Artist of the Week': Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.