JAMES - I was recently interviewed for UK magazine Rock Sound, for their "Design Devils" feature. The issue just came out overseas and should be available here in the States in a couple of weeks (I'll keep you posted). I continue to get much love from the UK - it's pretty awesome.
If you're in Europe, it's issue #137 with the Gaslight Anthem on the cover - check it out! Here's a transcript of the interview:
India ink is a religion, and James Flames is its prophet. ROCK SOUND meets the North Carolina-based poster artist to discuss DIY printmaking, bad-ass skulls and his search for the Holy Grail: one perfect hand-drawn line.
How did you initially get interested in art as a career choice? “My mother is a painter, my father’s a musician, all my brothers and my sister have some kind of artistic ability. Art was always in the house – we didn’t watch TV, we sat at the table and we drew. So art’s just kind of an instinct for me. I’ve had many different professions over my life – none of them art related, mostly corporate stuff in New York City. Five years ago, I decided to make a go of this for real. It took a long time to take it from this natural thing that I do all the time, and always did without thinking, to understanding that I can actually make my living doing it. It’s funny, but that was a really weird decision – it wasn’t as much of a no-brainer as you would think.”
How comfortable are you putting your name and artwork to a band you don’t like musically? “Well, I think I have a pretty wide-ranging taste in music, so even if a band isn’t my total favorite in the world, I can generally find something about them that I can relate to. And that’s what music is all about, isn't it? Relating. But on the whole, I am fortunate that I mostly get to work with bands that I really, truly like.”
What effect, if any, has technology had on your working process? “About a year and a half ago, I was kinda having this conflict where I was having trouble seeing anything that wasn't completely hand-drawn as being ‘authentic.’ And I now realize how ridiculous that is, but for some reason I saw the computer as some kind of cheat. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be used all the time, but it is certainly something that can make my artwork better. Otherwise, it’s the same as me saying that a pencil isn’t authentic, that a pencil is like cheating – I should just use a piece of charred wood to draw with. There are a lot of advancements that make our lives easier, and it took awhile for me to come to terms with the fact that the computer is actually a very valuable tool.”
What elements are necessary for a truly striking design? “It all pertains to who you’re drawing for, what you’re drawing for, and all that kinda stuff. But you can never go wrong with a cool skull and a big swath of red! Red always does the trick.”
Your blog often contains a high level of detail about your projects and working process. Is instruction important as a designer? “I gear my blog specifically towards other artists, fans of artwork and people who are interested in the process. I feel like I need to do my share, to contribute and pay back, and hopefully inspire somebody else. When I think back to being a little boy, if I was into an artist who drew my favorite comic book, all I ever got to see was the finished, printed artwork. When I’d go draw my own pictures, I would try it in the way I imagined that the artist would do it – but I never knew for certain how they did it until I got older and learned about the process. I always think about that kid out there, who has all the potential in the world, but has no idea where to start. Getting some insight into somebody else's process can have a transformative effect.”
The linework, inks and comic panel framing of some of your pieces seems to reference Raymond Pettibon. Are there any designers or artists that influenced you? “The first Pettibon artwork I ever saw was the album cover for Sonic Youth’s Goo. And that, along with the album cover for Drive Like Jehu's Yank Crime, which was done by Rick Froberg, those two covers had a huge impact on me. For many years after that, I was chasing after that ideal of spare and simple ink drawings; as I got older, I learned to find my own voice to express it. Obviously, I was a huge comic book fan when I was growing up. There was an artist named Mike Allred, who did a comic called Madman. His brush lines were just so soft and sleek, and they were incredibly cool looking, and that was all I ever wanted to do. I would look at those lines, and at the time, I didn't know how to draw them that way, I just couldn’t understand how he did that. So that was a huge driving force that pushed me to love the brush. It's incredibly satisfying to lay down a smooth line with a brush. It's gotta be one of the most satisfying and therapeutic feelings in my whole life. Just one line, it literally feels good to my bones. There's no other way for me to explain it.”