Often it is said that the mark of a true work of art is its ability to still breath and tongue, to draw the eyes and keep them fixed upon its beauty. Many an artist has been said to have achieved this seemingly impossible goal, and likely many will in years to come. But real art is also about passion, and surely it must also be said that the mark of a true artist is his inability to appreciate the talent he possesses even though it becomes his being in every moment. Seaford artist James Nicholls will tell you that he is not one of these men, that he is not an artist but an illustrator. On seeing his art though, and getting to know the man that holds the pencil, you find him to be wrong.
Art has been in his life for as long as he can remember; as a child he drew album covers, and did O level art at the age of 14, but it wasn’t until James had left school that the magic really began. After receiving a paint set from his grandmother he picked up a brush and, to use a cliché, the rest was to become history.
At first James Nicholls indulged his imagination with pictures of beautiful women and fantasy, but as time went on he began to receive requests to paint portraits. The years rolled on and he became bored; his work was becoming a chore and he lost the will to continue. Hope however was not completely lost as James finally found his muse again in the form of animal portraits in 2006. Since then he has sold work to buyers all over the world; even selling art as far afield as New Zealand.
Since then Animal portraits have become his passion; James finds what he considers to be a “Wow photo” and draws what he sees. James’ work is similar in its execution to that of fellow animal artist David Shepherd, however there are noticeable differences between them.
As I said before James will tell you that he is not an artist. “I just draw” he says. He isn’t wrong, that is what he does, but gazing at his work it’s obvious the truth is much more complex. His drawings hold no colour, but the many shades of black that grace the page are full of detail, so much so that the page almost comes to life with its subject becoming a living, breathing entity. Recently I saw an image he was working on. It was a close-up drawing of an Elephant; I was astounded by the detail, so much so that part of me imagined myself in the presence of that animal, imagined that I could reach out and touch it.
And that is his gift. He captures the life force of the animals he draws. He may not canvas the fantastical, he may not appear to have a signature style, but really he doesn’t need to. To completely understand where I’m coming from all you have to do is look at the examples of his work at the top of this page. I think those alone say it all.
Sleeping Angels Unite are an up and coming charity with the aim of “raising awareness for babies born sleeping between 10-42 weeks”. An auction is being held in London on February 19th 2011. Bidding for this auction commences online from December 1st 2010. The auction includes an example of James’ work (an Elephant with the title “A Touch of Tenderness”) as well as the work of other artists. This auction aims to help the charity gain the funds they need in order to become a registered charity and start making a difference. Details of the auction can be found on their website (www.sleepingangelsunite.co.uk). James will also be selling 50 limited edition prints of the aforementioned work.
Originally published here: http://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/culture/arts/237-james-nicholls-profile