Roi James - The Next Level

Episode 83 · February 20th, 2020 · 1 hr 1 min

About this Episode

"I think it’s ok to be in a space of feeling lost at points in your life. That’s actually a great place to be."

Two years on from our first interview, Episode 18, which I highly recommend listening to before you proceed with this one, I recently had the privilege of a tour of the new home and art studio of Roi James. It was great to have the chance to further the dialogue and talk more about Roi’s successful career, where he finds himself now, and where he might be headed. And just like in our first conversation there is no lack of vulnerably on Roi’s part, as he shares his thoughts about being in an in-between place, recuperating and settling into the rhythms of his new space, finding inspiration, and contemplating the necessity to take his whole life and artwork to the next level. We also notably discuss the likely reasons for his success, pricing artwork, portraiture, art market challenges, and we go a little more in depth about loving more deeply and how that manifests in his life.

Portrait of Roi on the roof of is new home. Photo by Scott David Gordon

Bio courtesy of Roi's website

The Story Of My Work

I was 28 when I realized I wanted to become a painter. Until then and to this day, I had never studied art nor had any formal training. I’d always had the “gift” and recall my kindergarten teacher showing my mother my drawings and expressing how advanced they were for my age. But art was not a realistic occupation as I’d been indoctrinated into the “tragic artist” mythology, that to become one was to lead a sad and ultimately unfortunate life. So quite by accident, at 28, I attended a life drawing class and within the first 30 seconds of the first drawing, in the most supernatural way, I was was transformed. It would be another seven years before I had my first gallery show. Between then I poured over books of the techniques of the old masters and immersed myself in tens of thousands of images, slowly developing a rich visual vocabulary. I became enamored with the painters Titian, Vermeer, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, among others and with the romantic landscapes of Claude Lorrain, J.M.W. Turner, and Caspar David Friedrich. It was the majestic beauty and drama in these artist’s paintings and the long tradition of disciplined study and technique that attracted and inspired me. It would become the holy grail of what I would hope to find in my own work. And so my early paintings were infused with the dramatic play of light on human bodies and landscapes.

I achieved a degree of success with this early work which in 1998, allowed me to quit my full-time job as a graphic designer at Dell Computer and focus entirely on painting. Though I continued to work in the traditional style of layered glazing in oils, I was already feeling a pull away from convention and a desire to explore painting’s greater possibilities. Where it had been a hunger for tradition and discipline that established my foundation, I was now compelled by a meditative thoughtfulness in being present and a desire to release myself into the uncertain world of abstract and conceptual painting. This began a ten year transition away from one style and method and into the new. However, my interest in form and beauty never wavered. Even the method of applying layered glazes continued to instruct my new work, though from a very unique and self invented process. My new paintings are spontaneous and abandoned Meditations, appearing as quiet spaces or joyful dances on the canvas. My Constructs are architectural explorations of color and surface, simultaneously both painting and sculptural relief. Fundamentally, despite their dissimilar surfaces and the contrast to my earlier romantic period, this new work remains true to my commitment to beauty and form.

Architectura 01.14.20, 2020 Oil on Panel 30 x 30 in

Current/Recent Exhibitions


New Work by Roi James

JANUARY 18th - FEBRUARY 22nd, 2020

Davis Gallery
837 West 12th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Davis Gallery is proud to announce Spectrum, Roi James' first solo exhibit in Austin in nearly a decade. In this new collection, James presents works ranging from brilliant, undulating polychrome constructs, to delicate oil paintings contemplating the expanses of the open sea. Over the course of his career, James has boldly shifted his artistic vision, reinventing himself many times over and enjoying consistent success along the way. His mastery of several mediums and styles has attracted national attention and local fame. Spectrum, represents his latest triumphs, and delivers a complete series of diverse, significant work. This exhibit will be on view from January 18th through February 22nd, 2020.

I Am Forever -framed, oil on canvas 35.25 x 27.25 in. Not for Sale

Some of the subjects we discuss:

The last two years
Getting used to new space
Arriving and landing
Confronting voices
Parasite movie
Not one or the other
Talent from the start
Marketable work
Driven to learn and grow
Getting help
Selling work
Leaving a gallery
Changing landscape
Connecting in new ways
Democratizing art
New collectors
How to price work
Current prices
Spectrum at Davis
Self portraits
Fonda San Miguel
Working in new space
Feeling lost
Feeling empowered
Unsure about interview
Thinking about cancer
Loving more deeply
Creating moments
To the next level
Getting rid of things
Different choices
The gift of song
Violon D"ingres

Roi looking at the view from his new studio. Photo by Scott David Gordon

Roi looking at the view from his new studio. Photo by Scott David Gordon

Contact Roi

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Intro music generously provided by Stan Killian

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