Fulfilling a life-long dream is not something everyone can achieve, but that’s exactly what local artist James Colmer has been doing since January, having left the world of full-time employment to concentrate exclusively on his painting and illustration career.
James has had a passion for art since he was a child, both as a ‘scribbler’ as he describes his young self, and a keen visitor to art galleries and exhibitions when on family holidays. With a degree in illustration from Falmouth Art College, James returned to Guernsey and got a job with one of Guernsey’s then largest advertising agencies, Wallace Barnaby. He was trained in graphic design and was able to put his illustration skills to use for many of the agency’s clients. After a brief spell in web design, he joined Healthspan where he spent the next 21 years, eventually becoming the group’s Creative Director.
Now James has replaced screen with easel and is doing what he loves best – painting. He said: “I have rekindled that painting spirit that I had when I was a teenager when I was doing a lot of art.”
James’ work incorporates a number of styles using predominantly oils for his landscape work and watercolours for his portraits. He is also continuing with his illustrations having recently been commissioned for designing and producing the poster artwork for two local films. He enjoys the range of variety but admits that if he had to choose one preferred genre it would be landscapes. These have a distinctive style which James describes as ‘a contemporary take on classic landscapes using vibrant bold colours to promote positivity and to create a sense of wellbeing.’
“I get most enjoyment out of the landscapes I think because I love nature and I love the outdoors. I surf, go sea swimming and so I like to connect with that through my artwork. I try not to just paint the picture but aim to create some connection with the view that’s portrayed.”
James was recently part of a group exhibition at Sula Gallery and is currently discussing a number of other exhibition opportunities locally as a way of expanding his audience (so watch this space). He is already enjoying good levels of success with commissions from those who have seen his work online or elsewhere.
“I am very fortunate to have lots of commissions; the slight downside is not having much time to build a body of work for an exhibition – which is a nice problem to have but a challenge at the same time.”
His work is on permanent display in the hospital where he painted “Walk About Guernsey” in the Roustel Ward for patients with dementia. The mural depicts the local coastline and includes visual details to stimulate patients’ memory – such as a tray of tomatoes. He was delighted with the positive feedback from staff and patients alike and was pleased to be able to create something that has real tangible benefit.
The De Sausmarez Ward corridors are brightened with six paintings of Sausmarez Park which are used as aides for physiotherapists to see how far recovering patients can walk. For James though, the highlight of his artistic career so far are the two sets of stamps he has
designed – the first depicting seagulls, and more recently a set with the iconic puffin produced for Alderney.
“Once the pictures are done, they go to the palace for royal approval. That was mind boggling – my artwork going for royal approval seemed a bit unreal.”
The next stage is for James to create an e-commerce website from where he can sell limited numbers of prints of his work to complement his commissioned work. Looking further ahead, a goal is to exhibit outside of Guernsey and to be able to continue doing what he loves alongside enjoying life with his wife and young son.
“I guess if I am still doing this in five years’ time, I will have made it. I find it amazing to be able to create something that someone thinks is good enough to put on their wall. That’s really gratifying.”
James is currently in the running for a Pride of Guernsey 2023 award; he has been nominated for Arts Contribution of the Year.
Some of James’ work can be viewed at www.jamescolmer.com