Hello, This week I had a chance to talk with James Fish.  Friend and instructor at UCLA and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I always admired James’ style, his compositions of drawing, painting, and found imagery are incredible to look at.  His work reminds me of total freedom and the joy of creating art.  James Fish’s work has been seen in Rolling Stone, Spin, Dwell, How and American Illustration to Gus Black’s album cover uncivilized Love.  James David Fish creates fantastical landscapes that have been appropriated and relocated from a pool of images both found and created. Artificial environments are the stage where new dramas erupt. People and animals are placed there to interact as an experiment unbeknown to them.  Utopia is a reoccurring theme, fueled by literature of Science Fiction(A. Huxley, Deleuze and Guattari, Freud). The conventions of man-made ideals are corruptible and are inherently corrupt.  These scenarios are played out in order to understand our connection to the recent-past, doomed to repeat itself.


SXH- Where are you from and what can you tell us about your hometown?

JF- I grew up in Bakersfield, Ca. Lots of suburban sprawl, places to ride and roam and drift. I thrived riding my BMX bike in the empty fields around our neighborhood wandering around those giant steel oil-pumping teeter-totters. As a preteen, “punk rock” music had filtered it’s way into this town and ignited within me a fire of rebellion, self- expression and creativity which manifested itself through hand-made t-shirts, painted jackets, home made skateboards and skateboard ramps.

JF- My family left there when i was a teenager, I finished high school in Ventura California and learned how to surf.

SXH- As a kid, what did you want to be growing up?

JF- Wow gosh. I drew a lot of motocross cycles and riders and dragsters. I suppose that I wanted to become one of those types. I don’t remember wanting to be anything in particular.

James Fish-Branch

SXH- Who or what do you look at for inspiration?

JF- As a kid, I spent hours listening to music and studying album covers. My senior year in High School, I had a very inspiring art teacher, whose name is Patti Post, she turned us onto poetry, Rembrandt and the sculptor George Segal. As a young adult, art school brought a lot into the mix. I discovered a wonderful world of movies and moviemakers such as Fredrico Fellini, Jean Luc Goddard, Werner Herzog, Kenneth Anger, and early Woody Allen. I looked at local artists like Chris Burden, Mike Kelley, Tim Hawkinson, Vito Acconci, Richard Prince, Julian Schnabel and Europeans like Joseph Beuys, Francesco Clemente, Francis Picabia, Franz West and Sigmar Polke. I went through a phase really loving Japanese illustration and theater posters (from the 60’s – 80’s). I was impressed by how a conservative tradition put forth this colorful and reactionary form of commercial art. At this time of my creative development, I was spending lots of time in thrift stores, and loved discovering tattered tchotchkes, discarded objects, and other little paintings of doe-eyed children, clowns and poodles. Moving into Los Angeles had opened a treasure trove of liquor store murals and ice cream truck paintings whose naïve charm came through with its awkward anatomy, crass colors, misspelled words and bad interpretations of pop culture. This really turned me on.

SXH- Where’s your studio?

JF- My studio is deep underground, it’s in my head, it’s outside. Everything is on wheels, always moving. For me, studio is not about a place. It is a practice of making and sharing.  The physical place where paintings are stored and supplies are kept is Los Angeles, CA.

SXH- Describe a typical work day:

JF- All days are started with a double espresso.  Kids are part of my typical day, they bring creative inspiration. I’m a freelance designer/artist and I teach a Mixed Media and Collage class. I love to share an “open and experimental” approach to image making and design. Some days are spent doing very technical programming for Flash and trouble shooting.

James Fish-You

SXH- What materials do you usual work in?

JF- I work with acrylics, photo copies, found papers, fabrics, vinyl and spray paint. Some may simplify it by calling it “Mixed Media and Collage” I teach Mixed Media and Collage to designers at UCLA Extensions.

SXH- What is your all time favorite painting?

JF- Picasso’s Guernica! Also, I recently discovered the paintings of Momma Andersson, her paintings are intriguing.

SXH- What do you do when you’re not making art?

JF- I ride my bike. It satisfies my quest for adventure, and it satisfies a personal need to “play” while having a physical outlet.  Bikes have brought me back in touch with my childhood feelings of freedom. Bikes are another form of fetish, personal expression. The bike is a vehicle for personal transformation (see the movie Breaking Away).  I’ve had lots of fun riding with friends and some local bike clubs.

James Fish-Untitled

SXH- Is there any Artist or Illustrator you would like to collaborate with?

JF- I would really like to collaborate visually with a musician, textile design with a fashion designer, or surface design with an industrial designer in order to merge into a new realm. Stage design for the theater would be exciting too. Collaboration is an activity to go beyond oneself. The end-result is often enlightening.

SXH- What are you working on now and what’s in the future for you?

JF- Recently, I’ve put together a new portfolio of illustration. I need to promote that or get and agent. Illustration is something that I used to do and let it fade without promotion. At this point, I want to reclaim this aspect of my creative career. Currently, I’m working on some websites in Flash. I design for print and web with the occasional animation project. I’ve been entertaining the notion to put together a reel and merge into the realm of motion graphics.

James Fish-Totem of Utopia (a)

SXH- Important non related question here: Sabbath or Zepplin?

JF- While I love Sabbath’s darkness and loin-tweaking motorized sound there is something delightful about Zepplin’s diversity and richness and Robert Plant’s androgynous voice.  Both of those bands were played with great regularity. Zepplin’s “Physical Graffiti” was one of those albums played very loud when my parents were gone. I’m not black or white on this issue, shades of beige is what you’ll get from me. Paranoid has got to be one of the most amazing songs ever! Sweet Leaf makes me want to cry.

SXH- Coffee or tea?

JF- Coffee…….Espresso, specifically.

SXH- Music, talk radio, books on tape or golden silence

JF- I find myself listening to Radio Nova via the internet, it helps me keep up with my French language and a lot of the songs in English whose lyrics are banned from the airwaves often slip through. I like Devendra Banhart, Nick Drake, punk rock, Konono No.1, 60-70’s French pop. I love Dub. I do find myself listening to NPR for news and debates about current affairs. Golden silence is rare since the construction going on next door for the last two years.

Here’s one of my personal Favorites-

Renovate- James Fish

To see more of James Fish’s work, please visit  Fishlab.com

some other links to check out while your at it-

James David Fish, Fishlab Blog, Little Wild Things