The wonderful power of social media meant that I discovered another talented local artist recently. A Happy New Year tweet from Hunting in the Rain popped up on my timeline with the following image:
Poppy by Hunting in the Rain. Copyright Hunting in the Rain.
I excitedly dropped the artist, James, a message to find out more. It turns out that Hunting in the Rain is named after his and his wife Nina's children, Rain and Hunter. The idea came about after he began to look for artwork to decorate their bedrooms. James saw a gap in the market for artwork that wasn't necessarily cutesy but could still offer something playful, quirky and fun, and using the knowledge from his design studies from Central Saint Martins, set about creating a collection of amazing characters.
I went to the launch of the Hunting in the Rain exhibition at Javabean a couple of weeks ago and took the opportunity to grab James and persuade him to share his thoughts with us all. So, without further ado here is our interview:
I was quite taken with your artwork the instant I first saw it. It has a wonderful ethereally-scary-twisted-fairytale quality and puts me in mind of Richard Scarry on acid. Where does this style come from?
Visceral and naturalistic artwork excites me. Spontaneity and emotive mark making is what I really appreciate and look to achieve in my own artwork. For me, it's about catching the moment. Although I can't attribute my style to a single influence I've always loved the artwork of Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Gottfried Helnwein. My biggest influence however is the attitude that young children have towards drawing. They're fuelled by experimentation, exploration with no end result in mind; it's pure play. As a 'grown up' it's challenging to adopt this state of mind, as we're conditioned with the notion of what good art 'should' be. I try to break this down.
James, the artist behind Hunting in the Rain, next to some of his works.
Skull Balloons. Copyright Hunting in the Rain.
What inspired you to take up painting these weird and wonderful characters in the first place?
They evolved naturally through doodling and experimentation in my spare time. I hit upon an attitude towards drawing and image making that I enjoyed because it allowed me to draw and narrate events in my life in an abstract and non-literal way. I started to draw creatures because I could relate and empathise with them, as I hope other people do. I try to build a connection between artwork and the viewer.
As the doodling got more frequent friends who saw them liked them so I decided to take them from my sketch pad to a larger format.
There's a great story about two of your characters introducing you to your future wife, care to enlighten everybody?
Yes there is. My wife will probably provide a better rendition of this story. I had an exhibition in Soho, London, a beautiful blond wondered in on her lunch break, she saw 'Rabbit Girl' and gave me a call. The rest is history. 'Rabbit Girl' is now in our children's bedroom. She has a lot to answer for... Thanks 'Rabbit Girl'!
Butterfly Girl. Copyright Hunting in the Rain.
Where do you get your inspiration for the characters from and how do you create them, are they strange representations of people and animals around you or are they pure fiction?
Inspiration comes from anywhere. Ideas can come from the smallest starting point. 'Poppy' was inspired by a single poppy growing in our back yard. A poppy grew in the same place year after year. I loved its resilience and reluctance to give up. It survived just about everything the weather threw at it, snow, hail, rain, wind until one day, it was gone. I liked the notion of this, so I drew 'Poppy'. I wanted to make her delicate and vulnerable but with a hidden strength, determination and presence.
Lemon was inspired when I heard a high pitched dog bark when I was on holiday in Spain a couple of years ago. The owner shouted at it, "Lemon!". I didn't see the dog or its owner but I liked the idea of a crazy, out of control dog called Lemon.
I always start with pen and ink drawing on paper. I then scan the drawing in and colour and manipulate the image on the computer. I think a hand drawn starting point is a really important starting point. Scanning the image into the computer allows me to manipulate the image further and create a collage approach. I love the flexibility that digital offers. I remember the graphic designer Neville Brody saying back in the 90's that pixels never dry. I like the idea of this.
Lemon by Hunting in the Rain. Copyright Hunting in the Rain.
The characters in your pictures look quite scary and you decorate your children's bedrooms with them. Do they not give them nightmares?
No, well not that I know of. I think kids' imaginations are far more exotic than my artwork can ever begin to be. Dropping a dream-cam into a four and two year old's imagination would be a fascinating and enlightening spectacle I'm sure.
I think the characters would make a wonderful story book. Any plans to turn them into stories?
No immediate plans. I'm impatient when is comes to creating artwork. I like to make the work quickly. I can tell instantly if it's working or not. If it's not working, it goes in the bin and I try a different approach. The more I procrastinate, the higher the risk of the piece becoming contrived or overworked. To answer your question, developing the characters for a book would involve me working with them for too long, rather than just a snapshot into their world that they currently are.
The Madness of King George by Hunting in the Rain. Copyright Hunting in the Rain.
What kind of person usually buys your artwork?
People with ravishingly good taste and a keen eye for something a little different. People buy art for lots of different reasons, it's all about engaging someone at the right time, the right place and the right mood.
James, the artist behind Hunting in the Rain, amongst some more of his artworks.
Do you have a favourite Tunbridge Wells artist?
There is artistic talent everywhere you look. Artists in the public eye are the ones fortunate enough to be discovered and enjoyed by a wider audience.
...more spaces being set up for up-and-coming artists.
What do you think of the art scene in Tunbridge Wells? Any opinions on what you would like to see?
I'd like to see more spaces being set up for up-and-coming artists. The Javabean Cafe on the high street provides a great space to hang artwork. By partnering with outlets such as this, you are taking art to the people rather than relying on people coming to you. Why not plug into what people of doing already, drinking coffee and lunching?
Hunting in the Rain is exhibiting at Javabean Café until March with 5% of all sales going to the Tunbridge Wells based children's charity KCFN, so why not pop in for lunch and a browse. If you can't get to see them then take a look at their online store where you can purchase limited edition prints from as little as £25. Bargain!
What do you think, would these look great on your child's bedroom walls?