Stack of shoes


rose reflection

Going out for dessert

Seven Sprouts

Red chair

I first read about the incredible artwork of US artist Chelsea James on Design*Sponge a while ago… Grace always finds the good stuff first! Anyway, Chelsea’s work just blew me away… the realism in her paintings and sketches is just amazing… there’s so much detail and depth to her work… and she’s just 25! I’m convinced there are big things in store for this young artist. So although I ordinarily only interview Australian creative people – in this case I am making an exception!

Chelsea seems to have an incredible life… She affectionately refers to the fact that she and her husband Adam live like gypsies – moving and travelling relentlessly. She’s been to some amazing places, and has lived in many different cities. Chelsea’s energy seems limitless – if she’s not sketching or drawing, she’s visiting some far away country with her sweetheart, taking in some poor stray animal, designing her dream studio, hiking or bikeriding or camping or something. It seems like such an exciting, spontaneous, inspiring life!

In addition to all her other projects, Chelsea also has more blogs than anyone I know! :) In addition to her art blog, and personal blog, there’s a gorgeous collection of ideas and images posted on Two Tumbleweeds – the blog Chelsea shares with her sister Amanda.

In this interview Chelsea says she feels lucky to be an artist because it pushes her to see the world in a different way… as she says – ‘training your eye to see like an artist is rich’. Maybe that’s why her work is so engaging… to see the world for a moment through her eyes is a beautiful thing.

Thanks so much for your time Chelsea!

Tell me a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I studied painting and drawing at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, but I actually began studying to be a nurse and dropped out the first week because my heart belonged in the art building.

Your work is so accomplished for such a young painter! How has your work been received by the art-world since graduating? Did you have trouble finding a gallery to represent you? I get the feeling they would have been banging on your door since your first year at college!

I was really fortunate because I was invited to live in Helper, Utah for a summer as an artist in residence with other artists and professors. That summer kind of resembled graduate school in a way because of the rigorous painting schedule and individual growth as an artist. The owner of Coda Gallery saw my work {in Helper} and invited me to be in a show with other emerging artists. That was the summer of my third year in school. I feel like I learned how to paint technically that summer, but I didn’t discover how I wanted to paint. I’m still trying to figure that out every day. My work has been received really well, but I’m still an emerging artist in a huge market.

Are you a full-time artist, or do you have a day job also?

I’m a full-time artist which is really nice. It allows me to spend time with my husband, play in the outdoors and to travel.

You are one of a growing number of artists with popular blogs! Do you see your blog as a way to connect with other like-minded creative people, or with potential customers/clients? How much of your web-presence is a personal outlet, and how much of it is based on promoting your work?

I don’t know about popular, my blogs are totally under the radar. I started them purely for creative purposes and to stay connected with other artists. Blogging is a liberating outlet after spending a day in the studio. I have a website for clients so I feel like my blog can be for fun.

You seem constantly on the move – you’ve travelled to some amazing countries. Do you find this necessary to keep inspired and motivated creatively? How do you make your art whilst traveling?

I wouldn’t say that traveling is necessary, but it helps keep my painting fresh and becomes such an inspiration. My husband and I have a pretty good rhythm going on; we work nonstop for about 3 months and then take a much needed break by traveling. I’m a lucky girl.

Tell me a little about your process – What are your favorite mediums/materials? Do you sketch in a sketchbook everyday? Do you paint from photographs or from life? Do you paint quickly, or do you layer up a painting over time and keep coming back to it?

My favorite medium is oil, however I really do love the simplicity, yet complexity of graphite on paper. There is something so lush about drawing, it exposes all, and oh, the versatility of graphite. I have a love. When traveling, the sketchbook is constantly in use; heavy with ideas and sketches. My still lifes, interiors and figures are painted from life, but my landscapes are a combination of memory and photo reference. The paintings from life arrive pretty quickly, but the landscapes are a process that can take many painting sessions.

Some of Chelsea’s amazing sketches and life drawing studies

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I’m inspired by all artists. Some of my favorite painters include; Paul Davis, John Singer Sargent, Euan Uglow, Alex Kanevsky and Ann Gale.

Where else do you find inspiration?

All my books are full of pictures. I can’t get enough of looking through Rinko Kawauchi photography books, fashion magazines, and especially nature. I am drawn to the textural qualities and earthy colors of the desert. Nature is beautiful and unpredictable.

What are you most proud of professionally?

That I’m actually making it as a full time artist, even if I have to scrape by.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

I’m always telling my husband how lucky I am to be an artist because it changes the way you see the world. Color becomes lush, you notice shadows against a persons face, the sun sets and color transforms. training your eye to see like an artist is rich. That’s the best thing.

And the worst?

Hands down, building a crate for my paintings.

What would be your dream project?

Painting portraits in india, or somewhere exotic.

What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?

I’m looking forward to becoming a better painter and finding that thing that drives me.

Travel Questions –

Your favorite city in the whole world?

Buenos Aires, Argentina. The city is so full of life. Oh my, I love it! Everything thrives; spanish guitar, architecture, fashion, and its affordable. There are independent fashion stores on every corner that are unbelievably amazing. Even the language is delicious! Sounds like a mix of Italian and spanish. wow, even the people are beautiful to look at. If you haven’t been, you have to go.

The last country you visited (outside the US)?

Morocco

What will be your next travel adventure?

At the moment, its a toss up between Iceland and the Philippines. I know it sounds so random, but apparently summer is the best time to visit Iceland and a lot of artists emerge from that little country. we’ll see, it always changes. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand.

Velvet