There are things in life that people do and they do not know why they do it, they can not apply logic to why they decided to do what they do, instead they let their heart speak and instead of doing what most people do and ignore it and choose to apply our “logic and reasoning” they push on, they let their heart speak, they allow doors to open into rooms that are unfamiliar and at first frightening and see the world in its purest form.
|Mary, Oil on Canvas, 81cm x 81cm|
I can not tell you what logic pushed me into painting the homeless, I have been asked by galleries to paint other subjects “anything but the homeless”. I have been told that nobody wants a painting of a homeless person on their walls, I have been advised that I could make a lot more money through my art by painting other subjects. Yet I am always led to painting the homeless. My heart tells me “this is what I should be doing” and I feel at ease and comfortable doing it. My mind is often like a sea in a storm, waves crashing, constant noise and movement yet the only time the sea calms is when I paint the homeless.
|Clearance, Oil on Canvas, 80cm x 100cm|
My first memory of a homeless person was a man that I saw on a park bench in Southampton, England when I was about 6 years old. I remember the colour, he was surrounded by blankets, carrier bags, so many colours, I remember the face, weather beaten, torn, cracked but above all I remember the smile, the smile that occurs as soon as eye contact was met. From then on I often sought out the homeless, spoke to them and eventually felt the urge to sketch them. I saw the homeless as humans in their purest form because materialism and “things “ were unimportant, survival was the closest thought to mind and this level of stress and anxiety was only forgotten when they were engaged in conversation, when they were told again that they were human beings and part of the “club”, when someone was interested in them. I could see this purity and the power of humanity and kindness deep in the eyes of the homeless that I met.
|The Chaining of Joe Crow, Oil on Canvas, 100cm x 74cm|
I have subsequently painted homeless people living on the streets of France, England, Spain, Holland and America, I always try to get to know the subject, I find it far easier to paint a portrait when I know the person, the history of the person and what their intentions are. I have found that most of the homeless that I have met are battling mental illness which paralyses them both physically and mentally and once on this slippery slope and with out any support they quickly fall. When I hear people say that they have no sympathy for the homeless I feel that it is this lack of humanity, this lack of kindness that has helped to push them on their path to finding home on a cold pavement.
|Black and Red Lines, Oil on Canvas, 60cm x 50cm|
|La Vie est Belle, Oil on Canvas, 80cm x 60cm|
I have had my paintings displayed in galleries in London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Madrid and I hope that my story helps to raise awareness of this issue. This is my way that I can help and I feel honoured and privileged that I can help in someway.
|Violet and Blue Silence, Oil on Canvas, 54cm x 64cm|
This is Week 13 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing James’ story today. To connect with him and see more of his work, please visit the following links: