"No matter how intellectual your endeavors are, there should always be some element of play and joy present"
Artist James Perkins on making art with his son and seeing the Nutcracker every year.
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Great artists make artists. And to prove that point, over 70 of today's greatest have contributed their work in support of Children's Museum of the Arts' Emergency Arts Education Fund, establishing utterly ambitious art programs in New York City schools that need them most.
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Below, meet auction artist James Perkins.
My 6 year old son Judd loves tennis and he wants to be a professional tennis player. He actually doesn’t really enjoy drawing or painting, but when he had to for school he created this series of tennis courts paintings. A green painting was of a grass court, a blue was a hard court, and this one is his painting of a clay court – his favorite surface. Each one has this specific gesture where the net has been abstracted to almost a Barnett Newman-like zip and the rest have these Mark Rothko-like colorfields, which is also very similar to my work.
While my son doesn’t love to sit down and draw or paint, he loves to help me in the studio, and perhaps because of the nature of my work, is being raised with an expanded concept of art. This is one of my favorite photos of me and my son working together on a sculpture. He is very helpful in the studio, and more careful than most adults.
Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?
I could sit in my room for hours drawing and studying images. My father would bring home from his office different engineering pencils with the different thickness in lines and I loved using them. The work felt charged with love using something my father had gotten for me specifically to nurture that interest.
What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?
Always be making something. It doesn’t have to be your best work, but you should always be making. I remember in grad school, one professor told me if you are not obsessed, then you are probably not an artist. I think it is ok to find that out. There are so many other professions in the art world. I know a great dealer that is a great dealer because he tried to be a painter.
How does working with children inspire you?
Working with children reminds you that no matter how intellectual your endeavors are, there should always be some element of play and joy present.
When did you first know you were going to be an artist?
In the 6th grade, I had this wonderful art teacher who gave me his office during class, separate from the other students, as a studio to make this large photo-realistic drawing for a competition. I would go in that room and close the door and work. He only came in when class was dismissed. Such a special act of kindness and support.
Can you describe a formative experience visiting a museum or gallery?
For me it was seeing the Nutcracker ballet each year as a child. I really looked forward to the music, the dancers, the costumes, the set design, and the stillness of being able to sit and watch the performance.
Happy To See You (Yellow)
silk, sun, wood, ocean water, handmade frame