James Whitley: Artist, Author,
Motivational Speaker and Singer
TSM: Hi James, it’s great to have you here, and thank you for taking time out of your day to do an interview for TSM.
JW: Thank you for having me!
TSM: What’s your background in art? How did you get started? And what inspired you to get into art?
JW: I have been drawing since as far back as I can remember. I would play with friends and goof off as any child would, but there usually was a time in the day where I would break out the pencils and draw. I went through phases of drawing a lot and then not drawing for a while. Every so often something might catch my attention and I would be transfixed by it. Looking back now I see that this was part of my inner being sending me a message that let me know what I was meant to be doing. It is an intensity of intrigue and passionate curiosity that ultimately led me to explore my creativity.
TSM: What are your favourite subjects to draw/paint?
JW: You know as an artist I’ve wavered from subject to subject and tried to understand what it is that makes me feel most into my craft. I think most artists go through a bit of this. I would like to say I am quite diverse in my range as different things speak to me at different times. If I’m honest, I am driven more by feeling than by form even though once I get into it I become obsessed by form, it’s like being taken on an adventure through form for the purpose of expressing a feeling. But to give a more direct answer, I think I love the human form most of all, and the power of light and how it affects things; reflects, refracts, and depending on what is seen or not seen it has the power to take us on a journey through emotion. Most of all, I love being transfixed, this is where art somehow has the ability to dissolve thought and bring us powerfully into the present moment.
TSM: Tell us about the books that you did illustrations for and how that came about.
JW: I’ve done several unpublished, as well as one or two published works to date. The most notable one was done over fifteen years ago called Wondabubba and the Big Splash, Authored by Gary Giles. I got into children’s book illustrations because I always loved the feeling I got when my mom would take us to the library. The adventure of looking for new treasures in the book forest, and the brilliance of finding a jewel that I got to take home, and dive into over and over. I didn’t read so much as get lost in the pictures, in the world of the book. I wanted to, for the longest time, be able to give that to children when I grew up. I think I may have had my fill of illustrating children’s books, but I have not lost that feeling or the desire to add that kind of magic and wonderment to the lives of others.
TSM: When did you get into writing, motivational speaking and singing?
JW: Well, see this is sort of like the other half of me. Art may have saved my life and kept me going in my darker days of suppressing my light, and this light only peaked through with my visual art, whereas with the performing arts (singing/motivating/dancing etc.) it is about fully living my light. Embodying the fullness of my hearts passion and gifts, and I’ve only just begun to explore them as I have been on a long healing journey. I started with self-entertainment, and eventually found a Facebook group founded by Bryant McGill and Jenni Young called the Royal Society where everyone is encouraged to share. This group was key to helping me realize how much more was within me, and helped me realize I was able and worthy to express it, and I began to, and I continue to. I have met many on my life adventure, who I am infinitely grateful to have met as they helped me realize my value and thus how much potential I had yet to bring out.
TSM: If you could become one of your characters/works of art, which one would you choose and why?
JW: Interesting question. Well, I think I haven’t even invented a character like this, but if I did he would simply be the most embodied version of myself, which I do not feel too far from right now. In that way I am just grateful to be me. I’d wish nothing less for anyone else than to feel totally at ease within their own skin.
TSM: What kind of things do you do to get your “creative juices” flowing?
JW: Good question, and every creative will want to know this from any prolific creator out there. Probably one of the best questions you could ask. – So the short answer is that I make sure I’m having fun, and tapping into feeling first. To explain further, I feel it is paramount that we lead a balanced life, that means we don’t limit the range of experiences we get to have when we feel there is a need; we see to it that it is met. Specifically for me though, if I’m not having enough fun my creativity may come to a dead stop. So either the fun in the creative process is sufficient enough to keep me going, or I’ve got to make sure I’m filling my cup some other way. Super key to this is realizing that this creativity is an expression of our playful Spirit, who wants to explore the possibilities without any hindrances. That means we’ve got to be on a sort of adventure, where we can experience new things and be stimulated into new curiosity and wonderment, leading to a desire to experiment, which directly serves the creative process if we can release the need to know outcomes and just swim in the joy of playfulness.
TSM: Who or what experiences have inspired your work?
JW: So many influences, but for a while it was the work of Frazetta and Boris. Anytime there was an expression of excellent craftsmanship and talent, I felt like I was looking at my future self or some unexpressed ability within me. Regarding the performing arts which I can barely scratch the surface, Gene Kelly is at the top of the list of inspirations. He made dancing and acting and singing all at once seem like floating on a cloud, and no matter how much work went into it, he made it look like it was all fun.
TSM: Does spirituality and culture play a role in your creativity?
JW: I have come to see creativity as a spiritual discipline itself. It naturally puts us into a relationship with a deeper part of ourselves which can only find freedom in our craft if we surrender to the process. I wouldn’t make any connection to culture, except to say I hope it serves as the reminder to others that it has for me, which is to connect with and express our most authentic selves.
TSM: Do you have family members that share your creativity?
JW: Sure, though none have quite pursued it to the degree I have. I have a couple artistic uncles, my mom drew back in the day and my Niece and nephews all like to draw, as well as my sister has always shown potential. Like anything, we may be naturally good, but we may not be passionate about it, and that as well as the decision to act on that passion ultimately helps us realize our potential. But in short, yes artistic interest does run in my family.
TSM: If you have experienced creative blocks, how have you overcome them?
JW: If I were to give a simple explanation of this it happens when I am living to rigidly. The creativity comes back as I play more, explore more, and have more fun, both with my craft as well as in general. One powerful tool I will reveal here is to become aware of any fears we might have as we think about getting creative, as they will give us a reason to hold back subconsciously and it feels like a block. So one might ask themselves, honestly, “What am I afraid of here?” and then once the fears are identified ask ourselves what if instead of running from that possibility we run towards it? For instance I had a fear of running out of supplies once, so I challenged myself to TRY TO RUN OUT. I immediately felt a tsunami of creativity pour out and in the end I found that it was actually not possible for me to run out oddly. The more I used up, the more supplies were dropped into my lap as if by magic!
TSM: Have your personal experiences (or situations) influenced your creative abilities? How?
JW: Well sure, early on I kind of isolated myself from the world due to some trauma I’d been through, and all that time alone helped me develop a kind of intense focus and self-reflection, which ultimately meant I relied on myself to be in the creative flow. I also developed an insane amount of patience to the point that I could, if the energy was right, sit alone in a room by myself for days. I’ve gone a month with almost no human contact and had to entertain myself, without internet no less. So yes, I would say my life path has caused much introspection and emotional self-reliance, which makes my work more a pure reflection of my personal interest rather than being so heavily influenced by culture or other’s opinions.
TSM: What kind of impact do you hope to achieve through your creative efforts?
JW: I aspire to be fully me, that is, to not feel the need to hold back in any way. I know this will have many benefits to others, one of which is to serve as an example to those who struggled with the same self-expression issues, to realize it is possible, and not only possible but probable. I want everyone to be free and to realize the beautiful Being they are.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
JW: Help everyone see the beautiful and powerful being they naturally are. Why? Because not knowing this is at the heart of why we struggle and suffer. We’ve lost touch with that original, untainted beauty, but it is still who we are.
TSM: What is one of your favourite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
JW: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Gandhi. This quote reminds me not to take for granted the gift of life.
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can readers find out more about you and your work?
JW: Art, as well as any discipline, has a way of revealing us to ourselves and helping us refine ourselves. One of my inspirations in life has always been Bruce Lee for several reasons, but mainly for his dedication to his craft of self-discipline in the name of Truth. Yes he was a cool kat but he made himself that way, and it has always served as a reminder to me that we are as strong a character as we make ourselves. And that strength of character will move us through every challenge, so that we may emerge victorious in the end for not giving up on ourselves through all the tests. I implore everyone to preserver and use what is handed to you to your advantage, learn and grow! Be adaptable and never stop living, as though life were an adventure where you get to explore and experiment, and constantly upgrade your character, just like in video games!
Where people can find me: I have a facebook page @JamesLoveWhitley and they can find my on Instagram @JamesWhitleyArt and I will be putting up a website in the near future as a hub for my work.
TSM: Thanks again for doing an interview for TSM and wish you all the best.
JW: Thank you, all the best to you and to all!