James Chapman uses cartoons to help explain comical idiosyncrasies and multi-cultural themes from across the world. For example did you know that in English, dogs go “woof”, but in Romanian they go “ham!”? Neither did we but this, along with other strange insights, form his never-ending insights and funny work.

How did you develop your style?
My style pretty much comes from any cartoons from the past 20 years, I’ve always watched them and tried to draw my own versions so I think that’s all fed into my current style.

What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?
I’m a big sucker for positive feedback, and whenever I get a nice email or direct message from someone saying how they’ve enjoyed my work it really motivates me to do more. With all my work going on social media, it’s always a bit uncertain as to whether anyone will even care it exists, so it’s really encouraging to hear back.

What soundtrack do you work to?
I listen to podcasts mostly, basically zoning out of the creative process and letting my arms do the talking. Anything move-related normally, Doug Loves Movies is my numero uno.

Who are your heroes and what other artists do you dig?
Scott Campbell has been a big hero of mine, probably one of the main reasons I started a career as an artist. I don’t know if it shows completely in anything I’ve done personally but I try and capture a similar feeling as he gets across so well in his work. Aside from that, there are loads of comic creators I love the work of – Alex Norris, Matt Taylor, Sarah Graley, Kristyna Baczynski

What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a book of proverbs from around the world, just general wise words that are taken for granted in their original country, but sound exotic or strange compared to similar phrases in English. The whole idea is that the world is full of diversity and we’re shaped by our culture, but we have such a lot in common. So “a bad workman blames his tools” becomes “a bad ballerina blames their skirt” in Polish.

What’s the last exhibition that you visited?
The last exhibition I took my work to was Toronto Comic Arts Festival back in May. It was an amazing experience, the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at an arts show. Plus Canada has lots of poutine to be eaten, so it was a 10/10 trip.

Do you collect work of any other artists?
I love the whole Mondo Poster scene from Austin Texas, where they get great artists from all over the place to re-imagine movie posters. I’ve got a few Matt Taylor ones on my walls, but they cost a pretty penny and sell out crazy fast so I need to plan ahead for some more of their items.

What is the number one piece of advice you would like to tell new artists?
Firstly, make something, anything, whatever you can do just do it – everyone starts out not knowing what they’re doing but practice makes perfect. I’ve kept a lot of my early work on my blog if you go back far enough if you ever need to see some awful things to lift your spirits, ha. And secondly, I’ve always found the best route to go is to make things that you personally would like to see, and the odds are that other people would love to see it too.

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
I usually commit days to one specific activity and get as much done as possible before moving onto the next stage. I get really distracted switching between jobs (research, sketching, lines, colour etc) so it really helps to just get them finished individually.

What are some of the most challenging and inspiring elements of your current projects?
Accuracy of the research is pretty challenging for the current project, looking at international proverbs. What might be a common phrase in one part of Italy might not be used everywhere so it’s not just researching the phrase, it’s researching how commonly they’re used too which is a real challenge for some languages.

You can only visit one City, watch one film, read one book, listen to one album for the rest of your life. What would they be?
The city would be Tokyo, I visited a few years ago and the culture and the arts scene is so unique I’d never get tired of it.
The film would be… this is a tough one; Magnolia, probably. That movie’s got it all and it’s pretty long so there’s lots of re-watch value.
It’s become a bit of a cliche now, but the album would be Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. It really is a perfect album and it’s meant a lot to me over the years.

At Eye Candy James will be selling his books: Soundimals (a collection of animal sounds in other languages), How to Sneeze in Japanese (the sounds people make – sneezing, laughing, crying, eating etc.) along with tote bags, badges, patches and mugs.

Eye Candy Illustration & Art Fair, Saturday 1st October, St Martin’s Church in the Bullring, Birmingham


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