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April 13, 2015Feature

Probably best known to Dubliners for his large scale work on the Blooms Hotel in Temple Bar, James Earley is an artist who's work brightens up many corners of the city. Eric Davidson had a chat with him recently

What is your first memory of art in your life?

My first memory of art in my life is drawing pictures with my dad and my brother when I was about six or seven at our kitchen table.
Art was always encouraged in our household. My dad’s side of the family were all stain glass artists and both his parents were fine artists.

How did you fall into painting?

I’ve been painting for about 18 years. I saw my first graffiti piece in 1996 beside Dún Laoghaire Dart station. I used to see it on my way to and from school. The idea that someone could create a piece of artwork in the cover of darkness in a prominent public space really interested me.

Around the same time, I went on a trip to London with my family. I picked up a graffiti magazine called ‘While You Were Sleeping’ in Tower Records. That opened up my eyes to the level of artistic skill within the movement. Shortly after I returned to Dublin a friend of mine got a copy of the seminal graffiti art book – ‘Subway Art’. This helped inform my knowledge and appreciation of the history of graffiti.

"The idea that someone could create a piece of artwork in the cover of darkness in a prominent public space really interested me."

At what time did you make the transition from independent artist to a painter in demand?

The transition was a slow process. It started to take place around 2007/2008 when I left full time employment for a design agency in Dublin and set up my own practice. Painting a mix of large scale personal projects and a few high profile projects over the last seven years has certainly helped to get me where I am today. As well as this, I put a lot of creative energy into all of my projects and approach all projects in a very methodical and professional manner. I’m very much of the attitude that ‘if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right’.

Your style is quite distinctive yet it still seems to maintain traditional graffiti roots. Where do you draw your inspiration and how did you establish this style?

I paint a few different styles, but am probably best known for – Blooms Hotel project and – my deconstructed paintings of animals. This style embodies a few different creative disciplines: graffiti, graphic design and my family’s stained glass & ecclesiastic art business Earley Studios. This business ran for over 100 years in a premises opposite The Bleeding Horse. It closed in the 70s. The animals are an ode to my family’s artistic heritage as well as promoting our national heritage – the animals I focus on painting/celebrating are Irish.

Working on his newest piece on the outside wall of The Bernard Shaw

The work of a graffiti artist is often fleeting, in that respect do you enjoy more commercial work or is it difficult to trump the thrill of traditional street painting?

I think the older you get, the less the illegal side appeals to one’s artistic temperament. Im 33 now and for me, it’s all about creative fulfilment and painting works that challenge me whether its on a conceptual, technical level or the challenge of painting on a large scale. I enjoy painting my personal work the most. There are no compromises and anything is possible. That been said, I do really enjoy commercial work. I love when a collaborative element and the challenge of creating a piece of art that adheres to a brief.

Working within the constraints of a brief can actually help spark ideas rather than extinguish them.

How much of an influence do your clients have on your commercial work, because it seems like you have a lot of freedom?

It all depends on the project and in particular the artist’s approach. I try to be as thorough as possible when it comes to the first meeting / briefing process and will ask a lot of questions before I begin work on anything. Creating artwork that references the client’s interests or mirrors the requirements of a brief really helps. Some times clients have very strong ideas about what they want, other times they are freer with their control on the creative process. As a rule of thumb, the less constraints that are put on an artist, the better the end result will be.

What artists from Dublin do you admire most?

There are heaps! Very hard to tell you them all to be honest. Three close painting friends: Cian Walker, Tony Byrne and Sam Le Bas. Some fine artists I like are Eleanor McCaughey, Cian McLoughlin, Peter Monaghan, Richard Gorman, Colm Mac Athlaoich.

Lots of designers, illustrators, photographers… The list would go on for a long, long while! There’s heaps of talent in Dublin. I think the Dean Hotel project is testament to that. The artwork I curated for the hotel is probably the best indication of who I admire the most.

You started Inputout in 2007, how did this come about and what did you want to achieve?

I started my own practice after working for a design house (Zinc) for three and a half years after leaving college. The idea of working directly with a client and managing my own projects appealed to me. Similar to all creative agencies, I was keen to produce well considered, progressive design work. As well as this, I was keen to pursue a painting career, so Inputout can be see as the commercial embodiment of my interests in design and painting.

James' work breaking the grey of Central Bank

For more information or to see more of James Earley’s work check out his Instagram.

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