Featured Artist Spotlight: James Pyle on how the city inspires his work

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At aAh! we aim to shine a spotlight on our talented student community. To celebrate the launch of The FRESHERS Issue 23/24 and our ‘Welcome Home to Manchester’ theme, we caught up with this issue’s shortlisted featured artists.

James Pyle studied Illustration with Animation at Manchester Met in 2003 and subsequently pursued an MA in Design and Art Direction. He has always immersed himself in the creative world, with particular passions being 2D visual arts and music.

Illustration became a huge strength during his studies, where he went on to win The Northern Design Award for Illustration for a piece of work he produced judged by Wayne Hemingway and Russell Mills.

James is always looking for new and exciting opportunities which challenge his design and illustration expertise. He enjoys working both alone and with others and having to think fast and welcomes projects which test his innovation. We caught up with James about his work, what the city means to him, and his advice to other artists.

James Pyle’s work titled ‘Dimitri’s, shortlisted for The FRESHERS Issue 23/24.

James, can you tell us a bit about what inspired your ‘Dimitris’ The FRESHERS Issue submission?

After having major surgery for the third time in 2009, I couldn’t go more than 50 metres from my home on Little Peter Street. So all my work for about four or five years was focused on the area I lived. [For this piece], I wanted to create a damp drizzly Manchester day. I took the original photographs for this illustration many years ago before the skyscrapers in Castlefield had been erected.

This image is a photo montage, with about eight or nine photographs in this one illustration. I’ve redrawn parts, enlarged certain elements (the clock, The Deansgate pub and bridge), and replaced eyesores (electrical structures) with nature.

My favourite part of this image is the road and pavement. After I [removed] the original road/pavement, I went searching for a similar road to replace it nearby which suited the image more. Once I found the perfect spot on Chester Street, I took the pictures, but after looking at them on my computer I realised the pavement needed to be wet. I went back a couple of days later in the rain, and then I [realised] it was too wet and you could see strong reflections in the puddles, which I did not want. So again I had to make the trip a third time when it looked like it might rain, wait for it to drizzle for five or ten minutes and finally capture the correct photograph for the illustration.

I like the idea of people looking at many of my illustrations and thinking, ‘Is that…?’ ‘When was that taken?’ ‘It looks different.’ People think it’s one photograph, when in reality it’s many photo layers from all over.

What are your favourite mediums to work in and why?

Before I came to Manchester in 2003, I completed my Fine Art Foundation in Blackpool so my choice of medium has changed drastically. Before it was gouache paint and charcoal. Now it is photography and digital art.

What does Manchester mean to you?

Manchester is where my family is from. Where my favourite band and team is from. Living in the centre 20 years I have soaked up all the culture and life I can that the city has to offer.

What have you noticed about the art scene here?

Through exhibitions and gallery openings I have met many great art minds and it has influenced and developed my practice over the years.

What advice would you give new students who want to get more involved in art?

You can develop all the skills in the world. My advice is work on your thought process. Sometimes all the development can be done in your mind, and the execution can be quick, simple and thought provoking. I personally have a very fine art thinking process, but my execution is digital now. Don’t ever limit yourself. Push boundaries, and explore and combine different methods.

Follow James Pyle on Instagram at @lechatblanc1984.

Pick up your copy of The FRESHERS Issue 23/24 on campus or read online. Follow @aAh_mag to get the best from your student magazine.

About the author / 

Jenna Muiderman

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