NATURE, WOMEN, DREAMS, AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES INSPIRE THE SURREAL, FANTASY TINGED WORKS OF THIS SHORE BASED ARTIST
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
When Brittany James was a youngster, she underwent surgery that restricted her physical activity, so she turned to art to pass the time. It was the beginning of lifelong career.
Born in Point Pleasant, the Shore native lived in Ortley Beach and Toms River, leading one to assume that ocean themed works would be her mainstay.
“People say I could sell more art if I painted sunsets and beach scenes,” James laughingly related. Instead, her style evolved into an impressionistic interpretation of realism after meeting the late artist Elaine Sgambati at church. Sgambati, known for her still lifes and landscapes, was a teacher in addition to mounting her own tri state gallery exhibitions. At age eight, James joined Sgambati’s Island Heights School.
“Elaine was a big influence for me,” James said. “She taught me everything I know about oil painting, so I already had that knowledge when I went to college. I emulated her style, then developed my own, more surrealistic version.”
The young painter graduated Montclair State University with a BFA in 2009, intending to become an art therapist. While taking on retail jobs post college, she was struck with the thought, “Life is too short to not do what you love every day,” and so decided to try to make a living as an artist. She’s been at it full time ever since.
Diversification has been key to James’s success. She has been commissioned to paint interior and exterior works at businesses, schools, and private homes in towns like Asbury Park, Little Silver, Long Branch, and Spring Lake. When Keansburg Township officials wanted to commission an outdoor mural, they found James and others online. After meetings with the mayor and council, she was selected to replace an old snowman on the side of a Main Street pharmacy with a colorful “Greetings” postcard style mural.
James also teaches art classes for children and teens in Lincroft, and painting classes for adults in Asbury Park. Her experience includes oil painting, acrylic murals, performance art, charcoal drawing, pastel, printmaking, and sculpture, and she has exhibited at galleries throughout the Shore. She’s also available to host private parties, bridal and baby showers, Girls Night Out events, fundraisers, and team building workshops.
“Once I started teaching, I realized it was a form of therapy,” she said. “It’s like meditation; you turn o your mind and relax while painting, and I love teaching kids. It’s very rewarding to see how proud they are over what they create. Art is important in education. It builds awareness and competence more than people realize.”
James’s endeavors extend to the increasingly popular trend of on stage painting during concerts, which she began at the invitation of her friend, Garden State musician Glen Burtnick, a former member of the band Styx. Her first foray was during Burtnick’s British Invasion show, and she’s done several more since. The large canvases she creates are auctioned off; one went to George Harrison’s charity, another is at Second Life Bikes in Asbury Park, and a third is at Burtnick’s house.
James currently resides and works in Asbury Park with partner and fellow artist Patrick Schiavino, who owns the art629 Gallery where her works are on display. She’s in the midst of preparing for an exhibition of a series of eight new pieces, “Moon Phases,” debuting on February 23 at Red Bank’s Wild Eye gallery and emporium on Bridge Avenue.
“Artists are seekers…always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths behind illusions,” she opined. “The healing therapy of art making and self-expression has been very important to me throughout my life, and it’s something I continue to share with others. I could not be who I am today without the ability and freedom to channel thoughts onto a canvas. I want to make images that mean something to me personally. I hope others connect to them as well.”
908.278.1597 / brittanyjamesart.com