Whether you are in the middle of a birch forest looking through at the sky, or are inside a vehicle looking out a rainy windshield, James Postill’s paintings pull you in.
James works largely in acrylics, oil paintings, and fresco painting but has experimented over the years with many other types of artistic media.
His current body of acrylic and oil paintings explore semi-abstract scenes looking out through rainy windshields, seen from the driver or passenger‘s perspective, which are available for purchase.
First Commercial Gallery
It wasn’t too long before James amassed a body of oil paintings, which marked the beginning of the Rain Series. He approached the White Rock Gallery with this group of oil paintings, and as a modern art gallery they were glad to have found something unique about his work, and agreed to represent him.
James will always remember this year-long period as a special experience. It was his first commercial gallery and home to a fabulous stable of renown artists James felt privileged to be showing alongside of. And also because of the mentorship offered by Dennie Segnitz, the owner.
Fresco Painting, in the Footsteps of Michelangelo (2011-2013)
During an art college field trip to San Francisco, James saw the fresco murals of Diego Rivera, and found his already strong interest in murals and wall art galvanized. Fast forward to 2011, James found his passion for fresco painting reignited while studying ancient painting techniques during an artist’s residency. He threw himself wholeheartedly into learning the difficult process.
What made it particularly hard was unlike warmer regions like California, lime putty was nowhere to be found in British Columbia, short of importing it at a great expense. If he was going to learn fresco, James would have to prepare his own materials from scratch.
He drove 500 km to the nearest factory which produced burnt limestone, and brought back 10 large pails of it. He laboriously sieved out all the pebbles and carefully immersed the powder into water, inducing a volatile process called slaking. The result was lime putty. This putty is mixed with washed/dried sand to make plaster, which when applied to a wall creates the surface to be painted. Pigments dissolved in distilled water are painted onto the wet plaster, which hardens into limestone overnight. This form of wall art is called fresco.
Around the time that James had gathered all the necessary art supplies for fresco, a friend told him of a Benedictine monk living at the Westminster Abbey in Mission, BC, who painted frescoes at the church. Though he lived the life of a humble servant of God, Father Dunstan Massey was a legendary Canadian artist. He took time out of his busy schedule to teach James fresco painting, via long distance calls and the occasional visit by James to the monastery. James remembers Fr. Dunstan’s sense of humor. He gently mocked James’s lack of skill in troweling a flat plaster surface, observing that “it undulated like the North Sea”.
At the end of this informal apprenticeship, James went away with an amount of lime given to him by Dunstan from his own supply. He was then commissioned by the Vernon Community Art Center to design and install a 55-square foot fresco mural in their atrium.
The Winds of Change and New Galleries (2013-present)
In 2013, White Rock Gallery and James parted on good terms and within a week, he was approached by Calgary-based Gibson Fine Art to be represented by them. James is grateful for this mutually beneficial partnership that continues to this day.
In 2018, James was approached by the Elevation Gallery in Canmore, Alberta to join their stable of artists which continues to be a great business relationship.
Present Art Practice, Inspiration, Goals, and Creating with a New Sense of Purpose
For James, the past two years have been a time of artistic growth, sometimes painful and other times rewarding. He has come back into his practice with a new sense of purpose and inspiration with each acrylic or oil painting he creates. What has not changed is his commitment to being honest in whatever he’s trying to express of himself in each painting he approaches.
James has been deeply involved with a series of paintings called the Rain Series for the past 12 years. The inspiration came from when James spent time living in his cabin. He had been very interested in moody paintings which evoked feelings of melancholy, and yet were somehow comforting. Specifically, Helnwein Gottfried’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams – James Dean.
It rained a lot at the cabin, so James had plenty of subject matter to pursue these emotions. He painted landscapes with puddles pelted by droplets, and scenes that were broken by lines of slanting rain. He credits artists such as Van Gogh and Japanese landscape painting for this inspiration.
One day, James was out field-sketching, sitting in his car, stuck for ideas, when suddenly he looked at the rain coming down on his windshield. He saw how it molded and shaped forms and light. Up until then, he had been struggling to capture the realism of forms, but something his mentor Rick Bond had said came back to him, “first construct the form, then deconstruct it”. In a flash the Rain Series was born.
Six months later, while researching on the computer during his weekly trips into town, James discovered an American artist named Gregory Thielker. The realism of Thielker’s work galvanized James’s vision for what subject matter he wanted to pursue. Not so much to emulate Thielker’s style, but interpret the subject in his own way. It was and continues to be, a path that challenges and inspires James.