Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Local portrait artist James Allen is just one of an exciting new generation of artists in Brockley. He grew up in the area, but moved to Cardiff to study for a degree in fine art. He's now back here, building his portfolio.

James kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Brockley Central ...

You participated in Brockley Open Studios this year, what did you think of the experience?

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people that came to see my work, the positive response and that so many local people are interested enough in art to support the Brockley Open Studios.

You have family connections in Brockley; did you grow up here? Are you still based here?

Yes I have always lived in Brockley. After leaving university in Cardiff I returned to Brockley.

What first interested you in art as a career, and what training and experience have you had?

I've always drawn since I could hold a pencil and after I completed my fine art degree in Cardiff, I knew that painting was the one thing I wanted to do. Towards the end of my time at Cardiff, I became more and more interested in painting people. I won the Harry Holland prize for best figurative artist. I began to get commissions for portraits which I found I really enjoyed.

Brockley has a reputation for its artistic community, was this a factor in you developing into an artist?

No, I wasn't really aware that there was such a thriving artistic community until the Open Studios event.

How would you describe your work's style and themes, and what are your inspirations?

I don't think of my work being in any particular style, but I am heavily influenced by Velazquez and John Singer Sargent, so I like to employ the same techniques as they used. The themes are mainly portraits, modern images in a classical setting. On a recent trip to California though, I began painting landscapes.

Will you be participating in Open Studios next year, and do you have any other local exhibitions or events planned?

Definitely, it's proved to be one of the most useful outlets for showing my work yet. I don't have any exhibitions planned very locally, but the last couple of years I've had paintings accepted for display by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Discerning Eye exhibition, both held at the Mall Gallery so I'll continue to submit for those exhibitions. I have a solo exhibition planned at the SaLon Gallery in Westbourne Grove early next year.

Anyone interested in commissioning James can contact him via his website.
Many thanks to James for permission to use some of his works in this post.