Artist Interview – Ham?

James, Is That You?

James, Is That You? painted during the 2012 RVA Street Art Festival

April has been a fantastic month for art in Richmond Virginia and we spent an amazing weekend taking in the creativity on display. The G40 Art Summit and the RVA Street Art festival produced a stunning array of artists with distinctive styles and points of view.

Mural Locator met the artist Ham? at the RVA Street Art festival. It was an impressive event that brought together artists from around the United States to paint on walls near the James River Power Plant building and the flood wall.

Ham? was painting a fascinating mural that mixed a black and white portrait with bright background colors. Later we talked to him about his work, influences, and direction.

“From a young age I drew everything, copying cartoon characters and moving onto more realistic subjects.”, said Ham?.

A native of Philadelphia who later moved to Richmond his mom actively encouraged his interest in art through childhood by enrolling him in different art classes at the Philadelphia Institute of Art. He didn’t always enjoy these classes “I hated people telling me how to draw”.

He studied Architecture at college but soon realized it wasn’t the right choice, “After the first year I wasn’t enjoying the course but felt it was too late to change.” Though he regretted the choice while at college he found it a useful experience, “It was a very vigorous process and helped with scale, it was a boot camp in getting a project done. I would do it again”.

Ham? started showing his art work around three years ago without a large collection, “I went for it and painted my butt off”.

He has been developing his style over the last three years and is still forming his artistic voice and aesthetic. When he first showed his work in 2009/2010 the paintings were more realistic “I wasn’t looking for a style it was me trying to do art”. The people were painted in black and white with other elements on the painting in color.


She painted in 2012

In his recent work the figures still in black and white look more sketched. “This comes from me just loving to sketch, I did lots of variations of art and learned a lot of different techniques but loved sketching, sketching was when I was happiest.”

He also found there was a bonus for him drawing people in black and white “I like the fact you can show something in black and white and you have to guess race and ethnicity… it’s not the reason I do it but it’s a plus”

The use of color is interesting but he didn’t always find it easy to add “it’s a daunting task adding color as it takes it out of sketch mode” but “I like the way the black and white figures pop against color… I love the way I use a lot of paint I love bright colors and the contrast with the black and white… I think the black and white contrast is something that makes my work strong and make me enjoy my work… I’m really starting to get confident in what I like”.

The birth of his daughter gave him time to reflect on his work but found he didn’t like to contemplate on it too much. He feels most comfortable when it “just pours out”. He started to look at the difference between the canvas and the sketch book and the new work was the start of merging together the two styles “emulating the sketch book on the wall”.

He enjoys working in Richmond and has had a lot of opportunities there. “The city is trying to define an art city and is embracing street art and art in general”

Since Ham? Started showing his work he has also been working with a non-profit called Art 180. Art 180 works with kids in the Richmond area providing art related programs for young people in challenging circumstances. “I do love teaching kids and have got so much out of it, it’s always something I’ve reflected on and thought that’s awesome – its great it keeps me around free minded individuals”.

'Recession 2009' Later repainted after complaints from a local business

One piece of work he did caused controversy in the area. “Recession 2009” showed a man in a suite holding a gun to his head. It reflected the way the Ham? perceived the feeling in the country at that time. It received a lot of press before a local business asked for it to be taken down. He wasn’t forced to take it down but decided to replace it with a mural that shows his views on censorship.

He was invited to participate in the RVA Street Art Festival by Ed Trask one of the organizers. “I feel so blessed to get the opportunity to get the street art festival… the festival made me concentrate it was so natural it wasn’t a burden it came naturally it felt like it was supposed to feel.”

In the past he used spray paint for his work but this is changing, in the past few month’s he’s been experimenting with using both spray and latex paint. He found that he “loves spray paint for the control and loves paint for its realism and softness” and by using both techniques “I have the ability to do both”.

He doesn’t feel that this technique takes longer and found it was pretty quick creating his mural at the RVA Street Art Festival.

To learn more about Ham? you can visit this website

Published: April 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Post By: Indie

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