When artist Heather James first moved to London in 1979 after graduating from Bath Academy of Art, she began sketching the city life she saw in front of her as she commuted to and from work.
Not only did it distract her from the tedium of standing around waiting for trains, sketching the city life helped her to understand how the sprawling metropolis of London fit together and the best way to get around. In actuality, Heather was exploring the places around her and her place in them as she created her very own space and story in London.
Eventually I realised that I’d learned to navigate my way round London by drawing it.
Throughout her career, Heather’s work has largely concentrated on the outdoors, from traditional realistic landscape paintings to more abstract images. She likes to develop some of her sketches into paintings but can never predict whether the end result will be representational or abstract. She likes to watch the work develop.
In 2005, inspired by how much she had enjoyed drawing on the hoof during her time on public transport and also by writer Marta Szarbo as she was blogging her book: The Guru Looked Good, Heather set up a blog of her own called Drawing my way round London. Heather’s goal was to explore the North London Line which ran from North Woolwich in the east, to Richmond in the west. Little did she know, that it would be a journey of six years.
Along the way as she drew each station and blogged about it, Heather attracted a following of people who joined her on her virtual journey, and who began leaving comments to describe the feelings that Heather’s drawings had evoked in them. She also became firm friends with Marta Szarbo. In turn, Heather inspired others and began mentoring younger artists who were keen to develop their artistic lives.
Once her journey was complete, Heather turned the project into an e-book: Drawing my way round London.pdf which is available for download free on her website: Heather James: artist.
In 2015, Heather began another journey, this time of 805 steps along the towpath of the Hertford Union canal in Hackney Wick to record the views before they were destroyed by developers bulldozers. Once more, she blogged about her experiences of drawing her way through that spring and summer of change which resulted in an exhibition of drawings displayed on the walls of a building on the towpath.
Between the bigger projects, Heather always has many other projects on the go, but ultimately prefers painting and printing to the occasional craft project.
At other times she has created work for exhibitions which for one reason or another didn’t take place like one which was planned in 2018: 100 years of Women’s Suffrage. Heather created a piece called Your vote is priceless and has only shown this piece to a few people, one person at a time, and says pragmatically: And that has been its exhibition, adding: I am very proud of that work.
Heather has works held in private collections in Canada, the USA and Australia.
Sometimes Heather may begin a project even though she is not sure it will ever reach completion but enjoys learning new skills and styles such as book binding and lino printing which she laughingly says: Will keep me busy into my old age.
As she watches the story of how her work unfolds, Heather continues to sell her art on folksy and saatchiart and loves to hear her customers’ interpretations of what a drawing or painting means to them. In this way, storytelling has always been a strong element in her work and a way of connecting her to others. By painting or printing her own story, Heather allows other people the chance to tell their own.
Connecting with other artists is very important to Heather and so she was delighted to accept the art collective e9makers invitation to join them. She is also active in the Hackney Wick Life Drawing group. Both groups allow her to meet fellow artists, learn new skills and improve old ones.
Heather believes that it is important to receive mentoring as well as give it, as she was encouraged to embrace her imagination from an early age by her very first mentor, her mother, who made her some dressing up clothes, in particular, a red and gold cloak which Heather used as a skirt, a blanket and even a tent.
Her current mentor is Marie Cole of WeeClothing. They have traded at markets together and frequently discuss business, creative ideas and where to sell their work.
If you an artist with an existing practice who is interested being mentored by Heather, reach out and contact her using one of the links below. Otherwise browse and buy her artwork and get ready to tell a story of your own.
Look for Heather on:
- Her website: Heather James: artist
- Twitter: @HeatherLJ
- Instagram: @leavalleyart
Buy her artwork on:
- Folksy: Lea Valley Art
- Saatchi Art: Heather James | Saatchi Art
And, enjoy her art work for free on: