Two weeks ago I attended Ouseburn Open Studios and was a true Culture Vulture– I took myself around all the galleries and called in to lots artist pals and of course chatted to lots of new creative folk and other attendees. I had a blissful conversation with an artist about the 90s and owning a type writer when I eventually own my own house (I want everyone to be able to type a message when they enter/visit).
Ouseburn Open Studios is such a fantastic vibed weekend – I also like to make sure I buy lots from artists and creatives whilst grabbing a drink in many of the lush bars and independents along the way. Hence my purchasing gets more and more along the way…….
And I always finish (it’s traditional for me now!) in Jim Edwards studio on the Sunday afternoon and promise myself that when I’m grown up, I’m going to buy myself a Gateshead themed Jim Edwards painting. I love Jim Edwards work – it’s colourful, enthused talent and I always view it with a huge smile on my face – as every single piece to me, looks and feels like home. He depicts many lush scenes from the North East – some iconic, some comfortingly familiar and some perfectly stylised.
One of my favourite pieces of his – depicts Craig David. I imagine – 50% of you reading this, know exactly what I’m talking about and the others, probably think I’m talking about actual Craig David (even typing that makes me call out “can I get rewindddd!”). Craig David was a lovely pub cat – he was a regular lurker at the Free Trade Bar and his spot was on top of the Jukebox. He’d often swagger in and make himself at home or you’d go in for a bev and he’d be in his spot snoozing or watching the world go by……
Craig David died this year and of course, there was an outpouring on social media. And when he died, I suddenly thought of Jim’s painting – which depicts a quiet Free Trade afternoon with Craig David absolutely in pride of place checking out the view of the Tyne. He’s forever immortalised in that picture. It reminded me why I love Jim’s work so much – real scenes, with real goings on filled with real detail. I love that painting!
So I thought I’d take Ouseburn Weekender as the perfect opportunity to catch up with Jim Edwards – find out more about him, his work and his style.
Hi Jim – right tell me about your journey into the arts?
I’ve always been interested in creating artwork. As a child, it was always the enjoyment of getting lost in a creative practice, and also for the praise that came from making a strong image, and being regarded as good at art. I had two older brothers who were also good at art, and so the competitive nature between siblings challenged me to become better.
I concentrated on art throughout school, art foundation and a degree in illustration. After I graduated, I wasn’t sure how to continue a career in the arts. I attempted illustration for a while, but it wasn’t for me. Whilst working as a picture framer, I started to sell small paintings and drawings at a market on Armstrong Bridge (Jesmond Dene, Newcastle) on Sundays. I tried out all sorts of work, abstract, surreal, figurative, but the thing that really took off were paintings of Newcastle. I gave up becoming a picture framer, to give more time painting cityscapes, and I’m still a professional artist 18 years later.
Tell me about your practice and your strong recognisable style?
I mostly paint contemporary cityscapes and landscapes, centred on the North East.
The style has slowly evolved over time. When I started, it was quite naïve in style. I worked a lot with biro, with washes of acrylic paint. I then used hairspray to bleed the biro colour through the paint. It was an interesting affect I stumbled across by accident, but I stopped this method because it wasn’t good for my health.
For a while my style even went a little bit abstract, but the cityscapes started to become too unrecognisable; I like to play with colour and over exaggerate the light in my nightscapes, I have to build up several layers of paint to get the desired tonal effect, making the city glow. A slow process, but rewarding.
My work is strongly rooted in memory, how we remember a place, rather than a straightforward representation. I like to reimagine the cityscape, even if certain elements are forgotten or altered.
What’s it like being on the Ouseburn creative scene at the moment? Your studio is beautiful!
I’ve been working in the Ouseburn for most of my career, hopping from one studio to the next. One of the earliest was at the Biscuit factory, followed by the Mushroom Works. Then after a brief 8 month stint in Northumberland, I came back to 36 Lime Street, before taking on my own place at 59 Lime Street.
I couldn’t imagine having a studio outside of the Ouseburn, it feels like my creative home. It’s quietly paced, and feels like an escape from the city, even though it’s quite industrial. Renowned as the cultural hub of Newcastle, it’s crucial to be here for the numerous open studios events that take place throughout the year. This is where all the creative venues join forces and open their studio doors to the public. Whether it’s the Ouseburn Open Studios or The Late Shows, both are valuable to my work.
It’s quite a lonely profession being an artist, which I don’t mind, because I love my own space. But it is beneficial to mix with other like-minded people, to work together of bounce ideas off each other. So I’m often over at 36 Lime Street having a cup of tea with friends.
How did you go about securing that studio space?
I spotted it was coming up for rent, so jumped at the opportunity to get it. It’s a huge jump in rent, to what I was used to at 36 Lime Street. But the increase in visitors to my studio, with having on street access, has more than made up for it. It’s a small, intimate space to work in. And sometimes I don’t know if the space is a studio or a gallery, so sometimes it struggles to function as both; as long as visitors don’t mind the creative clutter when they pop in.
Any new work or projects you’re working on?
I’m currently working on a few paintings, trying to get them finished before Christmas; including a large canvas of the Ouseburn. I have a huge to do list of paintings, mainly because the ideas come far quicker than I can actually paint them. And so I’m looking forward to making a start on some paintings of Cullercoats and the Lake District in the New Year, before getting round to everything else on the list.
And what does it feel like – people coming into your studio and looking at your work?
It’s quite a strange one. It’s always amazing selling paintings, really spurs you on to paint more. Especially being able to meet the buyer and talk about your work, which you don’t normally get in a gallery situation. The rhythm of creating a painting gets thrown, whenever someone comes in. It’s surprisingly disruptive, and I probably produce a lot less work these days. But I can’t complain, it’s important for my work, and I want people to pop in. And if they buy something, even better!
Next year – it’s the Angel’s 20th Birthday and also Great Exhibition of The North – obviously, your pieces champion the North East and landmarks – do you see an opportunity for yourself next year?
I’ve got an Angel of the North painting on my studio wall, right now. Hopefully the birthday celebration will encourage it to sell. Who knows what will happen during the Great Exhibition of the North. I’ll see if I can tie in my paintings somehow. There may be an Ouseburn Open Studios event during the event. I look forward to it, and hope it benefits the creative industries in the Ouseburn.
One of my favourite pieces of yours is The Free Trade depiction with Craig David in it….. as a Free Trade lover and prolific cat cuddler – it always made me smile and I’m super happy his legacy lives on forever in that piece.
I do like The Free Trade painting too, reminds me of the lazy days spent in there, before children, enjoying a pint. And yes, Craig David pubcat lives on in the painting. I also like the window view, almost giving a painting within a painting.
You manage to have successfully develop what I’d class as a commercially sustainable practice – do you have any advice for other artists currently trying to?
I think it’s crucial to know how to position yourself, to know if there’s a gap in the market, and can you create something to fill it. When I was a picture framer, I gauged the sort of paintings people were buying, and I thought there was a lack of cityscapes and landscapes in my style of painting.
You’ve also got to be stubbornly determined in your pursuit; have a fire in your belly to see it through, and not be too distracted by what others think or do.
What’s next for Jim in 2018?
Lots more art and getting through that to do list of paintings. Exploring more, and painting places in the North East I haven’t got to yet. I really want to get round to painting more of Durham and Hadrian’s Wall, when I have a free moment. Ouseburn Open Studios returns in March, and the Late Shows in May, plus other events through the year.
Well thank you Jim – lush to catch up with you! Jim’s Studio is located at: 59 Lime Street, Ouseburn, NE1 2PQ and open Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm and Saturday, by appointment – it’s certainly a must see for Culture Vultures and check out his work online too via his website – I just love it so much. And if like me you can’t quite afford a big picture painting – there are lots of prints and greetings cards you will be able to afford!
And of course, big love to Craig David pub cat – the cultural scene misses you!
Till next time Culture Vultures!