Cleveland artist James Quarles is hitting the streets in a big way with his trademark classically cool illustrative style.
For musical acts such a Mourning [A] BLK Star, Muamin Collective, LMNTL, Fresh Produce, Peerless, Wildlife Sounds, and even WAL legend MaxWell Shell to name a few, James is a go-to creative for translating their vibes to album covers, logos, and posters. But James doesn’t limit himself to new music visuals. His recent solo show at Canopy Collective represented his range, displaying fresh works that channel his love for stars and stylings of the past.
Born in Indiana and transplanted to Shaker Heights, James caught the art bug early on in life. He recalls painting flowers on the wall for Mother’s Day at the age of 3. His father wasn’t happy about it, but since that day James’ mom has encouraged him to pursue art. Throughout high school and college, he honed his current style of fused graphic design and fine art. Inspiration from his artistic heroes such as poet Shel Silverstein, Black Panther Party Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, and Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl and Gorillaz fame helped further fuel his style.
James describes himself as a drafter. Breaking the piece down graphically before quickly drafting it, he then puts himself to task balancing aesthetics and composition. James implores this strategy as he dabbles in several mediums including acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal, silk screen, digital, and found objects. With accurate retro sensibilities, James demonstrates a potent pop-cultural awareness steeped in cinematic and comic history. The resulting art is a stellar blend that evokes pleasantly nostalgic feelings, both familiar and new-found.
Illustrated in beautifully living color, much of James’ art depicts a variety of famous, everyday, or imagined people. His crowd scenes, as seen in his poster for the Hessler Street Fair, are epic party collages filled with vibrantly detailed characters. On another level, James is skilled at crafting elegant, and soulful portraits with a psychedelic twist, including the likes of Prince, James Brown, and Tina Turner, as seen in his series “Notes from Black History” at the Shaker Heights Public Library. When illustrating any personality, James has a knack for capturing the spirit of his subjects with fun, aptitude, and reverence.
Evident with his wide array of art throughout “the Cleve” — how he lovingly refers to the city — James aims to keep his portfolio fresh and diverse at all times. He’s done sign design for The Cleveland Breakroom, a painted wall at B Side, and an art showcase at The Fairmount and Lava Lounge. James illustrated the children’s book The Adventures of Waly: The Day I Faced the Snake by Mary N. Oluonye and Waly Sene, available on Amazon, and he’s currently finishing his own poetry book titled Born Blue. With James’ drive, we can expect to see much more exciting work from him in the near future. In the meantime, you can check him out on Facebook at facebook.com/james.quarles.9 and on instagram @thejamesquarles.