Dorset Artist: Manga, maps and moments
The digital artworks of Jim Chambers create a familiar yet individual vision of the Dorset coast, reports Lucinda Merriman
Published in November ’16
Meet Jim Chambers: by day, a mild-mannered 3-D visualiser & workplace manager at Ordnance Survey; by night, a ‘superhero’ graphic artist.
Originally from the land-locked Midlands, Jim’s love affair with the Dorset coast began when he first moved to Bournemouth in 2000 as a student. While completing a degree in BA Arts & Event Production at the Bournemouth Arts University, he immersed himself in the local community, renting a flat with two friends above a restaurant on Sandbanks. ‘It all sounds very impressive but in reality the flat we rented was a bit basic and not at all what you would expect a Sandbanks property to be like, but the view and close proximity to Poole Harbour and the sea was perfect for three watersport enthusiasts.’
Jim’s course specialised in event management for the arts and led him to curate a number of small art exhibitions in Bournemouth and the setting up of a custom VW (Volkswagen) car show called BeachBuggin’, that still happens every year in August in Southsea: ‘I’ve always been a big VW fan and bought my first bright red Beetle in my 20’s. Now I have a tatty VW van, which we have adapted as a camper van to use when we are touring the county.’
Jim stayed in the area after his studies, living in a flat in Boscombe, before moving away for two years, then returning to Bournemouth to settle in bustling Southbourne. When he’s not being energetic or creative to relax, Jim enjoys frequenting the local Southbourne ale houses and can often be found at the weekends having breakfast at a beachside café.
A keen outdoors enthusiast, Jim loves to spend time at the beach, either playing volleyball with friends or cycling and running along the promenade. Poole Harbour is still one of his favourite spots and he windsurfs there whenever he has a free moment. He met his future wife (Katherine), while windsurfing and even went windsurfing there on the morning of his wedding day! ‘I love Dorset,’ says Jim, ‘it’s got everything! It offers Katherine and me a great outdoor lifestyle and a fantastic quality of life, which is the perfect antidote to spending hours being creative in front of my computer and Katherine’s busy career in the NHS.’
Jim also has a roving spirit and in 2008 he took a year out with Katherine to go backpacking around the world. Armed with his notebook and camera, Jim developed his current artistic style while on his travels: ‘Our experiences on this trip had a huge creative impact – the bold block colour graffiti of Argentina and Chile were amazing, but it was the diverse design aesthetic of Japan that really blew me away. It was at the Kyoto Museum of Manga that I picked up my passion for detailed line work and the Japanese fine craft of wood block prints.’
Jim has been creating his unique coastal scenes and urban landscapes of the places he loves for over five years. Entirely self-taught, it took some time for him to learn and hone the techniques and skills needed for this medium. He is enthused by Colorado-based artist Evan Hecox, who creates abstract cityscape paintings that have a distinct illustrative style focusing heavily on linework and block colour – something that Jim has incorporated into his own work.
On his travels around Dorset, he is constantly on the lookout for landscapes and architecture that appeal to his own aesthetic sensibilities and starts the creative process by photographing what he thinks will be an interesting subject or viewpoint. From the selected image Jim digitally composes the microcosm, painstakingly outlining the individual components in minute detail, using a stylus to create an ink pen effect around each object. Using artistic licence to add or take out anything he pleases, Jim creates a picture that tells a story.
The layered files craft a composition of images that tie together once he starts to fill in the colour from a muted, matt palette of bleached driftwood and salt-stained beach huts. He uses bright colours to pick out small details which catch the eye and draw you in. The flutter of a flag, the twitch of a sail or the flash of a bike – all give the pictures movement and immediacy.
Jim explains: ‘What one person sees and finds beautiful, the feeling it evokes and what it means to you, is a very personal unique experience. I can only document what I see, while conveying that sense of occasion to the viewer. Places can feel manic, peaceful, happy or sad and I want to transport the spectator to this place at the specific moment I saw it. It’s a snapshot, a memory – it may not be momentous but sometimes even small moments are special and worth remembering. I want to create a perfect scenario, maybe even a Utopian vision of a coastal lifestyle that is palpable. You can almost taste the salt air, hear the seagulls or feel the breeze.’
Each artwork is very labour-intensive, taking over 30 hours to produce, but the result is a unique study on life that might appeal to people who want an original artwork of the place they live, work or spend their holidays in. ‘I feel passionate about where I live and I hope this is evident in my alternative vision of Dorset communicated through my art. It’s very different from where I grew up in Northamptonshire, and although my family still live there, my heart belongs in Dorset.’
You can find examples of Jim’s work at www.jimcdesigns.com and his artwork is also available from various local outlets including the Russell-Cotes Gallery (www.russellcotes.com), Poole Museum (www.boroughofpoole.com/museums) and the Poole Tourist Information Centre on Poole Quay (www.pooletourism.com ).