NAME: James Dingman

LOCATION: (currently) Keller, Texas – we move around a lot.

Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.

What if? How can?

I always start a piece by asking, “What if . . ?”  What if I run this line over here? What if I put this color next to that one? What if I use this water-soluble pastel? What if I mask this area? At some point I get a sense of what the piece means to me- an emotion, a situation, or a statement. Then, “How can . . ?” takes over. How can I bring that thing out in this piece? How can I calm this area down? How can I make that bit recede? That’s the resolution phase.

Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?

Yes. Always. I even went to college as an art major. Then life intervened and I took an interim job, which turned into a great, fun corporate career. I did very well in that world because I approached every task, not as a businessman, but as an artist. Because I came at every challenge with curiosity and a willingness to experiment, I could get to places and see things most of my peers couldn’t. I continued to paint – but in the ‘closet.’ As my corporate career wound down and became part-time consulting, I was able to focus on the canvas. That was about a dozen years ago and now I paint most every day, have shown my work a lot and sold a number of pieces.

What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?

Because I am essentially impatient, I mostly use acrylics. I don’t like waiting for a layer to dry before going over it with another. Clean-up is a factor too. Acrylics clean up quickly and easily. I must admit, though, that I look at things my friends have done in oil and I’m jealous. They can do things and get effects that, honestly, I can’t.

Is there any particular experience, person, place, or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.

I was fortunate to befriend an amazing artist and teacher in San Diego years ago. We spent many hours talking about art, making art, testing ideas, and arguing. By some magical means, we ended up living side-by-side in the same funky artist colony – a rambling cluster of shacks on a hillside with lots of open space for creating. That’s when things really started to happen for me. I owe much of my artistic motivation and development to Dick Greene.

What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?

For three years, I showed my work in the Arts Factory in Las Vegas. My commitment was to change my pieces every month – and that was the best part of it. I had a deadline and a big wall to fill and it had to be new and fresh every month! It was marvelous motivation, but more than that, it gave me the experience of showing. I admit that I’m not that comfortable talking about what I do or, heaven forbid, what my pieces mean. I just get through that part of it. Mostly I like to creep up on people looking at my work and ask, “What do you see?”. That usually starts a comfortable conversation that enriches both of us.

That “What do you see?” thing came to me years ago. I had a big show – 16 large pieces – in a restaurant. I went in several times, sat at the bar, and watched people eating at their tables. Every so often I’d see the heads lean into one another and a hand come up and point at one of my pieces. I knew they were talking about what they were seeing there. It was a real thrill.

What did winning the Award for Excellence mean to you?

It blew my mind! I was new to Las Vegas and just starting to show my work there. The idea of being in a show in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino was intriguing, so I jumped at it. The award was validation that what I was doing was worthy. It gave me the confidence I needed to not be embarrassed or shy about showing my work to anyone.

What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?

Be aggressive and never apologize. There are places in your city where you can show your work. I started in neighborhood restaurants, offering to fill their big empty walls. When my partner and I moved to Las Vegas, I had to start from scratch, so I joined the Las Vegas Artist Guild and paid my $10 to show one piece in their group gallery. It was a start, and it helped me make some contacts and move to bigger things. Conception Arts is a great opportunity – you should definitely take advantage of it.

And, by the way, there are two things I think every person starting to show their work must do.  First is to remove the word, “just” from their vocabulary- as in “It’s just a doodle”, or “It’s just something I was playing around with”. We use “just” to soften the blow of anticipated negative criticism . . . that usually never comes! It’s an apology. Do you really mean to apologize for making art? Of course not. So stop saying it!

Second, get comfortable saying, “I am an artist.”. Say it over and over. Say it to the mirror. At some point when you are asked, “What do you do?” instead of saying “I’m a waitress (or an accountant or a teacher); and, oh, I also do a little art on the side,” you’ll say “I am an artist.” Period. And you will have arrived.