Layered Approach: James Weinberg
upon entering our new location at the base of the new Viridian development in Fenway, you'll immediately notice two murals, which add some prehistoric vibes to the already historic area. James Weinberg, the artist behind the Jurassic-inspired visuals, is a Somerville-based artist who excels at blending shapes + colors together to create expressive, intricate + unforgettable images. We met with James to learn more about his work + inspiration, all while touring Somerville, visiting some of his public pieces which added pops of color on an otherwise gray, dreary New England day.
hg: tell us a bit about yourself + your artistic background. What initially motivated you to pursue this as a career?
james: I was really inspired by silkscreen poster art. That led me to exploring illustration, screen printing + typography. While I was learning to print I was also learning to illustrate, so I had to work with the limitation of what I could print which lead to a very graphic style of art making.
hg: what made you decide to set up shop in Boston? Is there anything about the city that inspires your work?
james: I grew up on the North Shore, so my roots are in Boston. I lived in Colorado for college, but moved back to Boston to study design at Mass College of Art—I just kept getting pulled back here. I really enjoyed my time in the Southwest, but I'm a New Englander at heart.
"I love the architecture and history here—the old graveyards + early American history."
hg: your art plays with intricate, carefully chosen geometric layers + vibrant colors. What about this style attracts/interests you?
james: originally, I used to draw with outlines and detailed line drawings. When I started making posters, I noticed that when I did a simpler style of art and ditched the overdrawing, the art had more "pop." I did some murals you'd see when driving by in traffic, so I would try to find the sweet spot of how to make something interesting but able to be read quickly.
hg: you’re a painter, illustrator, designer + screen printer. Which of these formats is your preferred medium + why?
james: screen printing is my favorite, but it cross-pollinates with illustration + design. I love using saturated color and metallics in my prints + designs. You can also easily create repeats of a design, making the art more affordable. Recently, I have been making repeat patterns for wallpaper designs that I print. I turn to paint when there is an issue in scale, but approach it the same way as silkscreen.
hg: what inspired the pieces which are featured at our new hgFenway spot?
james: I wanted to create a natural environment using shapes + colors, built up by transparent overprinting, which is a simulation of effects I do with screen printing. Since the scale of the front piece is long and horizontal at a large size, I thought of playing with that via a prehistoric theme.
hg: among others, you’ve completed works for beer brands, musical acts + now honeygrow! Are there any favorite jobs which stand out to you? Any “dream” opportunities that you’d love to take on?
james: "I really enjoy when the work connects with the viewers."
When I make a mural that is public, it becomes part of the visual landscape and people associate that particular piece with that particular place. I am really excited to make the art for honeygrow. I am currently working on an illustrated children's book that I am writing + illustrating. That is kind of a dream project of mine. It would also be great to design wallpaper + textiles.
hg: the art community in our hometown of Philadelphia is rather robust + incredibly supportive—how does this compare to Boston’s creative scene?
james: a few years ago, I spent a weekend in Philly as support for a pop-up poster show, and the local community there was great. I'm not too involved with the formal gallery culture here, but there are a lot of hardworking people that do a lot of great work. For a while, I was co-curating silkscreen shows + working with artists to create screenprints, that would be displayed in alternative spaces. For illustration + design, people have been great connecting me with projects, and I try to do the same for them.
hg: where can we find some of your other pieces around Boston? Any public street art or larger murals on display anywhere?
james: there are some murals in Somerville, commissioned by Assembly Row. Some are painted on the walls, while others are vinyl installations. I also painted a mural in the Somerville rock climbing gym, Brooklyn Boulders. I'm currently working on some stuff for a juice bar in Boston.
hg: when you’re creatively stifled, or hitting a mental wall, where do you turn for inspiration?
james: good question! While making art is fun, it can come with a lot of self doubt + hard work. When I am blocked creatively, I like to get inspiration from books. There is a great old library downtown called the Boston Athenaeum—you could get lost in that place and it's nice and quiet. Sometimes going on a bike ride to clear my head helps as well.
hg: when you’re not making art, where would we find you? Any favorite local haunts or activities?
james: I love going to Salem—there is an amazing museum, a great record store + amazing old houses. It's right on the water and only 45 minutes away. I also bike out to Lexington and Concord—home of Walden Pond + tons of trails to bike on.