Michael James graduated from the Architecture School at Clemson University in 1993 but soon found that his real passion lay in drawing buildings rather than designing them.
James has been drawing with pen and ink since his uncle, Henry Wynn, gave him his first drawing pen at 10 years of age. His uncle not only provided James with a pen but taught him a great deal about using it.
By the time he was 18, he was selling professionally, using the income to pay his way through school. One of those early drawings was of his school, Clemson University, which he sold to the campus bookstore.
Continuing in that early direction, James specializes in drawings of college campuses. Sometimes, he does an iconic building on the campus and sometimes, he does a composite of buildings and campus sites. Often, the school mascot makes an appearance.
James makes his drawings using pointillism, a technique made famous by Impressionist artist Georges Seurat in the 1800s. Pointillism is a series of dots that are blended together by the eye to make an image. In the case of Michael James’ images, it is a photo realistic image of a building, built up slowly using millions of tiny dots.
James visits the campus, makes preliminary sketches and takes photos. Then, back in his studio, he begins the long, laborious process of building up the image. A single drawing takes at least 100 hours of work. James makes prints of the original drawings and sells the prints.
It is Michael James’ goal to complete a drawing of every college and university in North and South Carolina. But he has a long way to go. He has drawn more than 40 different schools and currently has requests for 25 or 30 more. He doesn’t know how many schools there are but he says there are a lot of them.
At the moment, he is working on drawings of Central Florida, NC Central, Western Carolina and new drawings of UNC-Charlotte and Catawba college.
The most popular of his drawings are images of UNC-Charlotte and App State. This is perhaps surprising with North Carolina’s serious love affair with ACC schools. But James attributes the popularity more to supply than demand. He says UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke alumni have plenty to choose from but when an App State grad finds a drawing of their alma mater in his booth, they get excited.
Also, James lives in the Charlotte area and both UNC-Charlotte and App State are popular college choices for Charlotte residents.
Michael James has been to the Autumn Leaves Festival several times but it has been 10 or 12 years since he was here last. Take this opportunity to check out his work and see what’s new since the last time he was in Mount Airy.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.