James Vann recalls his first work of art, a finger painting he was introduced to in Elementary School.
“Finger painting is my earliest recollection, just seeing all of the colors blend together on that large sheet of paper was an amazing experience. I was instantly and have had a paintbrush or pencil in my hand
every chance to create something.”
The award-winning artist was 10 years old when a relative gave him his first oil paint set.
“It became sort of a refuge for me that afforded me the opportunity to create mentally and physically in a painting.”
In Junior High School, Vann won a “Keep New York City Clean Poster Contest” where his teachers recommended he apply for entry to the prestigious Art & Design High School in Manhattan, he
accepted and graduated 4 years later.
After a four-year stint in the Marine Corps, Vann continued to pursue his art career by attending classes at the Albert Pels Art School in New York City.
After graduating, he went to work for the New York City Correction Department, at New York City’s main jail complex on Rikers Island, and the Manhattan City Jail for Men aka “The Tombs.”
His artistic talents were discovered, and he was promoted to the position of Art Director for the, NYC Correctional System, where he applied is graphic arts skills, publishing a monthly newsletter and teaching art to
the inmates throughout the city.
“I would take some of the inmate paintings to local galleries in lower
Manhattan to be displayed in special exhibits.”
It wasn’t until he retired and moved to Tampa, Florida 30 years ago, that Vann was able to pursue his own artwork in earnest, once again. In Florida, Vann started painting landscapes with a few members of the famous “Highwaymen” realized this was the kind of work many artist were painting, and he wanted his own identity, so I developed his signature
style of, Neo-Cubism, (New Cubism) replicating African Art, he had seen in all of the tribal cultural designs. Vann characterized and emphasized those designs with a touch of jazz & class by adding bright, bold colors encased in geometric shapes.
Vann’s work incorporates his love of jazz and the traditional flair of the jazz musicians he loved to watch, listen and capture as best he could on his canvas. His early inspirations include such great artists, such a Jacob
Lawrence and Romare Bearden, William Tolliver, Illustrator Jack Davis, and Norman Rockwell.