Marcus James: Between order & chaos

It turns out the man behind our order and chaos-inspired print is more orderly than chaotic. His home is a monochrome haven with splashes of yellow and rose gold. Even the fruit bowl is co-ordinated – strictly lemons and bananas only. His studio is a small, blank canvas punctuated with a rainbow-assorted pencil collection.

Meet Marcus James. Cyclist, runner, trainer lover – preferably white and fresh from the box. And illustrative artist, of course. Making continuous contours without pausing until the work is finished, James creates spectacular larger than life drawings.

Born into an artistic household, James grew up in the west country before moving to London to study at Central Saint Martins.

“It’s a beautiful place to grow up but there’s not really much going on there. Both my parents were artists so we’d have to do life-drawing classes at home twice a week. My sisters are artists too, it was almost like a default,” he explains. “I would draw from the shoulders and the whole body as opposed to drawing from the hand and the wrist, so everything was big and fluid; that’s what made me start drawing like I do. Also, Picasso’s light drawings where he uses a torch to create outlines of light played an influence. Matisse does a lot of these fluid-line drawings, too.”

In addition to his own work, James collaborates with high-end fashion brands including Saint Laurent Paris, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. Rumour has it that the late McQueen once asked James to tattoo his body…


James doesn’t want to reveal too much. “Originally I said I’d give the tattoo a go, but after talking to his business partner, she said that it probably wasn’t the best idea,” he says. “I stayed in contact with him though. Since then I’ve done a whole bunch of collaborations for the brand and various different jobs.”

For Jigsaw, we asked James to create a series of artworks based on two opposing mathematical concepts: order and chaos. Order is a story of balance and beauty, floral hand drawings manipulated by screen printing. Inspired by chaos theory’s butterfly effect, the chaos print captures energy through continuous unbalanced lines, hand-drawn with charcoal. Given James’s trademark style, it was a natural fit. The prints have been translated on to dresses, tops, trousers and a jumpsuit.

“The main thing is that it was visually striking and we had a visual language that would translate well on to the garments,” he adds. “We knew the texture of the charcoal and the fluidity of the lines would work really well.”

Balancing an artist’s viewpoint with collaborative work is not always easy, and James admits that the art world often frowns on commercial projects. “It can be difficult and tricky. Doing the work is OK as they both feed off each other. It’s more how other people see you,” he says. “The idea is that you’re supposed to do your own work most of the time. You can feel commoditised, but that’s the way it works, let’s face it. I don’t have a problem with commercial work because I feel like I’m getting a lot from it. It’s give and take really and if you don’t do too much of it it’s OK.”


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By Nakhalar Sterling