Making a Big Deal out of Every Little Thing
James Wilson, 360 Live Media’s Art Director, is a man on a mission. Although, without proper clearances to know the specificities of what exactly that mission entails—my best guess is that it’s to make everything exceptionally cool.
Now, I’m used to seeing James routinely knock big branding assignments out of the park so far kids with mitts scurry to field them two blocks over. Over his career, James has created breakthrough creative for everyone from the New York Knicks to Honda to our entire stable of clients.
But what caught my attention this time was one of those assignments that typically don’t merit trophies. James was tasked with creating a simple seating chart for the agency. Not surprisingly to those who know him, James, in typical James fashion, took the opportunity to swing for the upper decks, creating the most beautiful seating chart human eyes have ever beholden.
James, you see, is one of those exceptional creatives who understands that his personal brand is affixed to everything he touches. He understands everything from table-tents and seating charts to letterheads and name tags are a reflection of him. Each one speaks volumes about the man, so not even the tiniest detail goes by un-scrutinized or un-perfected.
Of course, if you’re impressed by just how much of himself James puts into the little things—you should see what he does with the big. He is the consummate professional, one of those big picture thinkers who instinctively understands scale and proportion, color theory and typography.
And the amazing thing about James (as if it could be narrowed down to a singular “the”), is James found his muse while laying paralyzed in a hospital bed. It was there, recovering from an illness that left him unable to move for months, that James found himself a captive audience to a well-known design school’s advertisements airing in the wee hours, night after night.
Up until that fateful stint, James primary outlet for the creativity oozing through his veins was as a student of the world, where, without formal art training, he painted, engraved and sketched any surface that presented itself.
As a grade school student in Prince George’s County, MD, James’s distinctive doodling on his notebooks and homework assignments were quick to catch the eye of his classmates. It was not long before much of the student body was clamoring for the opportunity to sport a James Wilson original tattoo.
In Bilbao, Spain, he found inspiration walking the cobblestone streets and back alleyways, wandering upon the graffiti art of Pablo Picasso, unguarded and unaltered from the day it was scrawled—an unsolicited gift to Spain and the world at large. It was there James learned art is everywhere. And where it wasn’t, he was quick to remedy the situation with his own bright colors and distinctive designs.
For years, the world was literally his canvas. He painted everything from food trucks (commissioned), walls, alleyways, multi-story high murals, to tattoos the world over. You’ll find his work lining and walking the streets of Toronto, Canada; Bilbao, Spain; Bogotá, Colombia; and of course, Washington DC and the surrounding area.
Only, today James’ street art is far less impromptu. Recently, he teamed with three other like-minded artists to form a popular crew called, “MERJ.” Together, they’ve been invited by everybody from embassies, Karaoke bars and design firms to neighborhood groups and associations to adorn their spaces with the crew’s evocative, thought provoking murals.
Most recently, MERJ was given eight walls within the International Development Bank to contribute to an exhibit entitled “A City Of Questions,” focusing on promoting more inclusive cities. The group used the opportunity to boldly question modern concepts of urban development and gentrification that often displace the area’s underprivileged and most vulnerable in the guise of economic development.
The fusion of his street smarts with the refinement that comes from his professional training has equipped James with a rugged versatility few artists possess. He’s able to effortlessly transition from back alleys to boardrooms, providing the perfect solution to whatever the situation demands. James makes a big deal about every little thing. And that makes him pretty awesome indeed.
(From left to right) James in front of his mural at the Inter-American Development Bank at the “City of Questions” exhibit, MERJ crew: Mike Pacheco, James Wilson, Rodrigo Pradel, and Edwin Cruz, in front of the winning Secret Walls Mural.