Tyler James

By Shane Byler

Atop a dark background thin ribbons of bold colors dash into a tangled matrix streaking across the night sky. Two blue veins jut from the left and curve upward, disappearing before they can reach the top edge of canvas. Your eyes lower. The journey begins: an excursion through the cosmos and the subconscious of Tulsa native Tyler James.

Paint-slinging artist Tyler James, 28, is often engrossed in lofty thoughts of the universe and devoted to “freedom of movement” within his art.

And much like Tulsa, James thrives on a viable fluidity—an affinity for letting go, confident that his paint will land as it ought to. 

“With the universe, there is an energy of its own that can’t be controlled. I just kind of let that guide me,” James said.

Similar to the jazz and jazz-inspired musicians he listens to while painting, James improvises. He  does what feels right, rather than what looks right.

For the past few years, what’s felt right has been abstract expressionism with a technique often called drip painting, largely popularized by Jackson Pollock. Indeed, he attributes a good deal of inspiration to the iconoclast painter; moreover, James’ newer paintings are noticeably reminiscent of Pollock’s most iconic works.

James explored the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat,Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists while earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication at Northeastern State University. 

He moved back to Tulsa in 2017, still seeking freedom and a place to fit in. 

A year later, James met up with his acquaintance Antonio Andrews at World Cultures Music Fest, which Andrews co-founded in 2017. Andrews also founded the art collective No Parking Studios (NOPS) in 2017.

In 2019, Andrews invited James to join NOPS. Since then, Andrews offers his assistance to James and the other two in the collective, who regularly collaborate as a team.

“I feel like he’s finally found his voice,” Andrews said of James. “It commands attention.”

Later this year, Tyler James plans to command a lot of attention. 

“I spent a lot of 2020 trying to understand me in different ways,” James said. “So I formed my first show that I plan on doing this year. It’s called Pieces of a Seed.”

Currently preparing for his first solo art show, he hopes to be ready before fall. James said that it will feature one hundred pieces of varied sizes and media. That includes an array of canvas paintings, items from his clothing line, Citizens of Tomorrow, and a live painting event.

“It’s a very important time for us, especially as creatives,” James said about Tulsa. “I think now we’re in a place where there’s a lot more odds on us. And I think as the creatives, we’re going to push the art and the art’s only going to push the city—to work with the city further, in my opinion.”

To view more of Tyler James’ work, or to inquire about purchasing his art, find him on Instagram at @tyl3r_jvmes.