We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael James and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, what do you attribute your success to?
I think the most important factor to success – both personally and professionally is being true to yourself, what you’re creating, and why you are creating it. Starting this business was a complete anomaly in my life, based off of a wild (and sudden) dream of mine to pursue the newly discovered creative side of me. This was definitely far off the path of where I currently was headed in life – case and point, I had never painted before last year. With such a raw beginning, a key factor I always remind myself is to follow my instinct of what I want to see in my art, not what others may want – obviously, this is a balancing act when clients ask for commissions of certain styles but I think the most long term and absorbed clients want something new/something distinctive that will continue to evolve over time and test the boundaries of what is typically comfortable. I think just by looking at my beginnings to now, people can definitely see my style has continued to evolve and I fully intend it to continue. After all, that’s what defines “art”. As long as you and your audience can see the true self behind what you’re creating, I am an avid believer that it will continue to be successful. People want authenticity and originality and it’s hard to come by.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Definitely a loaded question and I could go on for hours. Where I currently am was definitely difficult, but we also have a long way to go. What’s amazing, and entirely due to the amazing clients I have, is that even during a pandemic, this art business has grown from nothing to producing over 100 individualized, commissioned works in just six months. Quite literally amazing. I still can’t believe it. The greatest challenge I think was getting publicity, inserting myself into an already saturated industry, and getting my name on people’s radar. I think we all turn to social media today for connectivity but often, I retained or received new business through classic word of mouth.
More specifically on my style and differentiation, I realized that a lot of people were attempting to furnish their homes and offices with art and were leaning away from pieces that appeared (or were) mass produced. They wanted something personal, something unique – something that would reflect their own energy in their homes; and they often couldn’t find that. All of the art I create is only created once so clients know that this art was created for them, exclusively. I think that aspect of individuality was a key driving point of something I was able to provide in such a dark chapter of all of our lives – you’re stuck at home and you find yourself trying to connect with yourself on a more intricate level. Through art, I found the ability to connect with people (even remotely) on a new level of closeness. You learn a lot through what kind of art people like and dislike and people want a genuine connection in what they display in their home. What better than one you’ve been intimately involved in creating?
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It would definitely be a leisurely time focused around food and drink, and a lot of it! I typically revolve my weekends around where we are eating and when! We would definitely have to make some stops at Eight Row Flight or Better Luck Tomorrow in The Heights (their ranch waters are the best I have had to date) and Light Years Wine Bar in Montrose (a really cool spot with organic, natural wine shipped in from all over the world). I love going to Light Years and sitting on their back patio, wine tasting with close friends…often we lose track of time and take advantage of their ever-changing charcuterie boards – definitely a must have!
For food, I have a pretty diverse palette, but I usually gravitate towards La Lucha or Superica in The Heights or State of Grace or Le Colonial in the River Oaks area. Sushi is probably my favorite thing to eat and while we have a wide variety of sushi in Houston, I love MF Sushi and Aka Sushi (Aka is one of my favorite spots in town with a consistent, fun happy hour with both high-quality cuts and sake).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I can’t single out just one person…love and support has quite literally flooded in from both old and new mentors, friends, and people I don’t even know. I especially owe thanks to my friends, now clients, that have provided unfettered support from the beginning.