As his latest exhibition closes in London, artist James Jarvis details the five biggest influences on his life.

1 My Parents

“My Mum trained as a painter – she was taught by Richard Hamilton – and taught Related Studies at Middlesex Polytechnic. My Dad is a very eminent clinical psychologist. Through them I was exposed to an incredible range of culture from an early age, both visual, musical and literary.”

2 Richard Scarry

“Richard Scarry for me has always been a touchstone for the power of pure drawing. There are lots of other artists whose drawing has been influential – Hergé, Paul Klee, Gary Panter, Gustave Doré, Philip Guston, Sol LeWitt, Teruhiko Yomura – but Richard Scarry was the first person who I really took note of. As a child I looked obsessively at his books, poring over every tiny detail.

“When I look at them now, as an adult, I love the way his visual language is so obviously hand-made and free, whilst still managing to be very specific about the reality he is creating.”

3 Skateboarding

“The thing I find most inspiring about skateboarding is its philosophical aspect. Skateboarding isn’t a sport – it’s a way of making sense of the world. Through skateboarding one has a completely different way of reacting and experiencing space.”


Strips from James’ 2012 project Spheric Dialogues. These are based around the subjects of Constructivism (top) and Schopenhauer’s philosophy (bottom).

4 Constructivism

“I like to try and maintain an analytical perspective on my work. I don’t just churn it out unconsciously. Whether I’m making a drawing with a brush, or constructing an artwork digitally out of vectors, I’m aware that different ways of working can condition how a work is perceived.

“I have always been attracted to the idea of specifying rules for making art. At the moment I think the movement I feel most kinship with is minimalism, but it was the discovery of Constructivism – my Mum suggested I write about it for an O-level history project – that was my first encounter with the idea of adopting a considered, scientific approach to working.”

5 Schopenhauer

“I read On the Sufferings of the World by Arthur Schopenhauer a couple of years ago, and it opened me up to the whole world of philosophical thinking. It inspired me to try and make drawings that made sense of the world in a similar way.

“Last year I drew a daily cartoon strip, Spheric Dialogues, that was my attempt to look at very basic, elemental ideas about existing and thinking. For me, personally, it’s the work I am most proud of. You can read all the cartoons online.”