“Valentine on Page 21” by Christopher “Siege” James was inspired by a motorcycle ride over the Snaefell Mountain Course on the Isle of Man in England.

“Valentine on Page 21” by Christopher “Siege” James was inspired by a motorcycle ride over the Snaefell Mountain Course on the Isle of Man in England.

Exhibit in Lynnwood covers artist’s 30 years of creativity

“Siege: An American Painter” at the Lynnwood Convention Center gallery documents the artistic development of Christopher “Siege” James.

The Lynnwood Convention Center’s gallery is featuring just one Northwest artist this time: Christopher “Siege” James.

Through December see the exhibition “Siege: An American Painter,” which is a retrospective of 30 years of paintings.

“Each wall features a different period in his life,” said Ann Morgan, curator of the gallery. “It shows his development as an artist, his interest in different subjects throughout his career.”

James, 58, of Seattle, describes his style as “industrial figurative,” because he often adds type, graphs and maps to his paintings. He likes to paint birds, bridges and boats, but his love of racing motorcycles will show up in his work too.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts in 1991, and has been an artist ever since.

But he worked in graphic design and printmaking before becoming a painter in his fifth year at Cornish.

Artwork featured in the “Siege” exhibit spans 1990 to 2020, from the oil and pastel on paper of yesterday’s “Blue Figures,” to the acrylics on collaged canvas of today’s “Union Slough.”

As an artist, no matter which medium he chooses, he is balancing the image and the interpretation against one another. Half of it comes out of the painting, half of it goes into the painting.

“They’ll ask, ‘Is that supposed to be a church/kitty cat/butterfly/salmon?’ Whatever it is they see,” James said. “If they see that, that comes from them. The answer is, yes, it is there.”

“North Fork” by Christopher “Siege” James shows the Mountain Quarries Bridge, built in 1912, over the North Fork American River in California.

“North Fork” by Christopher “Siege” James shows the Mountain Quarries Bridge, built in 1912, over the North Fork American River in California.

James’ painting technique he’s developed over the years is, well, intense. He doesn’t just apply paint to a canvas — he manipulates it.

James adds distressed paper over the top of each canvas so that he has a layered surface of paint and paper with which to work. Then he pushes, pulls, scratches, scrapes and sands — essentially he attacks these layers — in order to build the textures and colors of the subject.

“I really wanted that paper surface,” he said. “I was a printmaker in college, so paper seemed like a natural thing.”

If you look closely at his paintings of birds, bridges and boats, you might find a few repetitive elements, like a white paint can ring or a red or black textbook bar. James throws these signature marks into paintings when the impulse strikes.

As curator, Morgan manages the Lynnwood Convention Center gallery’s biannual showcase of Northwest artists. James’ artwork was also featured in 2019’s “Animalia” and 2020’s “Northwest Enterprise” group exhibits there.

“He is a great colorist, a good designer and his technique is strong,” Morgan said. “He plays around with a lot of different materials and he goes through a variety of different subjects, but his work is always well executed.”

“Timing Mark” by Christopher “Siege” James is a painting of a spark plug. “Any old-school mechanic has seen the steel hammered with a chisel to mark the exact point where the engine should fire,” James writes.

“Timing Mark” by Christopher “Siege” James is a painting of a spark plug. “Any old-school mechanic has seen the steel hammered with a chisel to mark the exact point where the engine should fire,” James writes.

James was named the featured artist at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin, Texas, in 2019, exhibited in the American Motorcyclist Association’s Hall of Fame Show in 2013-2020 and was the featured artist in the West Seattle Art Walk in 2019.

Meet James at an artist reception scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Lynnwood Convention Center. There will be complimentary appetizers and a no-host bar.

He said he owes his career as an artist to the faculty who granted him a fifth year at Cornish after a second review. They helped him realize he wasn’t putting his soul into printmaking — but that he had found himself in his paintings.

“When they looked at my printwork there was no Siege in it, but this was all me,” he said.

If you don’t know how to pronounce “Siege,” just think of “The Siege.” The artist likens his name to the 1998 film starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis.

“Siege” was derived from his initials C.J., which stands for Christopher James.

“It was the only cool nickname that I ever had,” he said. “So I adopted it as my legal name.”

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

If you go

Through December the exhibition “Siege: An American Painter” will be displayed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW, Lynnwood. Call 425-778-7155 or or go to www.lynnwoodcc.com for more information.

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