Living My Dream Interview
edited: Monday, January 02, 2012
By Synthia SAINT JAMES
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, January 02, 2012
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Interview on new book and career.
When I spoke to Dr. Synthia SAINT JAMES to schedule a time for our interview, I immediately knew why she is so successful; her positive winning spirit is refreshing. Born in 1949 in Los Angeles, California, SAINT JAMES is an internationally celebrated self-taught visual artist, author, keynote speaker, licensor, and architectural designer. She credits the creator and her ancestry (African American, Native American, Haitian, and German Jew) for her artistic gifts.
Her signature style is distinct, characterized by people dressed in brilliant gemstones of color, their geometric-like bodies are poised, looking upward and onward, they are celebrating life.
SAINT JAMES is a tireless, over achiever and her biggest challenges are keeping finances flowing in and pacing herself so she won’t burn out. Her latest accomplishment, the just released publication, Living My Dream: An Artistic Approach to Marketing provides insights on her art career, marketing tips, and her favorite affirmations. Click here to purchase Living My Dream: An Artistic Approach to Marketing.
She is a sought after key note speaker, exhibitor and workshop facilitator. Touring colleges and universities nationwide, as resident artist, she’s presenting workshops on the business of art.
SAINT JAMES has been practicing her craft for 42 years and made her first art sale when she was a 20 year old living in New York City. She’s known since she was five that she wanted to make money selling her artwork; and credits her success to her self-determination and by consistently letting people know she’s available. She does extensive research to find out what’s going on and to find venues that are interested in exhibiting her artwork.
As she developed and emerged as a fine art painter she found employment to keep money coming in. She’s been a certified tax practitioner, an accountant, publicist, publisher, biographer, free-lance writer, and actress. She’s grateful for the varied work experiences because the skills acquired have helped her build her art career.
A turning point in her budding career occurred in 1980 when she was selected to exhibit in a group show in Paris, France where she won the prestigious Prix de Paris award. Other breakthroughs occurred in the mid-80’s when Richard Pryor purchased five pieces of her art for his home; and in1990, the House of Seagram’s commissioned her to create a painting as a fundraiser for the National Urban League. This artwork was exhibited on Park Avenue in New York City and a limited edition of 100 original lithographs were produced and sold at $1000.00 each raising funds for the National Urban League.
Doors have opened for her in divine ways; in 1997 she had her “all-American week,” with two significant projects offered to her that would significantly help to establish her career. First she received a request from the U.S. Postal Service to design the first Kwanzaa stamp. This was followed by a commission from the Girl Scouts of the USA to create a painting to commemorate their 85th anniversary. Her successes were then highlighted in the Los Angeles Times - Lifestyle section.
SAINT JAMES has completed many commissioned paintings for major organizations, corporations, non-profits, and individual collectors, some include Kayser-Roth/Maybelline, Essence Magazine’s 25th Anniversary, the American Library Association, UNICEF, the United Way, the National Education Association, Dance Africa, Coca Cola’s “The Lady of Soul Awards,” the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, Children’s Institute International’s “Project Fatherhood,” Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s “Circle of Promise” campaign for which she now serves as a National Ambassador, and “CROWNS” for Regina Taylor’s play CROWNS.
In 2010, she was commissioned to paint two new awards, The “Mosaic Woman Award,” commissioned by Diversity Woman Magazine was presented to Dr. Maya Angelou; and Africare commissioned her to create a Lifetime Achievement Award for His Excellency Nelson Mandela. SAINT JAMES finds commissioned work challenging because she wants to meet and exceed the client’s expectations by finding the right symbolism to convey their message.
She has written and/or illustrated 13 children’s picture books, 3 poetry and prose books, 4 children’s activity books, a cookbook, and a postcard book. Her artwork is featured on the covers of 70+ books, including Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, New York Times bestselling authors Terry McMillan and Iyanla Vanzant, and she’s licensed her art for merchandise sold by Barnes and Noble.
The backstory on her art appearing on the cover of Waiting to Exhale is another example of the wonderful opportunities that come her way. Terry McMillan had purchased “Ensemble,” a print of SAINT JAMES art, to hang in her home. While writing Waiting to Exhale, dissatisfied with the rendering prepared by the publisher’s designer, McMillan had a light bulb moment when she noticed SAINT JAMES artwork had four women in it, the same number of women in her book. They were wearing hats and McMillan loves hats. McMillan contacted SAINT JAMES for permission to use her artwork, SAINT JAMES agreed, and her artwork was licensed for the book cover in the USA and abroad. McMillan’s publisher also commissioned SAINT JAMES to design the rerelease covers of Disappearing Acts and Mama.
SAINT JAMES has exhibited on Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage Cruise to connect with representatives of historically black colleges and universities. On the 2009 cruise, she met Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber, president of Saint Augustine College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
SAINT JAMES was invited to speak at Saint Augustine College and she visited in September of the same year. Her visit included working with art students and attending a luncheon held in her honor. During the Q&A, she was asked what she wanted her legacy to be. SAINT JAMES expressed the desire to set up a foundation at a college to award scholarships to young women interested in pursuing a visual arts career. Dr. Suber offered Saint Augustine College and SAINT JAMES accepted.
The Synthia SAINT JAMES Fine Arts Institution was soon established, and several exhibitions have been held to raise money for the foundation. The first scholarships will be awarded to students for the 2012 fall semester. On May 8, 2010, SAINT JAMES was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Saint Augustine College and in September 2010 she did her first week as Artist-in-Residence.
SAINT JAMES is inspired by life and all it encompasses, it may be something she’s seen in a book, a play, movie, song, or someplace she’s been. Every morning at dawn, she takes a walk at the beach to say her prayers and affirmations. This clears her head and gets her focused on what she wants to accomplish this day. She takes care of herself physically, spiritually, and mentally. She eats right, takes vitamins, and works until she tires.
She advises artists to be prepared to spend their lives building relationships, researching, and actively pursuing their art careers. She cautions not to worry about art representatives and galleries, and instead listen to your inner voice and be your own self.
Over the years, SAINT JAMES has received many awards including the distinguished Trumpet Award in 2010, which acknowledges the accomplishments of Black Americans who have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life for all, and she is the first painter to be recognized. The same year, she was inducted into the National Organization of Women Business Owners – Los Angeles, Hall of Fame. She’s also the recipient of the 2008 Woman of the Year Award for the 26th Senate District; and has received the Parent’s Choice Silver Honor, a Coretta Scott King Award, and an Oppenheim Gold Award for her books.
Recently, ten limited edition remarques of her painting “Sisters of Providence,” were unveiled and auctioned at the Providence Health & Services Excellence Awards Dinner in Seattle, Washington. The auctioned raised $126,000 which was matched by a corporation bringing the total to $252,000. Proceeds went to the Sisters of Providence Mission in Chile.
Some of SAINT JAMES architectural designs include a ceramic tile mural at the Ontario (California) International Airport, and stained glass windows for the West Tampa Library, Tampa, Florida. She just completed “Totem” which will be painted my a team of muralists in the courtyard of an apartment complex for people who were once homeless or have mental health issues. Her goal was to create an image to encourage residents to rise to a higher point in life.
She is featured in many periodicals, as well as, Africana Women: Her Story Through Time, a book written by Dr. Cynthia Jacobs Carter. She’s in the cast of M. K. Asante’s latest documentary The Black Candle, which screened globally; and she appears in Breast Cancer Examined: An African American Perspective, which aired on the TV One Network.
SAINT JAMES is now booking her 2012 speaking engagements, workshops, artist-in-residencies, and exhibitions. To book her, call 323-993-5722 or email tobooksynthia.synthiasaintjames.com. See more of her work at http://www.synthiasaintjames.com/ and click here to purchase an autographed copy of Living My Dream: An Artistic Approach to Marketing.
Life is Magnificent! Accept, Release, Relax and EnJOY IT...