“I’m just going to create dope shit,” said James Shields owner of Creative Shields. Finding himself through the likes of art, he inspires others to be original. His paintings are a precise manifestation of his sharp creativity. The irony is that his background is non-existent of art. A native of California, his mom was a teacher and Dad a Pastor.
Although nurtured in a structured upbringing, secretly he was still defined by a desire to be free. He loved graffiti, cartoon animation and comic books. However, he often limited himself to what he could accomplish. Painting introduced him to the ability to do whatever he wanted. Today, his paintings, filled with bright colors and imaginatives, are an exploration. His passion involves interpreting photos and remixing them with free-flowing wrist work.
As a Howard alumnus, Shields studied marketing and found himself immensely submerged in corporate America after graduating. As time went on, it was crystal clear that conforming to the systematized agenda of the corporate realm was not for him. Craving a creative, free lane, he simply picked up a brush and began painting. Who knew that his doodles at work would quickly become masterpieces? Always inspired by New York, his move there after college provided the energy and opportunity needed to fulfill. Since 2009, his motto has been “paint or die”. Like a true Howard alum, connecting with like-minded individuals was a natural occurrence. The support from his colleagues motivated him to have his first event to showcase his art. From that epic night in Harlem, he decided to up his collection of paintings. His first mural can be seen on 126th and Madison Avenue in Harlem, NY.
“A voice came in my head and said, I didn’t tell you to stop painting, so I continued. I had to keep proving to myself that I could stick with it because I didn’t come from an art background,” revealed Shields.
One of his popular pieces below was an exact representation of his earlier life. Having pent up emotions the painting symbolized his life at that time. His energy, rapidly boiling, finally exploded, through art.
In 2011, he released a hip-hop coloring book catering to building knowledge of hip-hop history. With a curriculum attached, it can seamlessly be implemented in schools. Influences such as Spike Lee and many modern day painters along with musical influences of Mos Def, Ghostface and Andre 3000 have all helped him to break through the high and low peaks of the infamous artist struggle. He finally proved to himself that art is real and he can accomplish it.
“I want my kids to spin Tribe (Tribe called Quest) records. I want them to have a perspective for it. Hip-hop is transitioning. It used to be a capitalistic ploy but now it’s taking more people to bring back its artistic ability,” said Shields.
A lover of all things creative, he plans to continue to document his life through art. Be it fabric, patterns, products, hip hop historians, etc. Shields currently performs live event paintings, freelance design and illustration, and teaches middle school art in an after school program in California. Also working as a designer with an education-technology start up, Qeyno Labs, their mission is to expose Black male youth to opportunities in coding and programming-app design. As a guest at this year’s Essence Music festival, they will be hosting a hackathon (app building competition) for the youth. In addition, Shields is illustrating his first watercolor project this year with children’s author Alexia Hogan for her book Sky, Grace, & Jean. His approaching trip to Europe this upcoming summer, will further influence him with culture and art and allow him to do what saved his life, create.
“My ultimate goal is to influence the culture that we represent. As Africans we influenced the world and I want to tap back into it. This is the realist something that I’ve experienced. Be yourself, find yourself. There’s enough of everybody else we need more of you. Find truth.”
Check out some of his pieces below. If interested in connecting with Shields during his trip to Europe log on to www.CreativeShields.com