James Penfield is from St. Paul, MN and lives in Minneapolis. He started showing work in high school, exhibiting realistic portrait drawings. Following a near death car crash and a quick recovery, James started photoing landscapes when he moved to Boulder, CO at 18 because he was drawn to it. The snowboarding industry at the time heavily influenced him, he remembers studying photos from Transworld Snowboarding and all the graphics from the annual Burton catalog, really influencing his taste at the time.

After a crash in the Rockies, he returned to MN, where he studied intaglio printmaking and art history in undergrad. He spent hours in the printmaking studio, etching in nitric acid until late into the night. He was awarded a few travel scholarships at the time and spent time studying art in Europe too. At the same time he began to work with other artists and musicians in Minneapolis/St. Paul, throwing shows, creating album art, t shirts, promotional materials. From there he moved to NYC to study graphic design at the New School. He worked as a designer in the city for a couple of years, interning with Vice Magazine, before moving back to Minneapolis, where he stays active by exploring landscape through snowboarding and hiking, biking, while photoing around the country..

Never trained in painting, his work tends to relate more to a direct documentation process these days rather than a pre planned or invented one, revealing more timeless qualities through temporary impressions existing in time. Using direct experience and the photo image as a reference is important to his process. Forms tend to follow this function and he uses acrylic paint to  illustrate this because of the quick drying nature of the medium allowing a more direct application of the translation rather than a drawn out, thought out process. He’s a represented painter with Gallery Mar in Park City, UT.

In 2015 James was commissioned to paint 5 3×4′ paintings of MN Vikings wide receivers from the past through the present that now hang permanently in the stadium. He shares wall space with many others, including NFL Hall of Famers Bud Grant and Carl Eller.

He has illustrated a 6 book series of “How To Draw” books through MN based publisher, Abdo Publishing.

A review written by Victoria Kennedy, Fine Art Consultant, Gallery Mar, Park City, UT:

“The brevity and stillness of Penfield’s work often reminds me of moments in time. Brief moments that we try and remember – an image that we try and capture within our minds and memories. And yet here they are on a canvas.

The stripped down memory of a place, the feel of it in your senses – the simple beauty of colors and lines is what attracts me to Penfield’s work. It is a peacefulness that we rarely encounter in modern art. With Penfield, this chaos is stripped away, until we are left with suggestions and imitations of the form’s true essence.”

For Penfield its a way of finding truth in a sense, homogenizing energy (light (color), matter, etc.) and allowing it to be interpreted clearly in various ways through recognizable and some unrecognizable imagery, to translate the translation process we are all constantly doing.

Light through color is used to recede and protrude space. While lines are drawn to define and erase boundaries.

James has created original artwork or design for:

Vice Media LLC
Vice Magazine
Palladium Boots
Ricoh Electronics
The McNeely Foundation
The town of Wadena, MN (murals)
Crushkill Recordings
MN Vikings LLC
Abdo Publishing
Conveyor Magazine
The East Side Arts Council (MN)
Blick Art Materials

“Photography is nature seen from the eyes outwards. Painting is nature seen from the eyes inwards.” -Charles Sheeler


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