James Neish & "Nova Scotia Stronger Together"
Where are you from, James, how did you come to Halifax?
I was born in Cebu City, Philippines where I mostly grew up in a little culture bubble of multiracial, multicultural, and half-foreign kids like me. I always had Canadian citizenship through my father who has roots here in Nova Scotia, so I travelled here in my early twenties to live a little more freely and embrace my Canadian heritage.
Where do you live, do you have a boyfriend, pets?
I live in Halifax. I do have a boyfriend. I keep a lot of fish in a couple of aquariums.
When were you first interested in graphic design? Was there a person or event that drew you to it?
I started drawing before I started talking, so it has always been a big part of the way I communicate. I fell in love with art when I witnessed its ability to change people’s minds and emotional states. I started thinking about visual language as a career when I had my first good art teacher; she opened up my mind to what was possible with a life down the artist’s way.
What do you listen to while you work?
I like to sing so I tend to pick songs I can sing along to. Favorites include Bjork, The Beatles, Bowie, Jill Scott, 90’s alternative, hits from the 70’s and 80’s, R&B Soul, Motown, Top Forty Pop, and stuff like that.
Who are your graphic designer role models? What is it about them that you admire?
I’m a fan of Maurice Sendak and Tomi Ungerer. I’m heavily influenced by Dali and Kahlo. I grew up on comic books, worshipping guys like Jim Lee and Joe Madureira. I guess I like a balance of technical and intelligent skill with raw, empathic expression through a one-of-a-kind lens. I admire strong individuals who have something to say and say those things well.
What big projects are you working on now?
Currently working on a large art piece that might be part of a group art exhibit on the concept of identity.
Most of the Q community in Halifax first saw your name associated with the Halifax Gay Men’s Choir stage decoration and the “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel” poster. There’s a LOT going on in that poster. Did you hide any easter eggs in it? Would you tell us if you did?
LOL… No easter eggs, sorry; they’re not season-appropriate anyway. I would’ve hidden ornamental Christmas tree balls. I should clarify that I had nothing to do with the stage work. That’s the hard work of Dan Stephenson and Tim Dawe; however, I am very happy to take the blame for that poster.
The hugging lions on the flag? I thought about it a few days after the terrible shooting that happened in Nova Scotia. I had been reading several status updates on facebook and I just felt compelled to connect to my community and express my feelings in the best way that I knew how. It's two pieces, entitled "Nova Scotia Stronger Together."
This Nova Scotia tartan piece: can you give us an overview of the symbology?
Sure. That is Nova Scotia plaid with a patch in the shape of Nova Scotia stitched into the fabric. I was watching The Prince of Egypt recently and there was a great song about the thread not being aware of its place in the tapestry's grand design. I thought about this violence tearing the fabric of Nova Scotia and all of Nova Scotia acting together to patch it up, each thread stronger together, creating something whole from the pieces.
They are free for anyone to post or share. If a brand, manufacturer, or publisher of some kind would like to use the image to raise funds in support of the families affected by the violence, then they can contact me for a higher resolution copy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How would you like to see people using this image?
I would like people to use the image respectfully. That’s all.