I was born in London at Westminster Hospital - the son of an officer in Naval Intelligence for the US Navy, and an Assistant Naval Attachée at the US Embassy in London. My interest in “Espionage” began with my dad…the family spy. Sad to say, what he did is still secret to this day. But Bond…James Bond…entered my life in 1962 when I was introduced to Casino Royalé by my favourite uncle. Cool, suave, with a certain élan that everyone found irresistible. A cigarette always dangled from his lips, lit with a classic, solid-gold Dunhill lighter. He drove the latest Cadillac Coupe DeVille. Knew his wines, bourbons, whiskeys and mixed drinks. He was ex-Marine Corps, Pacific Theatre, a field hospital corpsman, over 6 feet tall, with the unmistakable physical presence and imposing bearing that demanded respect and attention. To me, he was James Bond.
But my inspiration to tackle all of Ian Fleming’s novels and short stories came many decades later in 2010 with Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond in Casino Royale. It was the first painting I did, and after it was completed, I thought, “I can do this…I can paint all the books!” That required me to reread all 22 of the original Fleming novels and short stories. A sense of personal satisfaction, a chance to apply and expand the techniques I have learned, and the reward of bringing visual pleasure to others were the impetus to continue an exploration of Fleming’s work. Not to mention the sheer fun of it all and the exuberant reception my work has received from other artists and James Bond fans.
Daniel Craig - 007
How long does it usually take to paint one of your masterpieces?
Thank you for the superlative! A Bond watercolour painting can take anywhere from a month to four months, as in the case of the special James Bond painting commissioned for the permanent collection of The International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. The painting, titled “A Deadly Career” is composed of images from Flemings’ novels and short stories that supported my narrative to contemporize Bond, allowing us to envision him as a covert - albeit retired - member of MI6. The images highlight his career from his earliest assignments to his current status - alive and well (pushing 90 years old!) and still living in his flat off the King’s Road in Chelsea. Fortunately, not all my work takes as long as it did to complete this painting!
A Deadly Career
What is your favourite piece and why?
Very hard to say… when painting watercolour, you get into a zone and it absorbs all your attention and concentration. So many of the paintings exhibit different styles of watercolour technique - some looser, some tightly rendered, and after I finish each one, I always wonder “did I actually do this?” They all eventually slide into first place for different reasons. But right now, my favourite painting is The Living Daylights.” There is something about the composition, the restricted colour palette, the chosen imagery - it just epitomizes the story and Bond’s antagonist, the Russian assassin “Trigger.” Number two has to be “Octopussy” - it’s a first for me to try and tackle an underwater scene, and I love the way it flows and looks.
I am really enjoying combining watercolour with opaque gouache, and I have recreated vintage posters in gouache for The Man with the Golden Gun, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Live and Let Die, and using transparent watercolour for the rest of the imagery. So those three are also at the top of my list.
The Living Daylight
Who are your influencers and biggest supporters?
I am a big fan of the Dutch Masters, the Italian Renassance and French Realists and Romantics - especially Johannes Vermeer, Michelangelo da Carravagio, Lawrence Alma Tadema and William-Adolphe Bouguereau. If only they had a Bond they could have painted! I am a big admirer of the late English illustrator Richard Chopping, whose work has set the Gold Standard for Bond book covers.
My English friend and Bond enthusiast, Tom Cull, who posts and promotes my paintings on his UK website, “Artistic License Renewed - Literary 007” is probably my biggest supporter. He also hosts the annual Ian Fleming Birthday Walk in London on Fleming’s birthday…May 28th. It’s an event that Bond fans and Anglophiles shouldn’t miss. Stateside it is Matt Sherman from Florida, who is responsible for getting me the Spy Museum commission, and for the past 20 years has run Bond-related events and tours around the globe. He is a walking encyclopaedia of all things Bond. Absolutely brilliant!
Can you tell us about your experience having your first cigar?
It was a few years ago - four, perhaps - when I started something I call The Hanover Avenue Porch Club (First) Invitational Whisky & Cigar Tasting Night at my home. I invited about 30 or 40 friends to come and sample seven or eight whisky’s and pick out a cigar from any one of my four humidors…everyone brought food to nibble on, some of their favourite tipple and needless to say, the whisky flowed like the Uisce Beatha of Scotland! A very dear friend works at the local cigar store and at the event he was the Go-To-Guy about all things cigar related. I had my very first cigar, and surrounded by friends and good single malts, it made the experience quite memorable. Smokers were on the front porch of my home, foodies on the back deck. I try to hold the event at least once a year if I can, but since the Covid disaster, everything has been put off - until, perhaps, later this year. I know - I’m crazy - a non-smoker who has four humidors, collects cigars, pipes, lighters and anything that would make James Bond smile!
Quantum of Solace
What is your favourite cigar and why. Do you enjoy pairing your cigars?
In the right atmosphere, with the right group of friends, surrounded by good food and drink - I think that one’s favourite cigar is the one that you are holding for the evening. However, on my 4th Invitational Whisky & Cigar Tasting Night I particularly enjoyed a La Gloria Cubana and a Macanudo Inspirado. I am a novice, when it comes to cigars, so I rely on the magazine Cigar Aficionado for good cigar ideas, and my cigar expert friend, David Wyatt Johnson, aka Smokey Dave, for tasting points and cigar purchasing suggestions. A favourite pairing of mine is a medium strength cigar and a smooth Kentucky Bourbon or a peaty Highland Malt Whisky like Caol Ila or Laphroaig. But I have yet to find a pairing that I didn’t enjoy!
Can you give any advice to anyone who is interested in following in your footsteps?
Tread softly and choose carefully! Because of Bond…James Bond, I have a large collection of props, books, painting supplies and material, cigars, lighters, cutters, anything Bond-related, and it can become an obsession if you’re not careful and very particular with your choices. But it is a hell of a lot of fun! Just find your passion and explore the new landscape. Most of all, enjoy your life and what you do. You will be surprised with the results, and ultimately the satisfaction that it brings to you and to others.
If people are interested in finding out more, what is the best way to follow you?
My website: www.jamesbondart.com, and when I debut a new painting, I do it first on Tom Cull’s website, www.literary007.com - or Artistic License Renewed. I hope to have an Etsy store later this year so I can better sell giclée and digital prints. I prefer to sell originals when potential buyers contact me through my jamesbondart website. It’s a more personal experience and I get to know the buyer.