Meet the Art-A-Whirl Artist: James Powell


[This weekend marks the 21st annual Art-A-Whirl, a three-day celebration where hundreds of artists working in northeast Minneapolis open up their studios for gallery shows, artist's talks, special sales, demonstrations, and more. In preparation for the huge festival, we'll be taking a moment to meet a handful of the talented artists, businesses, and creative project managers who make Northeast the artsy hub it is.]

Your name: James Powell

Where we can find your this weekend:

Q.arma Building, first floor.


1224 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis

Years spent in your current space, and working in MN:

My studio is actually in my home in St. Anthony Village, but I was on the board of Altered Esthetics gallery for three years when it was based inside of the Q.arma Building (they are now based out of the Southern Theater).

I moved to MN seven years ago from England to marry my Minnesotan wife, and have been painting and illustrating here ever since.

Briefly, tell us about what you do and why:

I am a cartoon artist and illustrator. My work ranges from small watercolor and digital illustrations to sculpting and larger acrylic paintings. My work is largely inspired by the cartoons and movies from my childhood as well as from today. I just paint whatever I enjoy.

Name three things that are influencing your work right now:

Minnesota: Although I have lived here for a while now and have no plans to move, I still sometimes feel like a bit of a visitor and always seem to find something new. I use Minnesota landmarks, sporting mascots, and skylines in a few of my pieces.

Summer blockbusters and their nostalgic roots: There have been a lot of movies and shows made (and soon to be released) recently that are rebooting or adapting toys, films, and shows from when I was young. It is both exciting and also a little annoying.

My 16-month-old son, although he would rather see me play than actually get anything else done.

Name something that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

Social media. When I was at school, there was no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I don't think I was really aware of how possible it was to be an artist and how that wasn't just one thing. Now we have a link to all types of artists from all over the world to open up so many possibilities and spark ideas.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?


I designed the poster for the 2016 Twin Cities Jazz Festival in Mears park (June 23-25), so you can grab some T-shirts and posters there while enjoying some outdoor music.

Are you doing anything special for Art-A-Whirl?

I always seem to be out of town or in another show that clashes with the Art-A-Whirl weekend so this is my first year as an artist. That's probably just special to me, though.

How has the Minnesota scene changed since you began working here?

One thing I think is interesting is the way that the increasing number of breweries within Minnesota has opened up a lot of doors for artists to collaborate. Whether it be label design, hanging art in the breweries, or full-scale murals, most of them seem to use artwork as part of their brand.


What is your favorite MN landmark and why?

I do a series of cartoon pieces with monsters and Minnesota landmarks, so there are a lot I like. It probably changes all the time but I do like the Grainbelt sign. I think it was just one of the first things I remember from my first few days here.