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From Formation to Murmuration

Robert A James III

Shadows on the Turning

I created this piece in 1987 as a visual statement to Pink Floyd’s On the Turning Away. The song calls humanity to action, to stop turning away from the poor and downtrodden. We are asked to shout for those who have no voice and not turn away blind and deaf to the needs of our
fellow humans who are in the shadows conveniently out of sight of those who promise to lift them from poverty and repression but instead do the opposite.

I have always been contrary, a rebel, a New England Yankee.
True to my ancestors who fought for freedom, equality against immense odds, I too battle against injustice and will not accept the
mediocrity and corruption of those in charge. I want to shine light on the shadows.

I’ve been called an ‘artist’ (and I’ve been called worse, too), but I never really thought much about it in that way. I always knew how to draw; not that I was good at it, but I didn’t know I couldn’t do it, either.

I’ve been doing this since I was old enough to sit upright. Our mother put her three young sons, ages 3, 4, and 5, in front of a fish-bowl of an early TV set we had; she gave each of us home-made, scrap paper pads, pencils and crayons, and told us to do what that man on the television set said to do – the show was called “John Nagy Draws”. A guy dressed in a white smock, a French beret perched atop his head, a goatee on his chin, and a wooden palette adorned with dabs of paint, while clenching a few paint brushes and pencils in his free hand. That was my “formal” art education – 1950s ‘pre-school’-style.

After high school (1969), I attended a local Community College, but was not focused on a Liberal Arts curriculum; so, I enlisted in the USAF in 1973. I was assigned as a Fuels Specialist. Duties included ground-refueling in support of SR-71 Blackbirds, and U-2/TR-1 Reconnaissance aircraft operations in the high desert at Beale, AFB in northern California. During my off-duty, free time, I “begged” free-lance jobs everywhere I could; painting images of SR-71s on Section windows and walls around the flight line areas on the base. A perfect venue for me to showcase my ‘art skills’ and putting a few extra bucks in my pocket once in a while.

Not too long after finding that there was an opening posted on the base jobs board for a “Graphics Technician” – a (23151 – Graphic Designer), I applied for the job and was I accepted. My new AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) led me to a change-of-station and I was moved to Barksdale, AFB, in Louisiana – as an artist in the Air Force – go figure!

After my military service ended, I attended LSU(S) in Shreveport from 1977 until early 1978. Then, an overseas tour accompanied by my active-duty wife from 1978-79, We returned to the States and I went on to attend East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina (1981-84).

I was the only Graphic Design student attending the Leroy Jenkins School of Art at that time, to complete a five-year Graphics Arts course of study in three years, and graduate with honors – 3.5 GPA. I spent the next 40+ years as a working artist, involving many different disciplines in art. From T-shirt staff artist, to Editorial Artist/Illustrator/Journalist, to Freelance Graphic Designer/Illustrator and co-owner of Silver Moon Graphics. I finished my career as a college teacher at the Columbus College of Art & Design in the Graphic Arts Department.

Now that I am retired, I returned to my first love – drawing and painting.