Ralph’s original inspiration came from his father, Eugene James, who was an artist as well as an architect and structural engineer. Mr. James seemed to capture images on canvas or paper with little effort at all; Ralph began to wrestle with capturing his own images even as a young boy.
Local seminars and the encouragement of other artists have impacted Ralph’s art as well. One pivotal seminar was led by Heiner Hertling, which introduced Ralph to oil painting; others have been led by John and Suzie Seerey-Lester. The encouragement (and challenge) of working with local artist in the weekly drawing group with Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon has inspired Ralph to continue to stretch his ability.
Ralph has always loved North Carolina’s natural habitat. He has always felt fortunate to be close to both the Appalachian mountains and the Outer Banks, both of which he loves. Growing up, he roamed the woods and fields of the family farm near the Yadkin River, observing wildlife in the seasonal changes.
In some way, our identity in life is determined by what and how we communicate with our world. Painting is one of those ways I use to reflect what is within me and also interact with and touch those around me. It is a way I seek to be understood by others and also to understand myself. Whether we express ourselves through painting, writing, speaking, or other methods, we all have an innate need to communicate who we are and what is important to us. It is how we express our passion, our love, our fear, our hope, our humor. Indeed, my art contains all of these – some readily apparent, others intentionally hidden. Georgia O’Keeffe spoke for me when she said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
My desire? My desire is to communicate the beauty of God’s creation in my paintings. I want to show to others what I see and feel: the majesty, the awe-inspiring beauty of creation and, vicariously, the One who created it. My desire is to ask questions of myself and the viewer, knowing that we will not like all of the answers. My desire is for us to find a bit more peace and contentment in our lives through this process and to remember to thank God that you and I are not in charge. I want the viewer of my art to become a participant in the scene: to smell, to feel, to seek, to remember, and to take another step forward in a sometimes uncertain life.
And yet, I strive and struggle trying to carefully keep this wonderful art thing in perspective. Like so many things we are passionate about, there is the tendency to let my love for art control my life instead of enhancing my life. I like the way Scott Christensen puts it when he says, “…painting is not the aim or focus of life, but instead painting contributes to the art of living.” For me, that means painting falls somewhere behind my faith and my family in priority though the balance is always difficult. I strive to hold it loosely so that God can make it work.