Interview: James White of Signalnoise

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James White of Signalnoise.com created Boing Boing Gadgets’ beautiful spectral background. We sat down with him in an internet and asked him why rainbows are so awesome.

BB. What’s your background? Why art? Why prismatic colors?

JW. I have been drawing since I was 4 years old, so I’ve been leading a creative lifestyle to some degree for as long as I can remember. I was constantly being yelled at in school for drawing in class, but despite that it was pretty inevitable that I got into design right after high school.

I took a year of Graphic Design at a local community college in my hometown of Truro, Nova Scotia followed by two years of Interactive Technology. I got swept up in the web boom in 1998 and have been working in the field ever since.

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While working, I spent the entirety of my 20s (I’m now 32) exploring all kinds of visual expression on my own time. I wanted to try everything from comic book illustration, generative artwork, 3D modeling, character design . . . you name it. I had lots of ambition and no focus which results in a lot of unfinished projects, but on the plus side gave me a lot of experience with different methods of digital creation. I eventually calmed down and started to focus on topics and themes that meant a lot to me, which brought me back to my childhood.

The prismatic colors I use so much are taken directly from old network logo animations seen on television in the late 70s and early 80s, namely NBC. Those animations and effects are beautiful and they have a huge influence on the kind of art I love creating.

BB. What’s the most absurd or harrowing experience of your career?

JW. After working in the design field for five years, I decided in 2003 I would attend an art school to study fine art, as in painting and drawing. Based on my experience, I tackle every project with a series of general steps which give me a more clear vision of where I want to go creatively and conceptually. What I quickly noticed was that art schools hate that, and I was being told to “stop thinking, be gestural, be messy, be instinctive”.

I found myself in a sea of fog in a place I thought would bring more clarity, vision and conceptual to my work. Confusion was an understatement.

BB. What sort of music do you listen to?

JW. I’m all about the metal, and have been for a great number of years. I like the older stuff like Sabbath, Judas Priest and the mighty Iron Maiden as well as newer bands like Mastodon, Isis, At the Gates, Opeth, Tool, The Sword and Queens of the Stone Age. I have had many discussions with friends about why we love the genre so much, and it always comes down to diversity.

There are so many sub-genres when you look at the broad spectrum of metal, so many different styles and progressions based in so many parts of the world, it’s staggering. Metal also has one of the most interesting histories in music, splitting off from blues and rock bands such as Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin. My friends and I are constantly trading new bands with one another as we explore, it’s exhilarating hearing something new that immediately takes your head clean off.

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BB. Does it feel strange to be creating things that are driven in part by personal nostalgia but are often appreciated by a generation that doesn’t get the references?

JW. Everything is cyclic, and I think it’s natural for a generation to look behind themselves to see what has been done in the past. So if I can bring some really cool material from the past to the attention of a generation younger then my own, I think that’s fantastic. That’s the main reason I run my personal art blog (Signalnoise.com) is to not only discuss my own personal projects, but to showcase my influences and inspirations.

Earlier in my career I had to rely on other designers and portal websites (like k10k.net, or designiskinky.net) for exposure to inspirational material, and it was such a huge help to me that I’m trying to provide the same kind of resource online. It took me quite some time to really think back to my childhood and harness the themes I loved so much, it’s very personal, and I think to truly find something pure everyone needs to do that for themselves.

BB. EGA or VGA?

VGA is the future!

Pyramid Power or Chariots of the Gods?

JW: There are far too many unexplained phenomenon on this planet which still cannot be definitively answered with our advanced sciences and technologies. Despite our many theories, we have no idea how Stonehenge was built, or how human beings could have erected the pyramids. Chariots of the Gods, man.

We heartily encourage you to buy something by James from The Signalnoise Store.

Stay up to date on James and his work at Signalnoise.com, his flickr gallery, and his Behance page. James is also on Twitter.

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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12 Responses to Interview: James White of Signalnoise

  1. Strange Quark Star says:

    Wow!

    I went to his flicker stream and while browsing it through Cooliris, I got goosebumps! Doesn’t happen too often…

    Really, this is exactly my kind of art.

  2. misterm says:

    Just yesterday I was thinking to myself about how great it was to not see any more tired James White rainbow designs.

    Thanks boingboing for bringing last years design trend back from the dead. Thanks a lot.

  3. DSMVWL THS says:

    He references late ’70s/early ’80s network logo animations, and I see that in his work. But I also see a lot of Disney’s “futurist” art from that period (which was the era when Epcot opened)… and also some Omni magazine.

    Good stuff. Daft Punk mines a similar vein of design.

  4. seeal says:

    realy cooll artist aspiring for me a graphic designer

  5. Stef says:

    Yeah, DSMVWL THS, dude has Tron references for days…

  6. This was an excellent article/interview. I’m also a huge fan of Jame’s work. As an aspiring graphic designer, I look at his work and it makes me want to strive to do even more awesome stuff.

  7. kaka says:

    Yeah, DSMVWL THS, dude has Tron references for days… Marketing degree

  8. kaka says:

    I went to his flicker stream and while browsing it through Cooliris, I got goosebumps! Doesn’t happen too often… chemistry degree

  9. kaka says:

    He references late ’70s/early ’80s network logo animations, and I see that in his work. But I also see a lot of Disney’s “futurist” art from that period (which was the era when Epcot opened)… and also some Omni magazine.
    Bachelor Degree

  10. kaka says:

    I’m also a huge fan of Jame’s work. As an aspiring graphic designer, I look at his work and it makes me want to strive to do even more awesome stuff. doctorate degree

  11. kaka says:

    I got goosebumps! Doesn’t happen too often…
    Science school

  12. kaka says:

    and I see that in his work. But I also see a lot of Disney’s “futurist” art from that period (which was the era when Epcot opened)… and also some Omni magazine. Science school

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