This article originally appeared in the July 17, 2002 issue of Town Topics©. Reprinted by permission.
Triumph Brewing Company Hosts Colorful Artwork by James Lucas
By David McNutt
Drawing his inspiration from pop and abstract expressionist artist such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein, James Lucas of Cranbury has created colorful images with a range of subjects including jazz music, swing dancing, sports, and celebrity figures.
“I try to combine the styles of recent modern painters in my work,” said Mr. Lucas. “I just want to create something beautiful.”
“His pieces just jump off the brick wall at you,” said Eric Nutt of the 40 original, acrylic paintings by Mr. Lucas that are currently showing at Triumph Brewing Company through September 8.
“What works best here, and what james has brought to us, is large, bright, jazz-style pieces,” added Mr. Nutt, Triumph Brewing’s sales and public relations manager.
Surrounded by his latest creations, Mr. Lucas spoke of how he began to paint more than 10 years ago.
Though he drew throughout high school, his plans to be a civil engineer took him to San Jose State University. During his time in college, Mr. Lucas began to create abstract artwork with surfing and sporting themes, some of which appears in the show.
After graduation from college in 1992, he moved to central New Jersey, and he has been in the Princeton area since that time, living in Lawrenceville and Pennington.
The stylistic differences and transitions in subject matter displayed in the show’s pieces reveal the development of Mr. Lucas’ techniques and interests.
“Sometimes, I just get into the mood to do something, and I like to try different techniques,” said Mr, Lucas, who indicated that his work has become less abstract and more colorful over time. “With every piece,” he added, “I try to push a little harder, a little further.”
In 1996, Mr. Lucas began painting celebrity portraits, some of which have been signed by their famous subjects. These works feature recognizable individuals including Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Bennett, Robin Williams, Jon Bon Jovi, Oprah Winfrey, Matthew Perry, Calista Flockhart, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
About three years ago, Mr. Lucas became increasingly interested in jazz music. “The subject matter of my work is close to my heart,” said Mr. Lucas, whose jazz and blues -inspired works include portraits of guitarist B.B. King and saxophonist Dexter Gordon. “Whatever the subject is, it’s part of me.”
Mr. Lucas, who painted 15 pieces over the last three months in preparation for this show, indicated that some people may overlook his work because the subject matter is fairly straight forward.
“Still, some pieces, like Barn Burner, suggest something more,” said Mr. Lucas. “what is she doing? What is she looking at? What is she holding?”
Currently, Mr. Lucas lives with his wife of seven years, Chris, and their 3-year old daughter in Cranbury. His family has been very involved in and supportive of his work, even to the point that his daughter has been known to suggest color changes.
Working by day as a graphic design for Dow Jones in South Brunswick, Mr. Lucas has managed to exhibit his work at several locations, including Artsbridge in Lambertville and Stockton as well as Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum.
In all, Mr. Lucas estimates that he has completed more than 500 pieces. Though each piece may take between a week and a month to complete, he works on each one until he is satisfied, then moves on. Painting is not the only medium in which he works; in August, three photographs taken by Mr. Lucas will appear at a joint show at Artsbridge in Lambertville, of which he is a member.
In the meantime, his colorful work will be on display at Triumph Brewing, which offers live jazz music every Wednesday night and live blues music on Friday nights.
“These pieces really accentuate the bands as they play,” said Mr. Nutt, who indicated that Triumph Brewing will be hosting more art shows in the future. “We’re getting a reputation as a place to show work by local artists. People are beginning to realize that this isn’t amateurish work we’re showing; this is serious artwork.