John-Paul Flintoff

Finding Your Own Style, and Sticking With It | Interview with James Mayhew

In this episode, James Mayhew talks about the process of finding his own style as a young man – initially, by copying others. If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know this is a regular theme: there’s a real liberation in setting constraints for your artistic practice.

In this particular case, the practice is visual art, but what James describes is relevant to any other kind of creative work, including writing.

I first came across James’s art as a parent, reading picture books before bedtime. We loved the Katie books. The first of these was published in 1989, soon after James left art school. Here’s what you need to know: in the Katie books, James takes his main character into the world of other artists – literally stepping into their famous paintings to meet the people pictured there.

As it happens, I have recently been doing a very slightly similar thing, and posting my drawings on Instagram. I’ve learned a lot from copying the great masters, and after I had done a few I thought of James, drawing the Katie books, and just knew I had to ask him about it. I’m so pleased he said yes.

Also in this episode, we talk about how (for a decade before the pandemic) James did live drawing sessions, collaborating with orchestras to convey the world of particular pieces of music. And we hear how he adapted that work, with a pair of musicians, to do it online.

James Mayhew’s website

Plus: James explains how he uses Patreon to enable the people who like his work to do something concrete to support it. (

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Posted: May 10, 2021

Keywords: james mayhew

John-Paul Flintoff headshot, with Yours Truly written across it John-Paul Flintoff is author of six books, in 16 languages, including How To Change The World and A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech. He worked for 15 years as writer and associate editor on the Financial Times, the Sunday Times and other papers and magazines.

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