James Tsang on creative influence and the one thing he’s not good at

A trained basketball player, opera singer, and artist, James Tsang surpases the title of a triple-threat. We caught up with the multi-talented model to talk about the start of his modelling career, his creative influence, and how exactly one goes from being a pro basketball player to an award winning artist,

The Chic Edit: You site your father and grandfather as influences for your art. Are they artists as well?

James Tsang: They’re not practicing artists, but i believe their creativity influences my work. My grandfather started his own business making artificial flowers in [Hong Kong]. They both had a passion for Chinese calligraphy too, which is something that informs the work I’m developing at the moment. On Mum’s side there were more working artists. I was very curious about Chinese culture as a kid and still am.

CE: You went to an American school for sports at 16: how did you end up graduating from Australia’s National Art School, last year?

JT: I attended a sports high school for my schooling years but way before that I was always doing art. It was a natural progression to go to art school.

CE: You began modelling after a trip to Singapore at age 18: can you tell us more about that?

JT: My first trip for modelling was three months in Singapore, which opened my eyes to bigger things. Coming from a somewhat sheltered childhood, it was the first time I had seen people do what they love, which gave me confidence to keep creating. 

CE: You’ve travelled all over the world: what city do you find inspires you the most, creatively?

JT: I don’t think there is one city that gives me more material to be inspired by. It really derives from how I feel and what I experience. I could be at home and feel inspired by the weather or the feeling that resonates at that time—even a single conversation.

CE: In what mood/emotion do you feel most compelled to create? Do you garner artistic influence from your everyday experiences?

JT: There is this negative connotation as to where artists get their instinct to create or their ideas. It’s obvious that pain is a deep emotion, which, sometimes, we cannot rationalise at the time. I try to create whilst in that state to relieve whatever is going on in my head—melancholic or cheerful imagery—but I also get inspired from being excited by the thought of creating. I believe we can be athletes in the art world having a good, clear mind that’s not fuelled with toxins and to help with the blocks that come with it. 

CE: You’ve won awards for your work, including the Robin Gibson New Talent award: do you create with a specific audience in mind?

JT: I create, really, what I want for myself. Ideas sometimes can be self-indulgent but also, what I feel, other people would relate to. If I get a positive response then that’s really just a bonus.

CE: Much of your art contains nude depictions of the human body: have you received any negative reaction as a result?

JT: I think the body is where it all starts from so why not paint it naked?

CE: You’re an opera singer, model, basketball player, and artist: is there anything you’re not good at?

JT: I always doubt my abilities, especially the things listed, which pushed me to keep trying harder. For me, it wasn’t about being “good” but the idea of commitment and structure which alluded to growth. That excited me the most. I’m bad at sudoku’! 

CE: Being of Eurasian descent, have you noticed a change in multicultural representation within the modelling industry as of late?

I think the industry, from the beginning, has always been enthralled by diversity of race/colour but doesn’t always take the risk of adopting the idea. When one does, everyone does. It seems to be that the industry shifts back and forth like that. Many designers have been inspired by different cultures for their collections but haven’t used that model that actually is of that culture, which I find ironic. Sometimes, it’s just the story behind the person that really creates the hype.

CE: You’ve already covered some of the most prominent men’s magazines, worked with the world’s biggest designers, and won awards for your art. Where would you like to see yourself next?

I’d like to see myself growing day by day, which, eventually, hopefully leads to greater and more fulfilling things as I get older.

Follow James Tsang on Instagram.