Spotlight Interview With London Based Artist James Ball

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

The truth is, I don’t even remember stumbling upon this guy’s Instagram page. That could be because I fell into the rabbit hole that is James’s artwork. After scrolling and seriously appreciating his feed, I quickly realised how deep the world of watches can be. You have the so called “watch idiot savants,” with their reciting of reference numbers and detailed explanations on how movements work but then, you have guys that literally paint or illustrate watches. This guy doesn’t do it as a hobby, this is his job. James is an artist and a bloody good one at that. But his talents didn’t just appear out of the blue, they were born and developed by enduring a tough teenage experience. I love this story. James’s approach to what he does now is solid evidence that you can transform negative energy into something beautiful. Read on to find out about James.

James, thank you for agreeing to be a part of the Spotlight Series. Could you give our readers an insight into who you are and what you do for a living?

My name is James Ball. I’ve just recently graduated from University with a BA (Hons) in Illustration & Design and I’m now currently working as a freelance artist. My work heavily consists of illustrating watches for collectors and small brands.

You have an amazing eye for detail and have the ability to capture the finer elements in your art, how did this all start?

From an early age I always had a pencil in hand and gravitated towards drawing over computer games, as cliché as that sounds. I was bullied at school from age 13 and I changed from being very outgoing to spending all my time indoors, expressing myself through my drawings.

Although this was a traumatic experience, it certainly helped me develop as an artist and I wouldn’t change what happened to me. Pen and Paper became a crutch that I used to support myself, creating worlds and characters without having to leave the safety of my desk. If it wasn’t for this period of my life I’m not sure whether I would be where I am today.

I spent such a large part of my childhood coping in this way that it has become etched into my personality. I still very much depend on it when coping with tough situations the same way people do with any coping mechanism.

Drawing became one of my strengths and I decided to study Illustration & Design at University. It was during my second year that I came across an illustration I’d drawn five years earlier of my first watch, the Tag Heuer 1500. It got me thinking about illustrating watches for collectors and brands and from there I reached out to some Instagram and Facebook pages, slowly building my portfolio.

Like most watch enthusiasts, we appreciate them all but have a select few that we love. Do you have a specific model that you love illustrating?

I’ve had many watches catch my eye over the years but the two that make me want to sell everything I own to afford them are the Rolex Explorer 1016 and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. I remember seeing John Hamm wearing the Rolex Explorer in Madmen. I instantly fell in love with his vintage Explorer, the design is perfect with a slight patina about the dial. I recently illustrated one of these and I really loved it.

What does your own watch collection look like?

My personal watch collection is small, consisting of one to be exact. I saw my Tag Heuer 1500 Diver six years ago and decided that it was the first watch I just had to own. I’ve worn it every day since and would never sell it. I do have plans to widen my collection in the near future with a Rolex Oyster Precision 6694. With hopefully many more pieces to come.

Outside of watches and your work, do you have any other passions? How do you unwind from your busy schedule?

I often find myself watching Youtube videos about watches in my spare time, but I also thoroughly enjoy interior design and architecture, watching Architectural Digest or Ryan Serhant’s vlogs to wind down. Looking at these amazing extravagant spaces really motivates me to continue illustrating in the hope that someday I can afford one of my own.

I’m also very into woodwork and crafts. When I moved into my first house, I couldn’t afford much in the way of furniture so ended up making a coffee table from reclaimed pallets and a bedside table from an old tree trunk, which I still use today. I’m really interested in experimenting with other art mediums and techniques and maybe move into sculptures.

On a side note, I do feel like I inherited most of my creativity from my grandfather. He was a very artistic and hands on type of guy and there was nothing he couldn’t create or fix.

You can support James and his work by visiting his online store over at

Follow James on Instagram @jamesma.illustration

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