Join James Elliott On His Journey To Find Himself In “Smile More”

Half Way There

Read “Half Way There” now.


Read “Turbulence” now.

As you all know, Fangz actively works hard to find new forms of visual art for the viewers to enjoy and us to enjoy! The twenty-seven-year-old artist known as James Elliott recently reached out to us about his new fine art book series. James has been working on this book for most of 2018, with the book being a three-part series titled “Half Way There,” & “Turbulence,” with the third part coming out soon. In fact, they are all free online located here. The book comprises digital art, photography, and poetry all created by James himself. During this documented experience James created a visual treat of his journey through Japan, Malaysia, and Africa, with the outside look of the book being his overall and ongoing experience as an artist, and some work that is experimental for James. Infused with a lot of hip-hop inspiration you can see how James makes it deep yet visually appealing for the readers. I asked him a few questions about his art book series and he gladly broke it down for us. In fact he was keen to explain every inch which I enjoy a lot about James. He truly has a story behind his art, which evokes a lot of his own emotions.

My first question was a very simple and played out one. I wanted to know how long the trips were for each stop and if there was more stops than the main ones mentioned. James explained how the trip to Malaysia and Japan was almost a full month. It would have been a full month however, they missed the initial flight they had planned. Mistakes happen and they didn’t let it discourage them from continuing. James and his group of friends stayed in Kuala Lumpur for a week, which is the national capital of Malaysia, as well as the largest city. After a week they boarded an uncomfortable plane to Tokyo for a week.

2200 Yen For A Peep Show Sounds Cheap Until You Meet The Locals

There’s a piece in the first part of the series titled “Half Way There” (page 20-12) where in big text written over the main image “2200 Yen Sounds Cheap Until You Meet The Locals.” James explains this piece by saying “This is a direct reference to an actual peep show that a friend and I went to while in Tokyo and it was a terrible experience. They took our phones and cameras and shoveled us into these dark smelly “rooms” (more like cubicles with curtains behind them) where we could see the show. I only went into the show from a purely curious standpoint, I’m not typically into things like that, but hey, we were in JapanSo why not? Anyways it was gross, the dancer seemed to be the saddest person in all of Japan, but the worst part were the roaches crawling along the walls and floor. The roaches were the “locals” I was referring to. This piece is about my experience there and there are just enough details on the page to clue the viewer into what I’m getting at without making it completely obvious. A lot of my work follows this same trend. I’m cryptic in my delivery.”

Don’t Be Late!

After being in Tokyo for a week they returned to Malaysia where they were running pretty low on funds, so they did a lot of indoor activities and touristy events, it didn’t help that it was extremely hot and humid during the trip. James had a ton of fun in Japan, in fact he plans to live there for awhile if he ever can, explaining how the culture is extremely different from America and is something that should be enjoyed and cherished. James explains how he was only in Africa for nine days, and it was actually about a month after the first two trips which happened in May-June. Africa was a huge contrast for James compared to Malaysia and Japan, but still explains the culture as being extraordinary. James time in Africa was mostly for a charity that hired him to document the work they did, so most of the photographs from this time has been tied up with the charity. Overall James explains his trip as being great aside from the uncomfortable flights and language barriers.

When James creates he tries to keep it as honest as possible for the reader/viewer. James says “I’m selfish with my work so I don’t really create things with the notion that I’m doing so for a wider audience. I make it for myself to either cope with something or just process it in some type of way. A lot of my work contains references or nods to things that most people might miss because the references are so personalized to myself and my style. At the same time, I like to challenge my viewers to dig into the work and see if they can kind of put the pieces together themselves. My work is pretty emotional because it comes from a very real place internally. In fact, this project as a whole, across all three books, isn’t really about traveling – that’s how it appears on the surface because that’s the misdirect I want the viewer to fall for – in reality its about my journey as an artist and how its progressing. I just got out of a failed 9 year relationship and there are nods to that all over these books, but you wouldn’t know if you weren’t paying close enough attention. The first book is called Half Way There because when I created it I felt as if I was halfway to where I want to be with my career and my work. The first book is purposefully unpolished and raw and as the series progress the books become more and more refined and clear. “

Encrypted Transmission

A piece that really stood out to me in the first part “Half Way There” was “Encrypted Transmission.” Oddly enough James explains this specific piece to be his mantra behind all his work. Each piece applied as a transmission, communication between James and the viewer, however it’s a very coded one. You have to take all the pieces and absorb what stands out to you or piece them all together.

My overall opinion for this three part art series is it’s an amazing journey and very emotional, if it’s not something for you, you should at least give it a quick swipe through. James has art that may just connect with you, It’s exciting to see artists try new things and test the limits that is provided to them. James is a perfect example of said artist. Enjoy his three-part series here.

Authors Summary:

Along with the questions I asked about James trip, I also asked him to provide us with a general summary about his trip and how it made him feel. I feel as if getting two sides explained would bring the reader a little closer to the artist/art. So below please enjoy James Elliotts own words on his Art Book Series titled Smile More.

As a whole, the series represent the ongoing journey I’m experiencing as both an artist and just as a human trying to figure our world out, but it uses my recent real-life travel experiences as the backdrop for the books. The whole series is called “Smile More,” composed of three books: “Half Way There,” “Turbulence,” and “Kingdom Come” -released in that order. To really understand the series though, go back to the book I released in 2017 called “Blacklist 17” which detailed my experience with depression and coming to terms with various trauma I’ve dealt with. B17 was a very dark book, and the reception I got from it was unexpectedly divided. Many people would read the book then ask me if I was OK. In response to this I wanted to create a new series that starkly contrasted B17. If B17 was all melancholy and darkness, I wanted the new series to be upbeat and happy (as much as possible)… Thus Smile More was born. 

Smile More was a reminder on how you have to take the good and the bad in life and be content with the two. Life is hard for everyone and you can choose to either live in the dark or the light. Smile More is me choosing to live in the light. 

The series was divided into 3 parts for several reasons. One being I have more than a slight obsession with the number 3. I’m the third and final child my mother had, the logo I use on all my work is three simple bars stacked slightly above one another (You can see this logo embedded into each book cover), and there’s also a hint of spirituality to it in the sense of the Holy Trinity, which the final book in the series really digs into. I wanted each book to stand up on its own legs but still have all these threads that connected them and pushed the narrative.

Half Way There

I wanted to experiment with new styles with this project so you may notice as you go from book to book that the level of polish or coherence builds as you go. Half Way There was made in a day, so it’s raw and doesn’t pull any punches. The title Half Way There is a nod to how I feel I’m halfway to where I want to be as, not only an artist, but as a person – At least at the time the book was made. Making a book in a day without a lot of polish was a big step for meas an artist. Typically I’m really obsessed with the details and work on things over and over until I feel content with it, but in HWT I let that go and just let the work come forth as naturally as possible. I have a tendency to over think things so I tried to avoid doing that here. Also past books was very wordy as for the written elements go, so I was much more concise with these new works. 


Turbulence is the darkest part in the series. It’s a reminder that even the superb moments in life, bad shit is gonna break through. It’s just like being on a plane; most of the ride can be smooth as can be then suddenly you’re jolted out of your seat by some random turbulence. Turbulence acknowledges this darkness and rolls with it. It’s in this book I highlight my own vices and troubled relationships. This book also transitions into a deeper form of thinking. It takes the travel metaphor and hyperbolizes it. It starts out with this image of a plane being prepared for boarding but quickly throws the viewer into an unexpected place. This is my way of toying with the viewers expectations and also sets them up (unbeknownst to them) for the final book in the series which will dig heavily into spirituality and complicated areas of science. 

I don’t want to spoil too much of the final book, Kingdom Come, as it hasn’t dropped yet but I am proud of how it’s shaping up. It will challenge viewers and be exciting for people who really appreciate art and science. It’s all about the duality of my internal conflicts with God and Nature. Hopefully it will complete the image of myself I envisioned when starting this whole project but ultimately that’s left to the viewer to decide. For those paying close attention to the narrative being told throughout these works, Kingdom Come will really serve as a satisfying conclusion. 

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