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Behind the Creative Mastermind: James Martin Employee Spotlight

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Chain links. Golf balls hacked in two. Gold dust and smooth, shiny resin. 

These are just a few of the elements, mixed media and fine art artist James Martin has used to bring his visions to life.

James isn’t just an artist; he’s a product strategy manager by day here at Cox Automotive. As part of the new product innovation team, James researches the market for opportunities that will lead to new products and new revenue growth. He transforms clients hurdles into best-in-class solutions and new innovations. By taking the time to understand current business needs and anticipate future needs as well, James and the new product innovation team develop a deep understanding of overall strategy, business strategy and incorporate efficiencies and technologies to keep Cox as an industry leader. 

Caption: James pictured above standing in front of a piece he created to honor basketball legend Michael Jordan, inspired by the documentary series, The Last Dance.

The Process

As a multimedia artist, James crafts each piece together with a deeper meaning beyond what the eye sees at first glance. He dives into researching the subject to understand its history, as well as equipping himself with the knowledge of each layer that will go into the piece. “I try to source materials like newspaper articles, images and other items that might be related. This way I can hopefully create something my audience sees as visually appealing with multiple layers of thought and depth within the piece,” he says.

Each artwork piece is unique from start to finish. In fact, he’s used old chains from a Manheim auction for a piece. He’s cut golf balls in half for a Tiger Woods tribute. He’s sourced designer tags for a consumerism piece and used his credit card as his signature. Each project idea is always different but is always layered with detail. James says, “Inspiration is always around us. It just depends on what you appreciate or even stop to notice and appreciate.”

The uniqueness of each creation takes time. “Some take weeks to finish and some take months. It really depends on the project,” he says. On average, James spends a collective 70 hours from inception to completion on each piece. As a result of his dedicated time, he’s sold pieces to high-end individuals across the world, including famous basketball players like Kyrie Irving to top executives*. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing that someone liked my work enough to put it in their most sacred places – their homes,” he says.

*Other notable collectors include:

  • Sara Blakely & Jesse Itzler – Founder of Spanx and founder of Marquis Jets
  • Les Coney – Board Member of the Art Institute in Chicago
  • Nike Headquarters in Shanghai 
  • Josh Norman – NFL Cornerback
  • Jeff Sprecher – Owner of the New York Stock Exchange

Drawing Inspiration

Creative freedom is something that James has been passionate about since he was young. Having hated art class growing up, James loved going to museums where his curiosity could wander about the creative process for each piece filling the room. “I hated art class because teachers often drive your creative process instead of giving you a medium and allowing you to open your mind with your thoughts and creativity. I always enjoyed seeing rooms full of art at museums and wonder about the creative process for each,” he says.

James is also inspired by numerous artists, including many in the black community. “I really enjoy following the works of Daniel Arsham, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tiffanie Anderson, Dain, Jacob Lawrence, Andrew Dickens, Domingo Zapata, Tim Bengal, Carlos Delgado, Theaster Gates and Amy Sherald to name a few.”

Caption: ‘Love Kills’ is a mixed media piece sealed with resin. To James, this piece symbolizes the sacrifice that comes with love. This statement piece is prominently on display in the foyer of James’ home.

Parallels Between Art and Innovating at Cox

Having the freedom to be creative in both his art and his professional work is a big component of why James enjoys working at Cox Automotive. “I’m able to pursue my dream of being an artist, while working for a company who supports me and encourages me to think outside the box.” 

For James, finding the balance to pursue his passion for art, while working with a team of innovators is a true testament to Cox’s support of the whole person. James believes eagerness to learn is the key to innovation. “I’m always pushing my limits creatively and stretching my ability to try new forms of creating,” he says.

At work, James brings his eagerness for innovation and learning, creating a lasting impact on our organization. James is always working to bring the best ideas to Cox Automotive, as well as to his artwork. 

What’s Next for James

James finds joy knowing that the work he does at Cox and as an artist is making a difference. He encourages anyone who is thinking about chasing a dream to work on their craft, dedicate time to understanding it and always find joy in the process. James says, “I believe it’s key to remember to find joy and let the correct timing do the rest. I enjoyed making small-scale art pieces then it evolved to large-scale work and notable buyers purchasing the pieces to display on their walls. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you’ve created something that people cherish enough to not only pay for it but to place it in their most intimate setting, their home.”

Hoping to increase his exposure, James just opened a studio in Midtown Atlanta and is preparing for two solo shows this year, in addition to three shows where he’ll showcase work. He’s also hoping to hire a publicist to help generate press for his work. While staying busy with his artwork, James also plans to continue making the world a better place for the next generation here at Cox.