Olivia Rose James fell in love with Newport.
Well, he first fell inlove with Ben O’Connor, then they both fell in love with Newport. O’Connor is a famous local musician, and James is a professional actor. His first mural decorated the bright interior of Kaffeology on Thames Street.
The mural spreads on an interior wall of the cafe, a colorful array of plants and birds he designed while he and O’Connor were living in the Virgin Islands for a stint before they returned to Newport. She said she drew inspiration from the tropical scenery right outside her front door.
James went to school for graphic design, but found himself calling as a muralist after responding to Kaffeology’s advertisement on Instagram in search of an artist to paint its walls. She primarily uses her Instagram account (@olivia.rose.james) to showcase her art and connect with new clients.
James explained that while he grew up near Morristown, New Jersey, he moved to New York City after graduating college and was looking for a place to feel like home.
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He met O’Connor-a graduate of Middletown High School-when they were in New York before the couple fled to City-by-the-Sea. Now he is part of this community, and he is part of the life of anyone who enters Kaffeology or Spalon and admires the paintings on the walls.
James said he still uses his graphic design skills in his artistic process, working from home or from various cafes in Newport and drafting his pieces as digital drawings in a tablet, but now he interacts with his clients and his designs personally, working with businesses and changing their spaces with his paintbrush.
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Since collaborating on the first design in 2019, James has found his engraving as a professional muralist. He has completed 12 projects since then, from a small interior wall at Spalon in Portsmouth to his latest piece, a large exterior mural at Hingham Shipyard commemorating the first ship launched from there, the DE-51 Buckley, as well as the female welders who built it.
He said the Hingham project was his most ambitious, and the biggest mural he has done so far. The wall, which features a large siren curling around the destroyer as it slams into rolling waves, is easily 1,000 square feet.
His biggest interior piece is a 50-foot-long Boston skyline overlaid with photos of classic Boston landmarks for a software company’s corporate headquarters.
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She explained that the mermaid on the Hingham mural symbolizes the strong women who built the ship in 1943, and said, “I really like the historical element of this design, and I want to continue to incorporate history into future murals. “
As James ’business and murals grew, watch his locally inspired art in Rhode Island, on the Massachusetts coast, and as far as Boston and Worcester.