Synthia Saint James is celebrating a rich and varied 40-year career as an international award-winning artist. Saint James' art has appeared on products from posters to book covers and on marketing materials from corporate and non-profit sectors.
A self-taught artist whose bold, colorful abstract art is instantly recognizable, Saint James credits her melting-pot ancestry as the root of her multicultural themes. "My grandmother was part Cherokee and part German Jew, and I have African-American and Haitian heritage as well, so I am a truly multicultural artist," she says.
Corporate commissions have been a significant part of her work since she received her first commission in 1989 from The House of Seagram. She has since created original artworks for major brands and corporations such as Maybelline, Coca-Cola USA, Kayser-Roth and Essence Communications. She also was commissioned to produce the first Kwanza stamp for the United States Postal Service and has created signature artwork for the Girl Scouts of America USA's 85th anniversary, the American Library Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the National Education Association and the United Way, among other notable organizations.
Her commissioned work for the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters to honor the African-American firefighters lost on Sept. 11 hangs at the Vulcan Station in Brooklyn. "That was the most difficult unveiling," says Saint James. "We unveiled at a church, and the widows and children of the firefighters were there. The artwork was commissioned to raise money for the families." Saint James is known for her architectural designs, as well, and has produced a 150-foot ceramic tile mural for the international airport in Ontario, Calif., elevator doors for a building in California's capitol building in Sacramento and a stained glass window for the West Tampa Library in Florida. One of her paintings hangs in the Women's Center of Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, Calif.
Her art has been used in promotional campaigns for Johnson & Johnson, Washington Mutual Bank and Royal Caribbean International. This year, she will be a guest artist on the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage from World Caribbean, and a portion of the sales for that cruise will be donated to historically black colleges. Saint James is the author/illustrator of 22 books, and her art graces the covers of more than 60 books, including those of best-selling authors Alice Walker, Terry McMillan and Iyanla Vanzant.
Most recently, Barnes & Noble featured her painting "Brilliance" on tote bags and blank journals for Black History Month 2009. "Barnes & Noble produced 40,000 tote bags and 6,500 journals and sold out of both," says Saint James. She said she is working with the chain on another collection of merchandise to be released in the next few months. The artist recently completed designs for merchandise for the play "Crowns." The collection, which includes T-shirts and posters, was unveiled recently at the Pasadena Playhouse.