James Jean is a Taiwanese-American artist who started his career as an illustrator working for Prada, New York Times and Time Magazine.
His imagination is on another level as he constantly creates compositions of characters, ethereal and in motion, always graceful in gesture. The laws of gravity are broken and the places depicted are some other, distant and unclear planes of existence. The elements of traditional symbolism are entwined in dynamic narratives, altogether forging Jean’s unique and widely recognizable style. Among the things that inspire him the most, the observation, memory, and imagination stand out as the principle aspects of his work.
There is an ever-present conflict between the artist’s desire to avoid any meaning and intent in the process of creating, letting the pure act of observation of what’s happening before him dictate what he does; On the other end, he’s interested to see how his prejudices and predilections influence his work, to create solely from imagination and memory.
Illustration was the first step on his artistic journey. While at school, he wanted to do pretty much anything that would require him to draw, if he could get paid for it. And then, after working briefly for New York Times and getting rejected from some major book publishers, he attracted the attention of DC comics, where he began doing covers.
That turned into a regular job for about seven years, all the way until 2007, when he turned his focus to his personal work.
It is interesting that, during that period, despite his intention to shift completely to the personal work, his commercial gigs were hugely successful, as he worked for Time Magazine, Playboy, Prada, Rolling Stone, Linkin Park, just to name a few of his employers.