James Jean chases ideas
We love the work of Los Angeles-based artist James Jean, so we tracked him down for an interview: Your work is very dramatic and rich in narrative. From where does the initial seed of any idea generally come from? ‘It comes from a combination of conscious decision-making and deep rooted memories and desires. Sometimes I start with a very clear idea, but inspiration is rare — usually I’m working out ideas through little thumbnails that mysteriously evolve into their own stories’.
How did the Fables project come about and what’s been your favorite cover for them so far?
‘The latest cover is always a favorite until the next one comes along. Fables was my first big assignment when I graduated from school in 2001. I got the call for the job a month after 9/11, when I was visiting someone in Austria. It was a little surreal to watch the aftermath of the attacks unfold in another country – the anthrax scares and so on – and then receive a message on my answering machine from DC offering me five covers, which would eventually define my career as an illustrator’.
You studied in New York but now live in LA. Why the move and what are the most apparent differences – culturally and creatively – between the two cities?
‘I moved because my wife needed to finish school in LA. Otherwise, I would have stayed in New York, through the hot disgusting summers and the slushy winters. To over generalize, the west coast is less ashamed of craft, of schtick, of kitsch, and of decoration than the east coast. There’s more inherent joy in making art here’.
The sketches on your blog are great. Are they destined to remain as sketches or will some of them burst to life as fully fleshed out paintings?
‘They’ll stay as sketches. Perhaps a few years later, my paintings will grow to incorporate more of these sketch elements’.
Could you seriously have asked for a more memorable name! It certainly helps huh?
‘I have to thank my parents for their foresight’.