Initially, James Jean started doing illustrations in order to survive in New York. By now it is certain that his legacy will outlive him.
If boundaries and intersections still exist, then Jean’s work sits from the very beginning somewhere between them. Since scoring his first cover for DC Comics after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2001, his commercial work has been reproduced in architectural dimensions for clients like Prada, has played a role in ESPN and as cover art for Atlantic Records.
Reminiscent of the grand genre of the 19th Century, history painting, Jean’s work puts narration back into relevance. Historically, the genre was used to depict important events like battles or scenes of historical, religious or mythical matter. The direct telling of a story on canvas was well esteemed, a challenging task considered to educate the public on lofty ideals.
Unlike other more reserved artists, Jean is vocal about his work and process. He shares sketches and drawings from his notebook online and gently encourages students and young artists in countless speaking arrangements and interviews to stick to their own practice. According to him, the making of art is a continuous process which needs to be trained daily.